What would a nuclear war between North Korea and the United States look like? (part ONE)

Well, it would be over really quickly. You can insert your own joke here about just how quickly. Most people, including Kim Jong-un understand that North Korea could never hope to emerge victorious from a nuclear conflict. So why does he continually bluster and threaten the United States? Why does he take the chance that his words and actions will escalate an already tense situation to a potential disaster?

Kim Jong-un, http://jbpress.ismedia.jp

Most likely it’s because he can’t win that he continues to crow in the face of his impending annihilation. He knows that he never has to worry about a preemptive first strike from the United States because we have a great fear of nuclear weapons, and all weapons of mass destruction. So if he makes us think he can reach out from his throne in his little impoverished country and strike at our homeland at will, he feels it will garner him a level of respect, driven by fear, and that his actions and words will have no ultimate consequence.

Which brings us to the question – why do Americans fear nuclear weapons so much? Why do most of us just want to continue to allow the little man to spout off about our destruction and allow him to continue to develop his nuclear weapons program with no consequence?

I think we fear nukes with something akin to the fear we get when we stand in front of a mirror in a dark bathroom, or when we see a clown in the woods. The same fear that caused my mother to tell us kids not to play with Ouija boards. The same fear that makes us hurry to our car at night in a deserted parking garage. It’s a combination of fears, including fear of the unknown, and, even more prevalent, anecdotal fears from our childhood.

Some of us grew up during the Cold War. If you didn’t grow up during the Cold War, then your parents did. There were many times during this conflict between the United States and the now defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, when the possibility of nuclear war was more than prevalent. There were moments when it could have actually been considered imminent. And that would have been a war that nobody would have won.

War Games, https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/190628996699276787

The United States and the Soviet Union each has thousands of warheads, many mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), which gives each missile the capability to hit multiple different cities with a nuclear tipped warhead. (As many as 14 warheads on the submarine-mounted Trident system) Many of them are mobile and can be driven around to different locations, making targeting them with a first-strike difficult or impossible.

Russian mobile missile truck – Vitaly V. Kuzmin

The truly terrifying part of this was in that any single launch from one country, intentional or accidental, would have likely triggered an all-out response of the launch of every warhead from the other country. The entire planet would have been altered or even destroyed as a result. In the Soviet Union, they even had a program known as Dead Hand or Perimeter that would have triggered a comprehensive nuclear retaliatory launch in response to any launch from the U.S., regardless of whether or not anybody in the leadership was still alive or capable of giving the actual order. (BTW, this program is probably still active and operational in Russia today, and the U.S. has a similar, though safer one.)

And we all either grew up with those fears, or our parents did, and they passed those fears on to us.

But this is not what a nuclear war with North Korea would look like. They don’t have the technology the Soviets had, they don’t have the ability to destroy our country. A single city? Maybe. We’ll get into that. But our country? Nope.

So why do I see posts from people who seem to think that any nuclear attack would be the end of the world as we know it? Why are people so fearful of nuclear weapons, as evidenced by memes such as this:

And by the outcry to President Trump when, during his campaign, he wouldn’t say that nuclear weapon usage was never an option?

TRUMP: Well, I don’t want to take cards off the table. I would never do that. The last person to press that button would be me. Hey, I’m the one that didn’t want to go into Iraq from the beginning. The last person that wants to play the nuclear card believe me is me. But you can never take cards off the table either from a moral stand — from any standpoint and certainly from a negotiating standpoint.

The left had a field day with this one. A person running for President of the United States publicly stated that he wouldn’t take the nuclear card off the table.

Well of course he wouldn’t. No president has ever, or will ever (honestly) state that nuclear weapons are never an option. Now, what got so many people up in arms was the implication that nuclear weapons could be used as a first strike, as opposed to as a defensive retaliatory strike. And, as Americans, for some reason that thought is appalling to us. Even though we’re the only country who ever has used a nuclear weapon on an enemy, the thought of doing it again leaves us aghast.

But should it?

I believe one of the reasons we fear nuclear weapons so much is that most of us don’t actually understand what they are and how they work. We know they’re super powerful and they create great destruction, but most of us don’t know how they do that and what makes them so different from any other super-powerful bomb. I know people don’t understand what a nuclear weapon is when I hear comments like, “You won’t be able to visit Korea for the next ten thousand years.”

Our fear of nuclear weapons, much like our fear of dark parking garages, mirrors in dark bathrooms, and Ouija boards, comes partly from our natural and biological fear of the unknown and that which we don’t understand, along with our lingering fears from the Cold War, either through personal memories, or through history class lectures and anecdotes.

And that’s why, in this series of blog posts, I’m going to explain exactly what nuclear bombs are and how they work. I’m going to talk a little bit about the history of nuclear weapons, and what the weapons of today look like and are capable of. I’m going to discuss the types of weapons North Korea has, and what the launch of those weapons would mean to us and to the DPRK.

I’m going to attempt to alleviate some of the fears of the unknown; to put to rest some myths about what launching a nuclear weapon would mean, both as a first-strike option, and as a retaliatory option. I’m going to compare a nuclear blast to a blast from some of the powerful conventional weapons of today and weapons through history, including the original atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m going to explain the difference between those WWII bombs, which were atomic bombs, and the hydrogen bombs of today. I’m also going to explain why people live happily and free of radiation exposure in Hiroshima and Nagasaki right now.

This is going to be a long series of blog posts with a ton of information. If you don’t have any interest in nuclear weapons and how they work, and you don’t have any fears of a nuclear war with North Korea, and you understand perfectly why Donald Trump has made the comments and threats he has with regard to nuclear weapons in general, and North Korea in particular, then you don’t need to read them.

Otherwise, buckle in. Because nuclear weapons are fascinating, and the science and technology behind what makes them work, and what makes them so terrifying, is engrossing. I’m going to do my best to bring it to you in a way that will make you understand them a little better, and maybe even fear them a little less.

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