You have one shot.....

This may belong in IMHO, but I hope some interesting debate forms. If not, my apologies.

Ok, this is an outgrowth from a conversation at work. Here’s the scenario:

You are a general in command of an invading force. Your army is already in Mexico or Canada (wherever you like. It really doesn’t matter to me) and ready to deploy. The US is in the same state of military readiness that it is in now, in other words, you are about to execute the perfect surprise attack. You have the ability to launch a single nuclear weapon (type of your choosing), deliverable within 5 minutes, against any target of your choosing within the United States, in order to facilitate your attack.

What target do you hit to make your job (invade and conquer) easiest?

Do you hit industry (ability to produce tanks, planes, guns, etc)? Food production? Communications? Politics? Population centers? Something else I can’t think of? Would it be a low-level detonation to maximize destruction? A high altitude detonation to maximize EMP effects? A dirty bomb to maximize radiocontamination?

Morality and atrocities are not a concern for purposes of this discussion, only expediency. After all, only the winners get to conduct war crimes trials. But do remember that your forces have to fight there and you intend to hold and keep any territory that you gain, and it may be a long, protracted war.

In case I was unclear, the debate/discussion I’m hoping for is this:

How much damage could be done to the US’s war capability by a single, carefully selected nuclear strike? Could we be crippled, or even hurt significantly, by one hit? Discuss.

(disclaimer - This is theoretical conjecture, should Joe Cool proceed with some nefarious plot, I wish to be held blameless)

Communication is the best bet. So a high alititude nuclear strike maximizing EMP, mostly likely over the eastern US States would be best.

I thought this was going to be a variation on that old joke…

Question: You’re locked in a cage with a tiger, a bear, and a lawyer. You have a gun and two bullets. What do you do?

Answer: Shoot the lawyer twice.

In response, my WAG is that no single nuke could total our military response. Most bases are fairly far apart and independent, with sealed orders for what to do if the Pentagon or White House become big, glowing holes in the ground. If I was going to invade the US and had one shot to disrupt the country, I’d take out Wall Street. Might bring about the collapse of the global economy, but hey, it’s not a rational person that tries to invade the US with one nuke.

well there is the obvious target of the pentagon/washington area. removing most of the leaders would probably cause some confusion for a while, then some general that wasn’t in dc would probably just step up and command the military to spank yer ass.

so here’s a strange one… how about the hoover damn? It provides a lot of power to our country, plus all that water would wreak a little havock as it tried to get to a lower spot. and I don’t know what all that power production capacity loss would do to the natioal power grid…

Well, I would take out NYC.

But that would only be b/c I was praying for the tri-fecta of sparing the country from Senators Clinton and Schumer, plus moving the UN right on out of the country:)
Plus I guess the 10 million or so deaths it would cause would put a crimp into how the country ran.

Omaha, Nebraska, where SAC (Strategic Air Command) is located, used to be the primary target for the Russians, I believe. Given that the U.S. battle plan took into consideration that it would be destroyed early on anyway, though…

Nuking NYC/Washington/LA/SanFran might actually improve the country, so those are out…

Off the top of my head… the Alaskan oil pipeline, or the producing oil fields in Texas. No oil, slight problems in running a major war without massive imports.

I thought leaders would be the most popular answer, but as I was typing this, I realized that if you kill the political leaders in Washington (Congress, [Vice-]President, Pentagon), then you do two things: First, you’re doing the US a favor (:D) and second, you leave Soldiers in charge of their own response (if you hit Washington, SAC and NORAD are completely intact). I’d leave DC alone, so the confusion can reign. I’d rather fight soldiers who still have to answer to scared politicians. haha

I think I’d go for the demoralizing hit, and explode a really large device about 800 feet above Central Park. Not only do you take out the financial center with EMP, but you also lay waste to the heart of the largest population center in North America, comprising 10% of the U.S. population. And eliminating the U.N. wouldn’t hurt either. Good call, Freedom2. :slight_smile:

I had thought about maybe hitting kansas or nebraska with a really dirty bomb, contaminating the food growing area, but then I wouldn’t be able to occupy, and the loss of food production wouldn’t become an issue for another 3-6 months when the current supplies run out.

Hoover Dam…Interesting. I like it!

is that it can appear to be a terrorist attack. I wouldn’t launch it, I’d sneak it into Washington and detonate is as near the Pentagon as possible, to cause a maximum of confusion in the command chain (what’s the first thing that would happen? The president would be tossed on a helicopter for and flown out of there, and so incommunicado for the first 30 minutes of the war). Then my mobile armored spearhead would strike out of Quebec for New York City and Washington D.C., aiming to take both and everything in between.

I concur with stuffinb. The high-altitude EMP doesn’t just eliminate communications temporarily - it fries all non-hardened electronics in the strike radius. As almost all of the U.S. army’s tactical equipment above an M-16 relies on electronics, you’ve done a whole lotta damage with very little actual human loss of life (nice propaganda tool, there.)


One nuke won’t win it for you. You can disrupt wall street, but trade would roll over to chicago and new york (and the market would be suspended anyway). You can’t take out food production - taking out nebraska wouldn’t kill off kansas, ohio, idaho, all of the south, and california (I missed a few major producers of food. Sorry. ). Taking out the pentagon and/or DC just rolls over command to field officers on base, so you wind up with facing the 101st one your drive to detroit.

You can’t take out all industrial production, either. Sure, you can get detroit, but then tank production moves to Louisville (car plants). Aerospace is uneffected; that’s all in SoCal and Seattle. While the next war is supposed to be a “bring what you got” war, if we can drag it out for more than a couple of months, the bright engineers will find a way to create planes, tanks, and weapons in short order.

Taking out oil fields is an interesting idea, but I doubt it would do much other than maximize causualties. You can only get one of the two or three major oil producers; that ought to hold us until we can start escorting shipments from elsewhere. Plus, with the entire country on war footing, we probably have enough oil to keep food and weapons moving, evenif most people aren’t going to work.

hansel You ever been to detroit and DC? To quote (badly) Bogart: “There are some parts of new york I’d advise you to avoid”

EMP is the way to go. Tanks, Helicopter Gunships and Jet Fighters require constant maintenence utilizing sophisticated mechanical and electronic parts.

While these [electronic] parts are EMP “hardened”, they are not EMP proof, and thus the possibility of a partial immediate reduction in my enemy’s warfighting capability.

The industrial base that produces those sophisticated parts, however, is wide open to EMP attack, as is the national electric power grid, communication’s networks (not the military’s, though) and just about every damn thing from medical equipment to grain silo elevators have a chip in them somewhere.

With an EMP strike, you have a good chance of seriously effecting several disparate components of the American economy, from food production/distribution, health and human services, transportation, communications, oh, the list goes on and on…

If your invading army is able to slug it out for about 30 days, then the American military juggernaut will grind to a halt all on its own accord as fuel and parts run out, and no replacements are to be had.

Launch your attack in the first third of winter, when petroleum demand is at its highest. That way either the military has to take all the fuel reserves to fight the war, or millions die of cold in the northern states.

Millions in the cities will die anyway, or else there will be massive population displacement, as the urban centers are unable to feed themselves once the food distribution network and trabsportation network is disrupted.

This social unrest will sap the strength of the American military as forces either have to be diverted to support the refugees, or instill martial law and supress Food Riots.

The biggest wildcard is the “militia”.

Before launching my ground war, I’d first wait until a full, 100% gun-ban was implemented, with door-to-door siezures and massive meltdowns of confiscated guns.

I don’t want those pesky partisans running around behind my lines stealing fuel, food, medicine, guns and ammo, and blowing up anything they can’t carry off.

If my invasion force was adequately concealed (in other words, complete Strategic Suprise and Initiative), I’d EMP the states and wait until the American Military is fully deployed and dealing with the social disorder before crossing the border.

This would have U.S. Forces too dispersed to effectively defend during the outset, and it would be a good start on leeching the military’s supplies and logistical network prior to the commencement of actual hostilities, with the added benefit that a deployed/operational logistics network is fairly vulnerable to attack. Sneak in some light fighters disguised as civillians to attack truck depots, fuel depots, distribution nodes, roads, railroads and bridges of all sorts.

It wouldn’t be a cakewalk, but it’s not as difficult as some people think.

The biggest flaw I see, logically, is sneaking a large mechanized force, undetected, to within striking distance of American soil. The Mexican Army is only good at finding cerveza (Mas Tequila!), and I just don’t see the Canuck’s doing something like this.

I’m going to go with Ex-Tank, EMP would create maximum havoc for alimited period of time until you can get your ground troops in. On the other hand a hit on a vital food roducing center would be devastiting for morale and this would diminish support for the war in the country you’re fighting against. History has shown this to be a powerful factor in wars throughout the 19th & 20th century. It’d be a bit differente if we’re playing with nukes but still…

Sneak your single atomic bomb into North Dakota, atop a functional ICBM. Launch it at the Kremlin. Invade the U.S.A. when the rubble stops bouncing. (OK, so the country won’t be in great shape, but with the shape the Russians are in, a lot of their warheads probably wouldn’t hit the targets anyway.)

I can’t help but think the Pentagon probably has contingency plans for dealing with an EMP strike.



Har-de-har-har. Too bad you can’t use that one bomb to completely depopulate all those inbred cretinous rural hick rednecks out in “flyover country”–talk about improving the country. (Oh, I guess I should stick in a little “smiley”, just to show I’m kidding, and don’t really want to exterminate all of my fellow Americans who are unfortunate enough to be inbred cretinous rural hick rednecks: :))

I think the history of the 20th century has repeatedly shown that terror-bombing in order to “break the enemy’s morale” and cause them to give up fighting almost never works. I don’t see why atomic-terror-bombing Nebraska or Iowa would be any more successful. The only case I can think of where that sort of thing did work was Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in that case the Japanese faced a totally unknown weapon against which they were powerless to retaliate. The U.S. still has thousands of thermonuclear weapons, with delivery systems that can hit targets all over the world.

[Apology for potential hi-jack]


If this EMP stuff scrambles electronics, and electronics are essential to the modern H-bomb (gotta be at least an 8086)…

When they launch, you loft a small dirty little nuke up about a hundred miles or so, bang, EMP, thier incoming thermonukes are brain-dead.

This must have occured to somebody else by know.


Really good ideas. No fair, you probably had to study this in school to get your stripes! haha

So my question is where you would place your one device. How high and how powerful would it need to be to gain an EMP effect over enough of the U.S. to make your objective?

And yes, the Red Dawn effect would be a strong one, and I would think, a very strong deterrent to any invading army. 100 million armed citizens to pacify would leave a really bad taste in my mouth. :smiley:

Not that I’ve ever thought about robbing banks, but a similar tactic would apply here easily enough. But first, I must address…

the electromagnetic pulse? It isn’t a nationwide effect AFAIK, and it won’t cripple enough of the US to stop an infantry, etc, strike. If it could then you would cripple your own army, eh?

My army would be in Mexico, btw. Canadians are so bad with guns :wink:

But here’s the deal. We’re gonna keep the country once we conquer it so no wiping out oil or the food. Too valuable. What we need is a real attack.

I agree that Washington DC ain’t a viable target. I have no doubt that killing politicians won’t matter one way or the other. From the first second the military will be in command under the President (thank god for his pro-death penalty stance! ;)). Even if we kill the Pres, so what? He’d only listen to advisors anyway. Unless we could take out all the generals and Admials at once it ain’t worth the effort. What we need to do is undermine morale.

Americans don’t live in fear, except fo maybe the not-so-unoccasional murder. Other countries see war and such all the time so bombing isn’t gonna do squat, but we Americans aren’t in that situation. War on our own soil? No one alive AFAIK that knows war on american soil. One bomb means a lot.

On top of that we see that this will be the first nuclear attack on a country where everyone is WELL AWARE of what thermonuclear devices can do.

So to the plan.

We plant a Nuke in any heavily populated area. NYC, Chicago, LA, who cares? A decent hydrogen bomb is gonna obliterate 15 square miles without even trying. With wealther patters we’d want to strike further toward the west for fallout purposes, so the eastern seaboard is out. I like the idea of a Chicago (someone save Cecil!!!) best because there is also a lot of industry around there.

Oh, but did I mention we aren’ aunching the nuke? Oh, no no no. No morale loss in just launching a missle. We want to undermine the freakin’ morale. We actually attack first from Mexico, taking Texas relatively quick. Blow up a few buildings with conventional arms and send a message to DC: we’ve got nukes in NYC, Chicago, DC, LA, etc, etc. Name six major cities, one of which IS the real nuke.

12 hours to surrender.

They won’t surrender, but what with the internet and the media the whole country will know by morning even if the government doesn’t tell us.

At the twelfth hour detonate the nuke. Because it is a ground impact the force won’t be as big as it could be if it was detonated higher, but there’s also more shockwaves so its a decent trade-off.

You Mean Business.

When you detonate the nuke make a simultaneous strike eastward. Don’t touch the farmland! We’re talking scorched earth policy here. It doesn’t matter that there is nothing of major importance there, we need to spread out quick. Texas and two surounding states, it doesn’t matter which.

Second twelve hour warning. Do not stop attacking eastward. Do not move inland. We’re looking for a naval siege here, as near as is possible with such a large country. Kill everyone, burn everything, and leave it behind. Just leave the oil and don’t touch the farmland!

From here the Army is pretty much fucked, though, because after destrying everything America’s military has nothing to lose in bombing the shit out of us, and I see a quick end.


America rules!

The problem with the airburst followed by invasion plan is that America would still have nuclear capability. When the invasion force hits the border its origin isn’t going to stay secret for very long. At that point the US is going to retaliate against the invaders’ homeland and probably against the staging area as well. Now both sides are involved in a logistical swamp. The invader’s advantage of having a unified force that is fully organized and supplied could be balanced by the American advantage of interior lines of supply, if our military could hang on long enough to establish them. And hanging on is a lot easier when you have a big chunk of a continent to trade for time. The invader won’t be getting any more supplies from home ( even if it still exists ) so every day that the US doesn’t lose is a day closer to victory. The invaders have to win quick, and unfortunately for them, the days when a nation is finished just because its capital has fallen are long gone.

I’d also like to point out that purposely attacking the civilian population during an invasion is not a good idea.
It just pisses people off and gives no one an incentive to surrender.
Plus, it soaks up irreplaceable ammunition and time.

Hi! I’m a Weenie
What’s your sign?

You would only nuke the populated areas if you wanted to completely annihilate the American population. Otherwise it doesen’t do as much damage as other stuff.

I would cause some event to draw all the Army together. Then blame the nuke going off on Bush’s malapropisms.

The place to hit would have to be a balance between a populated area and a communications center. The ability to transmit information makes or breaks a nation. As a result, I can’t think of anywhere better than New York, which I believe contains most of the satellite centers of the major television networks (point me to another city if I’m wrong).

A small H-bomb makes a fireball several miles across, so I reckon you’d want to detonate a large one a bit higher than 800 feet for maximum effect.

H-bombs are damn scary. Wanna see a small one (about 15 megatons) in action? Check out the Castle Bravo nuclear test. WARNING: the link is to a 2.5 megabyte Quicktime movie. Bear in mind that bombs of well over 100 megatons should now be within our capabilities (but the government ain’t saying, exactly).