A somewhat benevolent, previously unknown superpowered flying knight, appears out of thin air and upon arrival (somewhere between New York and Washington DC) the USA government took him for an hostile and attacked first.

He is impervious to any conventional weapon, and Uncle Sam won't nuke his own turf.

He could remain still and wait for them to just tire off, but his knightly code demands you retaliate any attacks on your person (unless its children throwing rocks or something like that).

So he knocked down a few dozen jet fighters and tossed tanks around, opened one aircraft carrier like a can of sardines and the Pentagon is now rather aggravated. He took the care not to kill anyone yet, but he is not above killing adversaries.

After this first exchange, what would be the fastest way for this knight to end hostilities without surrendering (yes, his knightly code forbids surrender)?

Assume he is very smart (but not a genius) and has knowledge of our laws and government, including structure and chain of command (but has no obligation to follow U.S. law).

  • 10
    $\begingroup$ I suppose that the aircraft carrier he opened up was conveniently empty? Or piloted by drones? Also, getting tossed in a tanks or knocked down from the air is not particularly healthy. It is kind of difficult to believe that has has not killed absolutely nobody yet. Another thing is that unless he arrived ala Supreme Commander or the Terminator, I do not think that the government would unleash so much military hardware on him so quickly. Alas, the question is how to stop hostilities, not about how they started $\endgroup$ Mar 21 '15 at 5:47
  • 26
    $\begingroup$ "Impervious to any conventional weapon"... "unless its children throwing rocks or something like that". The US military is, in this particular case, "something like that". His knightly code would probably have been similar to the one we followed when I was in the actual US military -- which is to avoid and avert engagement with people outside of a directed action specifically because this is the situation that develops. I could go on about why this situation wouldn't manifest to begin with, but its probably central to your story (however, it is also probably central to the answer you seek). $\endgroup$
    – zxq9
    Mar 21 '15 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ This will either be a Superman fanfic, or indistinguishable from one. :) $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Mar 21 '15 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ I second @zxq9's comment. I'm really baffled by the requirement that he retaliate. The military's attacks are no more harmful to him than a rock thrown by a child, and they're not able to defend themselves any better either. Worse, a child may throw rocks maliciously while the government is acting out of fear and a desire to protect themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Doval
    Mar 21 '15 at 18:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I like the question but, as a veteran of the Navy, I'm really not sure why you think we'll shoot first, especially on American soil. Cops on the other hand get really jumpy - there are lists of known persons that kill cops for fun. Those guys are on the battlefield, three blocks from home - that would give anybody a quick trigger finger. $\endgroup$
    – Sean Boddy
    May 6 '15 at 0:28

13 Answers 13


Ah, what an exquisite pseudo-legal question.

First, I have to second @zxq9 's objection; if he's totally impervious to any conventional weaponry, then US military functionally are children throwing rocks at him. But lets say that it's the intent that counts, or that maybe he's not totally impervious and could come to harm if he just let them attack without defending himself at all. Then there is a couple of salient points.

Surrender and Knightly Code

To start with, I find it rather uncharacteristic of a knightly code to contain a stipulation against surrendering. This would be the case for codes of honor among the honor-before-reason Proud Warrior Race guys (think Spartans), where their conviction of their own absolute martial superiority would be central to their self-image, so surrendering would be unthinkable.

Knightly codes (such as they were and what there was of them - keep in mind that what we have today are heavily romanticised and idealised versions that almost nobody actually followed) were codes of ethics as well as codes of honor. Knights would usually be expected to fight other knights and it was well understood that sometimes God, or fortune la guerre might favour the enemy. In such cases, while outright cowardice was absolutely condemned, simply acknowledging defeat by surrendering would be perfectly acceptable.

In other times, overriding ethical concerns would force the knights to surrender without even trying to fight; example of this is the famous case of Johannites (aka Maltezian Order) surrendering Malta to Napoleon without firing a shot because they considered it unacceptable to fight fellow Christians.

But let's accept that for the sake of the argument and see what we can do about that.

The Knight's Perspective

Assuming that the Knight's Code was designed with realistic warfighting in mind, even if it precludes unconditional surrender, it is sure to permit other means of ending the conflict.

Fortunately, all the various Laws and Customs of War have facilitating the restoration of peace as one of their primary purposes. The knight should thus be permitted to use some means of negotiating the end of the conflict; in history these would be variously called offering terms (which has a wide variety of meanings, and could include anything from total surrender of one side to some sort of compromise), suing for peace (which is a negotiation to end a conflict before its definitive military resolution either way), or offering white peace/status quo ante bellum (essentially let's stop shooting and pretend this never happened, War of 1812 and the Indian part of the War for Austrian Succession were concluded this way).

If he is familiar with some of the basic customs, he could try brandishing a Flag of Truce, riding up to someone responsible and offering terms under which hostilities would end. Depending on how he's feeling, and what his Code requires of him, this could range from simple cessation of hostilities (the white peace option), or he could demand some sort of satisfaction as war reparations. If the other side accepts, he has concluded the "war" honourably without surrendering.

US Perspective

In a situation where most of the might of the US military has already been tried and found impotent, there will immediately be powerful political desire to end this quickly, preventing further casualties and embarrassment.

Can the Knight present himself as a representative of a foreign sovereign power? If so, then this might be the best solution for the conundrum.

If he deigns to negotiate for terms and presents himself in such a way, then US is in fact in breach of international law, because it has engaged in an act of war without a formal declaration thereof. Furthermore, this is probably also a violation of the US Constitution - I am not an American, but I seem to recall that only a vote of Congress can authorize a declaration of war or other military action against a foreign sovereign power.

This is sufficient justification for the US to acknowledge their mistake, agree to cessation of hostilities and offer whatever reparations might fit the satisfaction requirement. And to do so quickly, before this becomes an even bigger political disaster.

The political fallout is going to be tremendous; heads are gonna roll, metaphorically speaking. Expect whatever military commanders authorized the initial attacks to be court martialled and called to task for the loss of life. The cabinet might catch some heavy flak for allowing the whole thing to happen in the first place.

And if the Knight doesn't call himself a representative of a foreign sovereign power? Well, the US might just unilaterally declare him that - as a legal fiction - in order to save face.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Since 2000, the US has engaged in military action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and probably other places, all without a formal declaration of war, and (I believe) in most cases without any sort of Congressional approval, except to the extent that Congress has authorized the president to take any arbitrary military action in the fight against terrorism. So, although the US Constitution does say something about Congress needing to authorize declarations of war, in practice it's evidently trivial for the executive branch to bypass that requirement. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Mar 22 '15 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZ And strictly speaking, most of these probably should have been illegal, at least from the standpoint of international law. But there's noone to actually call the US out on it, and domestically it seems that checks and balances only exist on paper, as there's bipartisan agreement on anything but the largely cosmetic election issues. You can bet, though, that someone in Congress would suddenly remember this rule if it could be used to oust the President from office and gain some political capital in our scenario. $\endgroup$
    – Mike L.
    Mar 22 '15 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZ: The US never "declares war" anymore. I believe something about joining the UN required it. War is bad, m'kayy? But it does satisfy its Constitutional requirements by having Congress pass an authorization to use force. Which is the same thing under a different name. There's also a law on the books that authorizes the President as C-in-C to do whatever he wants for limited time periods without a new authorization. $\endgroup$
    – Zan Lynx
    Mar 23 '15 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ The action against Libya was the only case in which it was not authorized by Congress. The War Powers Act requires the President to seek Congressional approval within 30 days of U.S. forces being committed to any engagement (and that is really only intended as an exception for if the U.S. is attacked, not as a loophole to commit forces to a foreign invasion without congressional approval.) Iraq, Afghanistan, ISIS, Kosovo, etc. all had Congressional approval ahead of time. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Mar 23 '15 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @ZanLynx The requirement to declare war only exists for scenarios in which war is actually being declared against a recognized sovereign foreign government. That hasn't happened since WWII, IIRC. In Vietnam, the U.S. government recognized France and then South Vietnam as the legitimate governments; in Korea, it recognized South Korea as the legitimate government; it never recognized Saddam in Iraq and certainly not the Taliban in Afghanistan (which didn't even have de facto control of the whole country at the time of invasion.) The U.S. hasn't attacked Syria (Congress refused to authorize.) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Mar 23 '15 at 16:41

I'd suggest that he go get something to eat. No, really. If he goes into a restaurant and orders something to eat, the army's not going to attack him - there are civilians in there! If he's not being aggressive while he's in there, they're going to send someone in there to try to talk to him. It might help if he started talking to some of the people in there to show that he's willing to chat. Also, he should avoid the appearance of taking hostages or using human shields. One way to do that would be to make sure that he is in a place where people are frequently entering and leaving. This also has the benefit of providing more character witnesses for him - "No officer, he wasn't killing anyone. He seemed to be enjoying a cup of hot chocolate."

Part of the reason why this would work is that it immediately removes him from the context of an aggressive situation (he's damaging their fancy toys) and into a social one (many people like to chat while they eat). Another part of why it works is that it is unexpected - the military would be expecting him to continue to attack and destroy more vehicles and ships, so doing something else should cause them to re-evaluate the situation.

What if the military attacks him anyway while he's in the middle of a bunch of civilians? This demonstrates that the military does not value the lives of their own people and that they're quite incompetent. He's already demonstrated that he is far more powerful than them, so if they aren't going to take the opportunity to talk with him it makes for a strong argument that that military deserves to be dismantled.

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    $\begingroup$ This is actually pretty good solution. While the question assumes familiarity with local customs, that is not really compatible with ending in that kind of mess in the first place. It is better to assume a stranger in a strange land and in that case going somewhere where the "aliens" do not want to attack (lots of civilians) and waiting for them to come to you for a peaceful solution is the simplest solution. And in all cases cutting the cycle of violence even if by doing something silly is the correct first step. $\endgroup$ Mar 22 '15 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ The Air Force would like to apologize in advance for the collateral damage, but our nation will not surrender to terror... $\endgroup$ Mar 23 '15 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ In other words, to be rather blunt about it, you propose to acquire human shields. $\endgroup$
    – user2781
    Mar 23 '15 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl And, in the mean time, to deescalate the situation and demonstrate no aggressive intent (however unbelievable that might be after ripping up an aircraft carrier.) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Mar 23 '15 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ "One way to do that would be to make sure that he is in a place where people are frequently entering and leaving. " --- why would they be entering, rather than just leaving as rapidly as possible? In other words, why is the military attacking him, but the civilians are not afraid of him? $\endgroup$
    – Random832
    Mar 23 '15 at 17:43

Sir, we have reports that the, um, rider, flew into our military complex at Torf Edaem, Maryland, where he secured a nuclear weapon. Everybody stopped shooting at that point. He is currently on the front lawn of the NSA, where his Pegasus is eating the grass, yes, with the bomb strapped to the saddle, while the rider is sipping tea with Admiral Rogers.


Assuming he can't, you know, just talk to them somehow, a White Flag is almost universally recognized as a temporary truce/parlay symbol.

While white flags are often used by a weaker party to surrender, that's not a requirement - using them to open negotiations is perfectly valid, and he's under no requirement to surrender because he's uses one.


The knight has several options when it comes to dealing with hostilities with the US.

The first is pretty obvious but depends how he views the US military's corrupt in regards to his own benevolence or knightly code:

The immoral choice:

Offer to work with the US and/or US military. Simply put, he could bust into the white house, meet the president, and offer to help the US (whilst beating up any secret service goons dumb enough to try tackling him etc). It'd be somewhat unceremonious, and the military would poop pants, but they likely couldn't shoot or attack without risking harming the president. Once the president agrees, or is for some reason, stupid enough to disagree, he would then leave. In the former case the military would stand down, blah blah, look at this cool guy we have. If the president disagrees then he waits until a new president turns up and then offers him. Rinse, repeat.

The neutral choice:

If he's capable of flight (it's unclear but he must be if he can open an aircraft carrier in the middle of an ocean like a tin opener), he merely develops technology to communicate (or we assume he has a sonic boom esque voice) with the US, and stays in an orbit high above the US where no conventional weapon can reach him (any nuke weapons at the right height will merely cause a HEMP which would damage/radiate the US infrastructure). During this time he offers the US a choice: either cease hostilities, or he will go assist another country like Russia/China etc (because he's knowledgeable on geography and who they're opposed to). Chances are the idea of a super-powered individual assisting another country is usually enough for the US to about turn. (In this scenario, if he cannot fly, then he merely swims to the bottom of the ocean where no nuke could reach him, and if he cannot breathe underwater, he merely hides or drills into the ground, whatever his unique talents are for evasion).

The moral choice:

He goes about helping people. Not just anyone, but solving massive issues, like crop failure and poverty or whatever his talent is for. Presuming he has flight (aircraft carrier/jets) or super-speed, he merely goes from one person to the next at random (evading military attacks as best as possible). The military could try to shoot him but would risk civilians in the process. If he's seen as helping civilians, then he would eventually be seen as a good guy and his reputation would spread. If the military still doesn't turn by this point, either an open revolt from the people (glad to have a hero) or democracy will kick in.

The lazy option:

Do nothing. In all case scenarios, regardless of what he does (aside from relentlessly murdering people or doing evil), he wins. Either the military tire (it'd be pretty expensive to keep replacing equipment), the people appraise his good deeds and scorn the US military for their attacks on him, democracy wins out or the US twig they're better off with him as a friend than a foe.

Heck, the continuous attacks assume the US military are dumb enough to ignore the fact he's superpowered. After he survives the first explosion or blast, they will figure they can't beat him conventionally and cease anyway.


If his knightly code allows for it, he could single-handedly defeat any enemy the US is currently at war with (ideally one the US is currently losing against), thus demonstrating both his superior power and the fact that he's not hostile to the USA.

I think after doing so, the USA will be more than willing to make peace with him.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What was the last time the US forces/politicians actually acknowledged they were losing? $\endgroup$ Mar 21 '15 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ They don't need to officially acknowledge it. It suffices if the highest ranks are aware of it. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Mar 21 '15 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, kind of. They need to have a way to publicly make peace with the knight without losing face or acknowledging that his/her help was most welcome, leave alone desperately needed. $\endgroup$ Mar 21 '15 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ Well, they can just say that thanks to the help of the knight, they have won the war a bit faster than they would have otherwise. That way they officially acknowledge the help of the knight without losing their face (they still officially maintain they would have won the war without the knight). $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Mar 21 '15 at 18:44

So, as he's impervious to any conventional weapon, why won't he just walk right into the white house/pentagon/wherever, kidnap the president and declare himself the new president. Of course nobody would like it, but it would be the fastest way to end hostilities as such a tour de force would make quite clear that fighting him is useless. Additionally it fits the knight theme as a knight always fights for someone, so he is just claiming the territory for whomever is his lord/king. That's what knights do.

If he just wants peace as quickly as possible he should just walk into a lot of media studios and have them interview him. That way he can explain his actions, get the public to like him (american dream and stuff) and probably after a couple of assassination attempts the US government will also decide that talking might be a better option.

  • $\begingroup$ That would create more hostility. Not peace $\endgroup$
    – Evorlor
    Mar 25 '15 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Evorlor, first of all do note the question is not asking for a peaceful solution (though if he prefers that I did add the second paragraph to discuss that case). Second of all somebody who defeats one of the worlds leading armies very bests single highhandedly... At the very least there won't be any physical hostilities against him. At most once in awhile somebody will try to poison him or slice his throat and fail every time, so it's hard to count that as hostility :P . $\endgroup$ Mar 25 '15 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ You can't just declare yourself to be President of the United States. There's too much process inherent in determining that office for anyone to accept the knight's claim. The VP would take the oath of office, retain command of the U.S. military, and the fight would continue in the heart of DC. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Nov 10 '15 at 23:54

Declare himself to be sent by God. Given his demonstrated abilities and the general American populace’s openness to religion¹, he could immediately acquire a relevant portion of the population as adherents, which will thus oppose any attack on him.

Most importantly, this renders any attacks on him disadvantageous even from the government’s and military’s point of view, no matter what he outcome:

  • If successful, a disastrous religious tormoil would almost be inevitable.
  • If unsuccessful, the knight’s claim would be strengthened.

¹ though you probably do not even need that


A common enemy, of course.

It could be a super villain coming from same place as the knight. Or just another earthly superpower (Russia or China). They could act on "good" intentions (the knight is too dangerous to humans), "neutral" ones (they conclude the knight is USA new superweapon undergoing trials), or plain "evil" (USA is busy with alien invasion? That's perfect opportunity for a first strike!) This way or another, they have no problem nuking USA turf so the knight and White House have pretty much no other choice but truce, and very little time to achieve it.


Go break off an iceberg and buy a thirsty country (metaphor) then use your advanced capabilities to start an empire under the assumption the world is your army and winter is comming. Why have your knight calm down the US when he can just take over the world? What would a strategic war fighting mind find to be his purpose upon discovering a planet covered in diverse massive social structures of humanoid lifeforms? Since the character's understanding of his purpose is so closely linked to his faith that he believes his life is counter productive to his mission... if it is not ethically bound in this "knighthood" ... It stands to reason there is no way to understand how this charecter would react without some backstory that would help us gauge his reaction to being attacked. But yah for the record: "Gather resources, recruit numbers." If one lives by a no surrender policy, then the scenario ends one of three ways. He dies, I die, or he surrenders. He dies, you die - easily simplified... He surrenders -infinitely complicated. Need back story to help simplify.

  • $\begingroup$ Once the knight's out of U.S. home territory, a nuclear attack is an option. The only reason they haven't tried it yet is because he's on U.S. soil. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Nov 10 '15 at 23:51

He is impervious to any conventional weapon.... his knightly code demands you retaliate any attacks on your person (unless its children throwing rocks or something like that).

I think these are very relevant - what's the difference between a child throwing a rock and a US military throwing what are little more than bigger rocks? The intent, but then maybe the children throwing rocks intend to hurt too.

So could he simply shrug and treat the US military as a bunch of children? They are as effective as children as far as he is concerned, and perhaps he could consider them child-like compared to his superiority.


Step 1: Flee

Do as little damage as possible. Avoid the US and it's agents at all costs. He is too small to be reliably picked up by radar or heat-seeking missile so this should be easy even if he flies at subsonic speeds.

Step 2: Seek Asylum

Use another country as a political buffer. Speaking with another country, via telephone at first and later in person, would be reasonably easy as far as I'm concerned. Find a country that would love to score points of a US military debacle, to come in as the cool-headed peacemaker. Ultimately Russia would love to get some political points out of this, but it would be advisable to start with a country less unfriendly to the US, like India or Germany, to grant asylum.

At this point, the US will cease direct military action and will be forced into diplomatic solutions to save the valuable working relationship with that country (even the US relationship with Russia, for instance, is tremendously valuable, strained though it may be. Damage to it is taken only for serious reasons.)

At this point, in only a matter of hours or days, the first and most important aspect of peace has been granted. The cessation of military hostilities. But we would like to go further.

Step: 3 - Politics

Make people like you. Kiss babies. Save people from burning buildings. Give speeches about racial equality. Get on Oprah or the Today Show. Sing it's not easy being green with Kermit the frog. Get a slot on Sesame ST.

During this time, all the head-rolling and inquiry into the disastrous handling of the initial encounter will shake out. Everyone will distance themselves from the damage. A few war hawks will maintain that he is a threat, terrorist, fake etc., but politicians by and large will benefit more from peaceful rhetoric.

At this point he can move for a more all-encompassing peace with the US. He will offer photo shoots and major political points in exchange for help in this regard.

He might have to wait for regime change(mostly in the presidency) to make this move, but it will complete his peace with the USA.

Notes: The USA has been carrying the biggest stick on the block since at least 1945. We like to think we use our military muscle for good, but the fact remains we feel pretty secure about ourselves. It would be politically difficult to accept this guy, because we can't manage him. We can't control him. He can spy on us, kill the president, any number of terrible things, at any time and without warning. The all encompassing, baby kissing peace would hide a deep resentment and mistrust by the military, secret service, CIA, NSA etc. He would have to convince them that publicly being at peace with him was the best political option, even while at the same time racing to develop radar and other countermeasures to reassure ourselves of our own security. It would be a tough balancing act but it could ultimately give him the greatest peace, freedom and good relations with the US that I can think of.


By "cease hostilities" I assume you mean get the situation beyond a tactical cease-fire, to some fairly high-level order given not to engage the knight. I also assume you want the hostilities to end in such a way that this knight and the U.S. can move towards a friendlier relationship, which is predicated on the knight not having removed enough of the line of succession to the Presidency that the U.S. government can no longer function.

If the knight is completely impervious to conventional weaponry, depending on how fast he could move, the best option IMO is for him to kidnap the President, take him somewhere protected, and sit down to negotiate a cease-fire, before returning the President, unharmed, to the White House.

This is a risky move. Within minutes of the President's removal from wherever the knight got to him, the VP would take the oath of office. The knight would have to convince the President he'd kidnapped, after returning him safely and thus allowing him to reassume power, to call a cease-fire. The President would then have to convince his own staff that he isn't still incapacitated by being under some form of control by the knight.

The best overall option is to kidnap the President in his own home. Land right in the Rose Garden, let himself into the Oval Office, and sit down next to the President for a little chat. Within a few seconds of this stunt, the Secret Service will be in the Oval Office as witnesses, unwilling to open fire on someone demonstrably impervious to bullets with their own President mere feet from him. The knight and the President can then negotiate relatively cordially, assuming the President hasn't crapped his pants by now.


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