So I was chatting with a couple of friends about this and that and (somehow) we got onto the subject of the Cuban missile crisis. Anyway, I forget how the conversation ended but it got me thinking about what I would have done if I was JFK. Now, I don’t actually know all that much about the Cuban missile crisis so I’ve come up with a scenario instead. In order to avoid offending any of our Russian posters, I’m going to use North Korea instead (I’m assuming we don’t have any North Korean posters. If we do, sorry!)
You’re POTUS. It’s the height of a new Cold War with North Korea. The world is balancing on a knife edge. You receive intel from a spy which says:
The North Koreans have a secret nuclear base somewhere in Pyongyang, fully armed with long range missiles.
They will be nuking a major American city in six hours.
That’s all the message says. The intel comes from a very reliable source. Your generals recommend that the only viable thing to do is destroy the missiles before they destroy you. Since you’ve only got a few hours, and since you don’t know where in Pyongyang the missiles are, the generals recommend using your own nukes first.
What do you do?
So there’s the situation. The poll has a (long) list of possible actions you could take. Just pick the one which you think is best.
At this point, I want to remind anyone that this is a thought experiment designed to test one’s commitment to a principle. The question is really “How threatened would you, as POTUS, need to feel before deciding a nuclear first strike on Pyongyang was justified?” If you have an objection along the lines of “Well, geopolitically speaking, options XYZ wouldn’t be valid because if I did that then the Chinese would blahblahblah,” or “Destroying the missiles wouldn’t work because militarizzzzzzzzzzzz,” or “I could never be 100% certain of anything.”, then you’re not really getting into the spirit of it. Assume whatever you need to assume in order to address the central question.
P.S. - Please assume for the sake of argument that all of North Korea’s nukes were in Pyongyang so once you’ve hit it you can be sure they won’t launch nukes from anywhere else.