Nuclear War In Three Easy Lessons

There is a wonderful (if it can be called that) discussion of nuclear war going on at Talk Polywell.

I'm not going to reprise the discussion. However, I'd like to give you some educational resources. First Wretchard's Three Conjectures. Which discusses what a rogue attack (terrorist) with a nuclear weapon would mean in terms of response.

Second are three very interesting articles by a gentleman who seems to know the inside of planning for nuclear war and its aftermath.

Nuclear Warfare 101
Nuclear Warfare 102
Nuclear Warfare 103

So actually we have two lessons of threes. Why didn't I just say four or six? I like three.

What is the worst thing I learned? It would take the world 200 years to recover from all out nuclear war. And which society would be best positioned to recover? The USA. Why? The Right To Keep and Bear Arms. I must say that the society that we would have after such a war would be very, very, ugly for at least the first 50 years, and not so pretty for 150 years. And the first year or two after? Look at the triage performed in Nuclear Warfare 103. Old women would be the least valuable members of society and young women (the most valuable) would be dedicated to breeding.

And if the attack was one sided? Kiss Islam good by. As Wretchard says in his Three Conjectures it wouldn't even take an attack on the USA. Here is a discussion of what almost happened after 9/11 and the follow on policy that evolved.

The threshold had almost been crossed. However that may be, we now know from National Security Presidential Directive 17 that a terrorist WMD attack, including biologicals and chemicals, will go over the line:
"terrorist groups are seeking to acquire WMD with the stated purpose of killing large numbers of our people and those of friends and allies -- without compunction and without warning. ... The United States ... reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force -- including through resort to all of our options -- to the use of WMD against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies."
Some reports have suggested that the US would preemptively use tactical nuclear weapons -- bunker busters -- to destroy terrorist WMDs. We're no longer in Kansas. In the halcyon days of the Cold War Soviet boomers would cruise the American coast with hundreds of nuclear weapons unmolested by the US Navy. Now a single Al Qaeda tramp freighter bound for New York carrying a uranium fission weapon would be ruthlessly attacked. The taboo which held back generations from mass murder has been mentally crossed by radical Islam and their hand gropes uncertainly for the dagger.
The upshot of all this? An Iranian nuclear weapon is more dangerous to Iran than it is to the rest of the world. They are much safer without one. Much safer. One can only assume that their desire to nuclearize is a death wish. The jihadis keep saying that they love death more than life so it figures. They may get their wish to die for Allah. En mass.

Here are some other good resources that will help in figuring the aftermath:

Makers vs Takers
Decline and Fall
Desolation Row

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 05.21.08 at 04:47 AM


Bush's certainty in Iraq is actually determination. It had better work.

And ``Islam is a religion of peace'' means move this way. It's an imperative.

Because everything will one day be settled in an afternoon otherwise.

Ron Hardin   ·  May 21, 2008 6:38 AM

The greatest threat to unleash nuclear war is ASAT weapons. As the Chinese demonstrated in 2002 and the US demonstrated recently, the ability to reach up to orbit and hurt infrastructure is now present within the arsenals of a few nations with rocketry capability to orbit: USA, UK, France, Russia, China, India, North Korea, Japan. If you can get a small satellite to orbit, you can get a destructive system there either via precise targeting (active terminal guidance) or spread effect kinetic weapon (bushel of ball bearings).

Laser based systems for 'dazzle' work or to incapacitate guidance systems/on-board electronics cannot be discounted as these sorts of attacks have already taken place on electro-optical platforms. That technology doesn't need lots of energy, just the right positioning and energy type for a long enough period of time.

This is not a joke as the largest amount of US military C4I capability is satellite based: the old 'mole hole' from the Pentagon still exists, but its bandwidth is limited while the ability to utilize satellite technology opens up bandwidth and remote linking. Our latest generation of weapons all depend on GPS, save for the Mk I human and immediate direct fire weapons... and even some of those are going to GPS guidance. The interim guidance systems of updating inertial systems via GPS were a 'stepping stone' concept, for all weather use.

Consider the logistics tracking systems of DLA: it utilizes computerized tracking and update along with GPS coordinate delivery. This systems has brought the fastest supply to the soldier anywhere within reach of delivery on the table, and the results are self-evident in troop morale and timely delivery of equipment. For the first time we have suffered an equipment shortage not due to delivery, but because the material hasn't been made yet - the system is that efficient. Take out GPS and satellite tracking and the entire bandwidth used to keep the system together then overloads existing fiber lines.

Now picture that for an aircraft carrier battle group and all the equipment it has, GPS controlled bombs, GPS guidance systems, encrypted satellite comms....

Degrading GPS is an incremental task: one or two don't matter and three or four only gets some irregularities in a few places on Earth. Five or six and things get a bit rougher as it is a triangulation based system. Seven to ten and the black spots start to appear and the entire ability to pin-point target is lost.

Take out the much harder to get TDRS systems NASA put up for relaying info via geostationary orbit and add in satellites covering a given theater and things get very rough on the comms side. While harder to do, in theory, that starts to remove the UAV flown from VA over Iraq concept and leaves you with in-theater work.

Using 3-5 launches of solid rocket systems, and multiple kinetic payloads (a few with their own boosters on-board) and you then have a theater denial system that has degraded US pinpoint attack capability, its logistics system, comms outside of theater.... add in a drum sized nuclear device driven over the US border and I can think of a number of places that can disrupt comms, energy production and transportation in the US without actually hitting a city. And an extremely large number of places with far, far less than that necessary to do equivalent damage with conventional arms and explosives.

The kicker is that the political aspect of nuclear devices coupled with a fatalistic and fanatical outlook does not yield the US or Israel as the first target for Iran if it is being pressed. That I looked at examining why containment does not work against such regimes: containment pre-supposes a rational state leadership. When utilizing WMDs the way to look at them is the exact words that make up WMD - Weapon of Mass Destruction.

Get anything you want destroyed in an area and the weapon gets rid of it. Very practical. And, if you don't announce having same, you can blame the 'attack' on someone *else*.

That, too, has a political *bonus* to it.

And it cannot be overlooked in the calculus of WMD development. Since our candidates for POTUS are stuck in the Cold War in their outlooks, this does escape them all.

ajacksonian   ·  May 21, 2008 7:37 AM

I don't think we will see any ASAT action on either side except as a prelude to a full on nuclear event. All taking out our precision bombing would do is to start taking them out with our "close enough" weapons -- nukes.

Phelps   ·  May 21, 2008 11:28 AM

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