I don’t think we’d wait to shoot back

Sometimes I forget and go play in the sandbox with the other kids. I try to pride myself on dealing rationally with anyone, but so many times it just seems pointless.

my_house.jpgMy house!

Over at Wizbang, DJ Drummond wrote about Why Nuclear War Can Be Ethical.

Now, the truth is that Murdoc doesn’t really think all-out nuclear war can really be all that ethical. But the starting point of the post is this:

“If you were President of the U.S. and were just informed that we were definitely under a full nuclear attack by a country that’ll destroy most or all our people, would you order a full nuclear counter-attack?”

My belief is that we immediately would do exactly that. And that it’s probably the best option available on a day with no good options on the table.

Like most discussions involving nuclear weapons, the military, politics, or national security, the comments section quickly degenerated into a hodgepodge of, well, podge. One commenter, in particular, took on all comers and seemed intent on disagreeing with almost everyone about almost everything. Unfortunately, he responded to my comment, and I responded, and thus began a monumental waste of time.

Sort of like talking to Aaron (if you remember him), but at least this guy stayed more or less on topic, though he seemed to want to make up his own rules as he went, and the foaming mouth treatment was held in check. Actually, that means it not very much like talking to Aaron at all. Whatever.

If you need a reminder about why to avoid these sorts of internet discussions, go check it out. Plus, the guy insists that some sarcastic, over-the-top, rhetorical anti-NMD talking points I used to illustrate a bit of irony are now actually my official position on NMD whether I like it or not.

Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right.

Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing what MO readers think about this very question.

Would we

  • Retaliate massively immediately?
  • Wait and absorb the hits, then decide what to do?
  • Figure that shooting back would just make the environment worse and stand down?
  • Decide that hitting back means that we would become what we hate and just give up?
  • Hope that National Missile Defense would shoot down all incoming warheads?
  • Something else?

Remember that this is a definite full-scale nation-killing attack. Time frame isn’t established, but I figure that it’s either today (NMD won’t stop them all) or in the future (where tech advances in delivery will also mean NMD won’t stop them all). Regardless of NMD, it’s a nation-killing attack, so I read that to mean that stopping them is out.

What would we really do?


  1. Personally I think it is unethical to not use whatever level of force it takes to win. I don’t give a damn if it does require nukes, it’s just one more weapon in the arsenal. On the other hand, nukes are like crapping in your own nest. They cause a big mess that gets everywhere and effects friend and foe alike. What really bothers me is the fact that when our future is to be secured by 20 B-2 bombers and 170 F-22s puts us in the position of every conflict going nuclear. Our lack of any sort of conventional option for winning a war makes it a binary decision. Do you want to win? Launch the nukes. Do you want to lose? Send over a handfull of bombers with precision weapons. We need other options.

  2. Retaliate massively immediately. Dfens is right, this will affect friends and foes alike, but do you care about?. Firstly, the initial attack will affect everyone, so is it important if the lethal level of radiation will be double? You won’t be there to see the result, unless life after dead exists. lol And in that case, you don’t care either.

  3. Since the question is ‘would we’ and not ‘should we’, I’ll go with option 1: Retaliate massively immediately. Should we is more complicated. My opinion if it’s 100% confirmed, we should hit whoever it is with everything we have. MAD got us through the cold war, and works today except when the person on the other end of the pointy stick has a death wish. I think the more important question in today’s climate is what would we do about just one?

  4. There is no time for discussion in the event of a nuke attack. You must execute plans that were developed in the calm of a day before hostilities begin. That’s why there are procedures. Yes I know they can be overridden, however even though a broad nuclear attack is confirmed, we are obligated to retaliate, because the outcome is still undecided. Misses, duds, etc it is possible to survive a nuclear exchange. It is essential to make every attempt to assure whoever starte it is in no position to benefit from it, or do something else later because they are unscathed.

  5. I would love to say that our leadership would full alt retaliate with the direct purpose of decimating thier people pernamentley if fo no other reason than to show any others considering such the consequences. However I question it and think it probably would depend on who is pres. Carter would have after our nation was devistated figured it a great time to negotiate becuase they used thier nukes up we still have ours as leverage. Clinton I would expect to wait until after thier strike hits that way he could get the mood of the nation and of course counter with a ‘measured’ responce. Reagan I feel easily confident he would full alt retaliate propably against both the attacker and whoever else was on our sh*t list at that time just in case. I still think we should have a written open public policy on Nuke war. Simply it should be open to our enemies our responce. Not details just like Russia = MADD, China = MADD, N Korea = N Korea & China MADD, Arab Rougue state or Terrorist = MADD against the entire Muslim Uma. Their should be NO MEASURED responce. Wether we are hit with a thousand nukes from Russia or one tatical nuke from a terrorist/rogue the responce should be ABSOLUTE POLICY OF TOTAL GENOCIDE of the attackers nation/people. That same policy should also count and openly declared on say a rogue/terrorist strike that was thwarted by our BMD or just went dud. Of course I don’t want to genocide a people but to avoid nuclear war it must be made INSANLEY costley for any enemy to take it there. Like Amajab’s policy of one nuke will kill Isreal and a hundred nukes wont kill Iran. Our policy should be wether we are killed or not your entire Muslim Uma will be surley killed, that is the only way to deter the rougue state, terrorist blamed attack against US. I that is even deterable?

  6. Oh and uh the most basic reason to shoot is, because liberal moonbats use this type of (foot in the door) argument to do away with nukes. It is called creeping incrementalism. We didn’t lose Vietnam militarily, the peace freaks and politicians did. This is yet another attempt at a beginning to get us to disarm.

  7. 1. Retaliate massively immediately. 2. Hope that National Missile Defense takes out at least some of the incoming. 3. Take out the capabilities of everyone one the S-list (C-low). N. Korea, Iran, etc… Repeat if necessary. I believe the U.S. still reserves the right to repond to a WMD (nuclear, chemical, biological) in kind.

  8. The answer depends on who is in office. Peaceniks, or warmongers. Whatever we do it will be debated by the opposite side as the wrong path. They will never listen to each other and they will be the only ones left to listen. The rest of us will be bacon and the politicians will live out their last days selling the wastelenad to the lowest bidder. Bastards!!!

  9. I don’t agree that we didn’t lose in Vietnam militarily. I think we did. I don’t fault the military for making the decisions that lost it, but I do see it as a military defeat. Let’s face it, when we were carpet bombing the North and bombing Hanoi and bombing supply bases in Cambodia we changed the face of that war. It had a swift and immediate effect. Had we pressed the engagement like that instead of stopping two or three times to go back and do some useless negotiating, we could have easily won that war. What was the difference between Vietnam and and the war with Japan? With Japan we were willing to inflict the level of damage on that country that caused them to lose the will to fight. It was not the nukes, it was the fact that we both had them and were willing to use them that brought Japan to its knees. Nukes aren’t magic. People don’t just give up because you use them. People give up when they are convinced you will kill them. When they are convinced you have both the means and the will to do that, they give up. Period. That’s been the problem with our military since the Cold War began. They’ve assumed once they start lobbing nukes the other side will give up. It isn’t necessarily so. You’ve got to have a plan beyond that. If you want to win you don’t do it by incinerating a bunch of people. You can do it that way, but you have to incinerate them all. The other option is to incinerate a bunch of them and convince the rest you’re more than happy to, and have the ability to kill them as well. We’ve lost the bubble on how to win a war. That’s why I say we need weapons of terror. We need weapons that don’t just kill, they strike fear in the enemy. If you can put fear in their hearts, you don’t have to kill them all. If you can’t, that’s when it comes down to genocide.

  10. It comes down to genocide or losing. We seem to be partial to the losing option lately. It makes me sick, sacrificing those boy’s lives for nothing.

  11. Shoot first. They have threatened to destroy us repeatedly. They are building nukes and are close to having one they can use. Give them one chance to capitulate. If they don’t, then use nukes one at a time, one per day, to remove that capability. F.E.T.E.

  12. Retaliate massively immediately. In order to cause enough destruction to kill most or all of the population of the US, it would take thousands of nuc’s, so the collateral fallout would circle the globe (for an example, check details of Chernobyl, just one reactor accident, not even an explosion). Nobody is going to walk away from this one anyway, so doubling the rads isn’t really going to make any difference, is it? Now a limited exchange?…… Its unfortunate, but the possiblity exists today that a country/group with less than adequate brain power but massive fanaticism will believe they can strike the US with a nuclear attack and get away with it. We prove our lack of resolve daily, in the MSM, in our movies and tv programs, and by our politicians inability to support a conventinal war, let alone a nuclear exchange. In such a situation, its is even MORE important that we respond in kind, or we’ll be leveled in detail, with a bomb a month in a every major city until we see the same results. And if you don’t believe that, just remember that 9/11 was the SECOND attempt on the World Trade: ‘if at first you don’t succeed’…..

  13. Despite a number of reservations I see the war mongers who normally inhabit this website all want to exercise the ‘nuke ’em all’ option. That’s the way I feel too, but just to be a oontrary *******, I’m going to muse, ‘How would Oprah and those sensible girls on the View handle this?’ Oh yea…………..let’s dig Dr. Phil out of the rubble, ask the other side how they ‘feel’ about nuking us, tell ’em it’s OK, and have a BIG GROUP HUG! Or………………..maybe not. 🙂

  14. One of the truths of the cold war not advertised was the cold war was a the result of a cost cutting move. Its hell of a lot cheaper to contain the USSR’s massive conventional army with nukes then to even try to fight it toe to toe. Up through the mid to late 80’s in virtually every scenario to defend Europe – we went nuclear in about 8 days or when the Russian reached the Rhine. (Whichever came first) Once they reached the Rhine there were no more natural barriers to stop them reaching the sea and after 8 days, we ran out of ammo. So now while we think the of the power of US military as a constant, it’s only been a recent phenomenon that the commander and chief has a realistic conventional option. That said, given the scenario stated I turn that great master of philosophy and situational ethics, KHAAANNNN!! ‘To the last, I will grapple with thee. From hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee. ‘ …Nuke the bastards till the cockroaches glow.

  15. You are correct, James, the nukes were the cost effective option. I have no problem with that. My question is, what do you do after you nuke them? If they’re still coming and you’ve got nothing left, a lot of people died for nothing because you still lose. We lost in Korea, we lost in Vietnam, we’re losing in Iraq, Afghanistan could go either way, we’re getting pushed around by Iran, China is thumbing their nose at us on a regular basis and are a huge emerging threat and we’ve got no plan to deal with any of it. Our industrial infrastructure is being shipped over seas. The pace of our defense technology has slowed to a crawl. We spend more and get less. We pay the most to the contractor that performs the poorest. The researcher that never produces is the one who gets funded year after year. Nukes don’t help any of our real problems. We’re going down just like the Soviet Union, without a shot. I’m glad I’m old and not young. I’d hate to have my children’s future looming in front of me.

  16. I don’t agree that we didn’t lose in Vietnam militarily. I think we did. I don’t fault the military for making the decisions that lost it, but I do see it as a military defeat.’ Dfens, it was the policy to blame for these decisions, but eventually I have to agree with you that US lost militarily in Vietnam. The policy is to blame too for the other lost wars you mentioned, or should I say conflicts? IMHO, when you enter in a conflict, be prepared and do whatever you can to defeat your enemy, do not apply half-measures. It is valid for a war, as it is for a street fight. Anyhow, the idea to use the nuclear wepons agains URSS in the event of a conventional attack does not look so bright to me, but it eventually leaded to the defeat of the URSS. They were fully aware that any conventional attack will end in a nuclear war and a total anihilation of the humanity.

  17. Well, I heard that one of the turning points in Vietnam was the ‘Tet Offensive’, which was a military disaster for the VC and by proxy North Vietnam, but the media spun it in such a way to suggest that it was a loss, and that the war was unwinnable, and eventually public support eroded and the US military forces were pulled out. Is that wrong? If not, how is that a military failure? Surely it’s a failure of will, and a retreat – not a loss. I also understand that the military was hamstrung by the political leadership telling them what targets they could not attack. Like enemy supply lines, SAM sites, etc. To argue that a loss under that circumstance is not at least partially politically driven seems unfair to me.

  18. The military did exactly what is was ordered to do in Vietnam – fight the NVA to a draw. That required destroying repeated NVA invasions. By 1973, the Viet Cong was destroyed the NVA seriously depleted of men and materials. We pulled out at that point and made sure the South Vietnamese could maintain the stalemate with the help of American weapons and airpower. In 1975 the NVA attacked the South again. The North Vietnamese allies in Congress pulled all funding and support for South Vietnamese and let them collapse. Millions of deaths and refugees ensued. To say the military lost Vietnam is silly.

  19. Note that I did not say ‘the miltary lost Vietnam.’ I said we lost militarily in that we did not, in my opinion, use sufficient force to bring the enemy to its knees. We did not use the level of force we used against Japan, for example. As far as I am concerned, if we’re not there to win, we shouldn’t be there at all. That was my opinion then. That’s my opinion now.

  20. American’s have an odd way of fighting wars. For the most part, we don’t fight wars for the standard imperial reasons – we have to make a moral statement. So when we are in a conflict that does not have a clear moral imperative, we half ass it. With only the skill of the American solider defining the outcome. Our boys are damn fine killers, but our ‘leaders’ tend to be flawed. Personally, I find this to be a good quality – just because we are good at war, does not mean we have to engage in war.