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Probability of nuclear war

For discussions of events and conditions not necessarily related to Peak Oil.

Likelyhood of nuclear exchange within 30 years ?

Less than 10 %
23
28%
10-20%
6
7%
20-30%
5
6%
30-40%
5
6%
40-50%
9
11%
50-60%
8
10%
60-70%
8
10%
70-80%
3
4%
80-90%
2
2%
over 90%
13
16%
 
Total votes : 82

Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Mon 04 Sep 2017, 11:23:38

Of course, NYC has always been the #1 target in the USA. With The Donald in residence in Trump Tower, doubly so.

The NK hydrogen bomb that we saw on the news is smaller than a Samsung refrigerator. All the NK's have to do is smuggle it into SK, place it in an appliance being exported to NYC - or Chicago - or Atlanta - or LA - or Washington, DC. Most likely target list: NYC plus as many additional cities as he has bombs for.

Then the little fat man has won the first nuclear war. It really won't matter if we destroy his country afterwards, once he has killed over 100 Million Americans.

Everybody, have a nice Labor Day.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby Plantagenet » Mon 04 Sep 2017, 19:04:29

KaiserJeep wrote:The NK hydrogen bomb that we saw on the news is smaller than a Samsung refrigerator. All the NK's have to do is smuggle it into SK, place it in an appliance being exported to NYC - or Chicago - or Atlanta - or LA - or Washington, DC. Most likely target list: NYC plus as many additional cities as he has bombs for.

Then the little fat man has won the first nuclear war.....

Everybody, have a nice Labor Day.


At first glance that seems like a scary scenario, but its actually very unlikely that North Korea can (1) smuggle nuclear bombs into multiple shipments of Samsung applicances that are (2) being shipped from South Korea to the USA and that (3) enter the USA without DHS detecting the nukes.

DHS screens all incoming cargo, and DHS Radiation detectors are part of the screening in all US ports now, you know.

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DHS agent screening cargo for radioactive material
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Mon 04 Sep 2017, 21:53:26

No, I don't know that. My family for the last 3 generations has served in the US Coast Guard. My (present service) CPO Brother-In-Law who works Port Security says that they physically screen only 5-10% of all cargo containers, on a random basis. Mostly they depend upon the computer source-to-destination tracking and random hands-on checks.

The radioactive "scanning" you are referring to is called "muon detection" and involves bombarding a cargo container with high energy particles and an analyzing the radiation belching out the other side, to see if fissionable isotopes are present. This takes time and expensive equipment, which is why only 5-10% of the cargo at ports and airports is "scanned". A randomly selected cargo container is routed by the scanner, but something like 90 to 95 out of a hundred containers are never scanned. The system is tested periodically, but in 20 out of 20 test cases in 2012-2016, actual fissionables have been missed.

The problem is the budget and if we only had 20X the budget they actually do have, we could make a really good pass at 100% of those containers. The DHS guy in the photo above is using a handheld gamma ray sniffer, and if the fissionables are shielded, he'll miss them.

In a way you are correct, though - we have the technology, we lack the will and the budget.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Mon 04 Sep 2017, 22:20:35

I expect that the authorities are well aware of all these limitations. I also expect they take a much harder look at ships coming from S. Korea or the Middle East than they do to ones coming from say England.
But what if they fail to detect a bomb that is set off in the middle of one of our port cities? I don't expect them to be able coordinate multiple bombs of this complexity so we might lose one city with perhaps five million killed and twenty million displaced to get away from the radiation.
One day later no city in the country that sent that bomb would be anything but a smoking pile of radioactive ashes.
MAD still works only today with these light weights it is not MAD it is YAD. (Your Assured Destruction).
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby Plantagenet » Tue 05 Sep 2017, 00:37:18

KaiserJeep wrote:No, I don't know that. My family for the last 3 generations has served in the US Coast Guard. My (present service) CPO Brother-In-Law who works Port Security says that they physically screen only 5-10% of all cargo containers, on a random basis. Mostly they depend upon the computer source-to-destination tracking and random hands-on checks.


Think about what "screening" means. You don't have to physically examine something to "screen" it...screening just means (1) : to examine .... in order to make a separation into different groups (2) : to select or eliminate by a screening process

The DHS now tracks every container coming into the US. Using a "screening process" based on reported content, place of origin, etc. etc. they then divide the containers into different groups---some tiny fraction of all the containers will be denied entry for place of origin or other reasons, another small percentage of the containers must be examined upon entry based on the screening criteria, while others are ok to admit without examination but nonetheless will examined randomly to try to catch something nasty in a container. This third group is the 5-10% your post mentions.

I agree with you that the current screening process doesn't inspire confidence, but nonetheless there is a a screening process in place. As Vt. noted in his post, it can be ramped up and down depending on threat levels, with agents physically examining a higher percentage of containers from potential danger spots when the alert level goes to red. I would imagine in their screening they are currently paying close attention to cargoes coming from Korea.

dhs.gov/cargo-screening]

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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby Newfie » Tue 05 Sep 2017, 09:06:25

Damn glad they got the containers down pat.

Good thing no one ever thought of putting it in the spare bed room of some Islamic potentates mega yacht! :-D

8O
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby Plantagenet » Tue 05 Sep 2017, 11:12:31

Newfie wrote:Damn glad they got the containers down pat.

Good thing no one ever thought of putting it in the spare bed room of some Islamic potentates mega yacht! :-D

8O


Or just load "it" in an Islamic potentates mega private jet and fly direct into NYC, LA, or DC. Several of them now use 747s and Airbus 380s as private jets. You could fit a terror army in there and have room left over for several nasty bombs.

The list of nightmare scenarios is endless.

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BONUS: passengers on private jets don't have to go through the normal TSA passenger baggage and weapons examinations

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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby evilgenius » Sat 09 Sep 2017, 12:22:35

I said back in '07 that WWI started because of alliances that nobody thought would lead to war. I think, today, it's just as common for people to believe that alliances won't cause a nuclear war. Does anybody think that a US attack on North Korea would cause Russia to attack the US? I bet hardly anyone does. Even I don't think the Chinese would. Even if they trade more with Europe, the loss of the US as a customer would so derail their current trajectory as to set them back decades at a time when that kind of setback would harm them more than a small war. China is good at avoiding war. Which is to say, if they were to be involved in an alliance related attack it would probably only be if they foresaw the confrontation limited to one or two cities, not the entire US. And, probably, not so tied to them, as perpetrators, as to prevent their future trading with the US.

In '07 people could see the housing market imploding, yet they refused to believe what they were seeing. How many experts got on TV in those days and said not to worry? In the same way, there are obvious warning signs telling the US not to be so cavalier over how it treats both North Korea and Iran. One of those is what has transpired in the Ukraine over the past several years. The fact that Russia has realized it is threatened from the south, by a long trend push by the US, such that it has reacted by engaging the linchpin country upon which a further US advance would rely. Iran is just as important to them, as it is effectively their proxy in the Middle East. As far as North Korea goes, how did they get to the point of developing a thermonuclear weapon? That's not easy. Their conventional nuclear weapons barely had a yield. Have they had help?

I suppose it comes down to how much of a threat small nuclear nations really are. North Korea still has to mass produce both warheads and ICBM's in order to become a true threat to the US. Is Iran a threat, if it has a weapon, to any other than an invading army? What if all they can do with it outside their borders is stifle US power projection by holding back the Saudis? Are they a threat worth invading simply because their nuclear capability gave them sway over oil production and transportation, but not almighty sway?

There is also the possibility that Russia eventually sees both Iran and North Korea as its nuclear proxies, giving them the ability to cover themselves in plausible deniability while exercising the kind of power a declining state feels it may need to at a time when it could easily fall into the kind of obscurity from which it may never come back. They haven't done much to address their wholesale oligarchical corruption, and the way it prevents their economy from supporting better democracy. If that were their plan, for dealing with China as well as the US down the road, they might not accept action taken today to short circuit it. It might not come as outright war, but the greater involvement it might induce, by forcing Russia to actually become more involved in overt military and economic activity, could lead to war. The group within the official outer group of legitimate governance, the oligarchs surrounding Putin, could be the one to worry about. It's the one most threatened by the position the US takes toward them. And they are the ones holding the power in Russia now! Their ability to use propaganda, through the official media they own, may be a greater concern as to whether the Russian people agree with war than if they, as Sting sang, love their children too.

The above is why I place my choice at greater than 10%. I think there is probably a 20% chance. It's well avoidable, but could easily be what happens if the US is not wise and blunders its way into the North Korean or Iranian situations. 20% is not likely to happen, but is high enough that you can't discount it.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Sat 09 Sep 2017, 12:52:50

EG, consider this for a moment: Trump has threatened trade embargo to anyone who supports NK. Suppose that China continues to do so and that Trump (seeking re-election perhaps) embargoes all trade with China. This will impact China a lot harder than the USA. I think it would also make nuclear war about 5X as likely in the short term.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby Plantagenet » Sat 09 Sep 2017, 13:19:04

The likelihood of nuclear war would be a lot less if Obama had manned up and forced regime change on North Korea before they had nuclear weapons and ICBMS, instead of kicking the can down the road to Trump.

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Obama did nothing about North Korea for 8 years as they developed nuclear weapons and ICBMS.....now what will Trump do?
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby evilgenius » Sat 09 Sep 2017, 14:11:35

KaiserJeep wrote:EG, consider this for a moment: Trump has threatened trade embargo to anyone who supports NK. Suppose that China continues to do so and that Trump (seeking re-election perhaps) embargoes all trade with China. This will impact China a lot harder than the USA. I think it would also make nuclear war about 5X as likely in the short term.


The US economy would have to go down the protectionist road for some time in order for that to harm the Chinese more than the US. Protectionism could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I guess that could happen quickly, but what sort of state would the economy be in that people over here would buy that? I guess you'd have to see the end of so many big companies that people only had their own independent contracting or entrepreneurship to fall back on. Shells of big companies might remain, employing people in piecemeal fashion (thus the independent contracting being so viable), but wouldn't they need to have a lot less global exposure? The service sector would have to shrink enormously, and not offer hope of coming back soon. I don't think he could do that based upon propaganda alone. Something that resembles the usual conspiracy theory suggestions would have to take place. I suppose a truly epic California earthquake could do that too, or Yellowstone going off. I don't think AI will come on that quickly, but it does threaten to do some of that. At any rate, things would have to get mean. I hope not, but you could be right.

Imagine that at the hand of the next Democrat president. That one is almost certain to have taken a page from Bernie Sanders' playbook, thus being more in tune with the fears of the people. By then, AI would be big enough to begin destroying employment on a large scale and disconnecting companies from overseas commitments. I don't think they would be a socialist, mind you, but there are so many other ways to entice people. You could see them pulling off protectionism as part of a package designed to 'make America feel great again.' If Trump had been destructive and crazy seeming enough, in response to him, they would probably eat it up with a spoon.
Last edited by evilgenius on Sat 09 Sep 2017, 14:29:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Sat 09 Sep 2017, 14:29:17

I think your analysis is flawed. My definition of "prosperity" is whatever benefits the US working middle class, not the Wall Street fat cats. Being protected from unfair trade with a nation that has an abysmal record of human rights abuses, pays wages barely enough to keep it's workers healthy, while destroying the environment around them - that relationship and dependancy needs to end and be replaced with either domestic manufacturing, or imports from countries with more respect for people and environment.

I realize that the result will be conniptions in the stock market, and perhaps the demise of firms like WalMart and Costco. But (not being a stockholder in those) I'm content to ride out the market gyrations. I take the long term view, not whatever is good for next quarter's profits.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby evilgenius » Wed 13 Sep 2017, 09:30:05

What I'm trying to say is that the Democrats are just as much in bed with big business as the Republicans. They have a different way of showing it, but behind them are a lot of donors who want something back. Their donors are possibly more likely to know what AI can do, and are willing to risk skirting close to the dangers it poses to workers. Some even seem aware of it, proposing things like guaranteed minimum pay, but they haven't got any systemic answers to this disruptive technology.

As for the Chinese, they are not a credible threat. Their nuclear position is built to defend them from attack, not to project power. The sort of detente they have reached with India prevents them from having a large arsenal of nuclear weapons. They have what they need to stop any power from invading them, but they don't have an arsenal designed to project power. Nor are they likely to press conventionally for war. Instead, they have used the power of economics to ingratiate themselves with people across the world.

Russia remains the only power capable of threatening either the US or Europe with nuclear war. Today they are not openly aggressive like they were when they led the Soviet Union and Khrushchev said he would bury us. That doesn't mean they aren't dangerous, especially when cornered. I think they have reason to feel cornered, given what has happened in the Middle East in terms of boots on the ground. Ever since the Caspian Sea region turned out to be a bust rather than the hoped for next big thing, world events have been shaped in a way that doesn't look good for the Russians, who control the regions producing oil that gave rise to the Caspian hope in the first place. People like to diss peak oil as a driver of world events, perhaps because they can't see beyond the next few weeks, let alone the next few decades, but it does seem to lie behind the threat the Russians may be feeling.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Wed 13 Sep 2017, 10:31:43

I've never believed that the D's were any better than the R's when it came to legislative corruption.

The Chinese will control the waters around them including one of the few large undersea petroleum deposits remaining, and their nukes give them credibility. Whether that is "projecting" power when it's only a few hundred miles away, is semantics.

The Russians are not a large threat themselves in any credible scenario. However they have already displayed a propensity to "lose" fissionable materials to rogue states, it's a crapshoot and nothing to be done about it.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Wed 13 Sep 2017, 17:10:41

The truth remains that once one of these new nuclear "powers" actually sends a bomb into one of the older Nuclear powers cities the retaliation will be swift and complete. The question is will if say North Korea hits Japan or the USA will we give China the chance to choose sides and wipe out North Korea or choose poorly and have all of their major cities up in smoke within hours.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Thu 14 Sep 2017, 00:22:53

vtsnowedin wrote:The truth remains that once one of these new nuclear "powers" actually sends a bomb into one of the older Nuclear powers cities the retaliation will be swift and complete. The question is will if say North Korea hits Japan or the USA will we give China the chance to choose sides and wipe out North Korea or choose poorly and have all of their major cities up in smoke within hours.

So, for argument's sake, say Boston or Chicago or whatever gets nuked by a suitcase bomb tomorrow or next week.

OK. Who did it?

Are you 100% sure?

If so, how?

If not, who do you deal "swift and complete" retaliation to?

Or are you talking about firing an ICBM, which can be tracked?

....

My concern is an outfit like NK or Russia giving these things to terrorist groups and letting nature take its course.

If you're sure Russia provided the nuke, then what?
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby evilgenius » Thu 14 Sep 2017, 11:13:24

I understand that nuclear forensics can answer the question of where any bomb came from. The trick is the resolve. Mutually assured destruction means that you have to destroy if you have been destroyed. There have been countless works of fiction written where the leaders of the countries involved decide to trade cities. Given the groundswell that elected Trump, I don't think that would work. Real people want revenge.
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby Tanada » Fri 15 Sep 2017, 06:45:48

evilgenius wrote:I understand that nuclear forensics can answer the question of where any bomb came from. The trick is the resolve. Mutually assured destruction means that you have to destroy if you have been destroyed. There have been countless works of fiction written where the leaders of the countries involved decide to trade cities. Given the groundswell that elected Trump, I don't think that would work. Real people want revenge.


Detective work on bomb debris will only zero in on the contaminants in the special nuclear material. For example the USA/UK/France cataloged each batch of plutonium manufactured in their production reactors so that if stolen material is used for a bomb they can track the material right back to the reactor it came from including usually the date of manufacture. However this ability has some serious caveats. It assumes all of the material in the device was A) Plutonium from one batch, B) Plutonium from a western reactor with good record keeping, C) Everyone is doing their best for accuracy and doesn't make a mistake using the equipment. If the debris in question comes from D) a pure Uranium bomb and E) Plutonium that is from several different reactors mixed together or F) Plutonium that has never been cataloged then the detective work can only tell you what materials were used to make the weapon and how efficient it was in using those materials. You can not confirm a location of origin without excellent records and good detective work combined.

As for the last point, I agree, if a minor power attacks a major power it isn't MAD because the major power will still be largely intact once the minor power has ceased to exist as a functional state. MAD is only when both parties have major arsenals and can strike back usually more than once after an attack. If North Korea or Iran has more than a handful of weapons when they strike are they more likely to hold some in reserve like the USA/UK/France policy to preserve a second strike? Or use them all in the first round to try and do maximum damage?
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Re: Probability of nuclear war

Unread postby evilgenius » Fri 15 Sep 2017, 10:23:59

Don't forget that the great powers have already given away their forensics secrets, by using atmospheric testing. Unless they've been making new bombs to give away from new sources the genie is probably already out of the bottle. There could be source material that comes from somewhere else yet, but how likely is that when they didn't foresee this situation when they started testing? Those programs during the Cold War were all out development programs. It is unlikely they held much back. Given the cost, would Russia, for instance, develop new weapons from new sources specifically to spread them out amongst terrorists? Wouldn't it be too easy for them to get caught? Clever of the North Koreans to test theirs inside of a mountain. Maybe that's because it would reveal much more than the world suspects, since they are convinced a country whose citizens basically eat grass did this on their own, if the signature of those bomb's material was known, or some construction technique revealed itself? In that case there are many potential suspects, maybe even Pakistan, although they don't have a hydrogen bomb.

I think the probability of war goes up as long as the resolve of the US to counter attack is perceived as weak. Whoever is in charge, has to make a statement about policy that says that the US reserves the right to reply in kind, and overwhelmingly, to any attack upon it, or its allies, which they interpret as an attack by a weapon of mass destruction, including biological and nerve agents. They even have to say that, and direct it at, whichever country these little provocateurs are beholden to. Right now, everything appears muddled, like living in a cartoon. It's all about tough talk, and the apparent size of each leader's balls (the true legacy of GW's flightsuit, and breaking international law to invade Iraq over false WMD charges).

Obviously, this doesn't include the US army being destroyed by such things if they attempt to invade some other country. That's where the reasoning exists for these small countries to possess these weapons. In such cases, they do not have to match the industrial capacity of the great powers in order to make the number of weapons they need. They do still need to keep a handle on them, though.
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