My world is parallel to ours, except alien doppelgangers have infiltrated human society for generations to hide from their enemies in space. They have positioned themselves to stop their rivals from establishing relations with the humans at all costs.

A doppelganger of the President orders a nuclear strike on Washington DC from NORAD after new aliens (their rivals) arrive to make first contact in 1969. The real President is in Washington DC and desires to prevent Washington DC from being nuked. Given the command and control structure of the strategic forces at the time, could the real president of the united states prevent a nuclear strike on Washington DC, or would orders issued from NORAD override any efforts from Washington?

  • Both presidents are in control of their respective bases (DC vs. NORAD) and assumed by local commanders to be the real president.

  • The supply of doppelgangers is limited, and they are unlikely to sacrifice themselves, so the fighting will be between humans.

  • The doppelganger president has approximately the same knowledge and access to command codes as the real president.

  • $\begingroup$ Are there Canadian commanders in the NORAD bunker, or are they doppelgangers as well? During the Nixon years, NORAD was a joint command between Americans and Canadians. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Justin Thyme the Second I don't know if there would be Canadians in the bunker; it raises interesting questions. The rest of the world would care, but if the USSR is already coming apart, and the USA is on the verge of a civil war/alien invasion, what would the Canadian input Be? how would it be relevant? Or is there somewhere more appropriate for an alien fake US president to try and destroy Washington DC in order to derail first contact? $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ "The NORAD commander and deputy commander (CINCNORAD) are, respectively, a United States four-star general or equivalent and a Canadian three-star general or equivalent.' from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Aerospace_Defense_Command Launch could not happen without Canadian authentication. It depends on how badly the rest of the world cares. England also had nukes. So did France. It is only an American narcissistic pipe dream that everything is all about America. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 1:24
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    $\begingroup$ Okay, I have an 'in period, in situ' answer for you. Put him on a SAC air base. Launch codes were only for ICBM's. The commander of the air base would receive a direct order from the President in person, ID confirmed. Once they take off, the bomber crew gets their final authorization code internally from their commander at the air base. The nuke bombs were armed manually on the bomber, by the crew. Once they got the authorization code, they ignored all other transmissions, and completed their mission, no call-backs. Standard procedure at the time. Only way to stop them is to shoot them down. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ Their final target is usually confirmed when they are in the air. If the daily confirmation code matches, and the code is generated daily and sometimes hourly just before takeoff, at the air base, not the Pentagon, not the White House, it is a final order. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 2:12

3 Answers 3


The CIA would know that an imposter president is possible

The aliens just pulled the same stunt in Russia. Unless the CIA decided to sleep while the most important event in world history happened in Russia, they should have noticed what happened and briefed the US leadership about it. So we can assume that the US leadership knows that the V2 aliens are capable of impersonating political leaders and might use this ability to destabilize countries.

The Secret Service would know that at least one President has to be an imposter

The Secret Service is the personal bodyguard of the president. Knowing the whereabouts of the US president at all times is their job. The POTUS doesn't go anywhere without the secret service planning every inch of the route and securing it. So it is simply not possible for the US president to just show up somewhere without the secret service being informed. If the V2 aliens are really smart and use more than just one infiltrator, they might perhaps be able to use some subterfuge to confuse the secret service about who is the real president. But they could not convince one half of the secret service to guard one president and the other half to guard the other one. Not without these two factions being aware of the fact that they are suddenly guarding two presidents and without the Director of the secret service realizing that.

With the possibility that one president is an imposter, the military would not execute the order

One President has a reasonable diplomatic approach to the alien situation. The other wants to kill a million US citizens to prevent a first contact, which is a completely unreasonable approach to the situation. And the V2 aliens tried to pull the same stunt in Russia.

Military officers are not stupid. Considering these circumstances they will question if the order to launch a nuke at Washington DC is a legitimate order and very likely refuse to execute it.


In order for this V2 alien plot to work, a lot of humans would have to act pretty stupidly.

What's likely to happen?

  • The Secret Service would detain the "President" in NORAD as a potential alien spy.

  • There is a possibility that people in Washington DC would stop listening to the President in DC. If the one in NORAD is an imposter, then it's not an unreasonable hypothesis that this one is also an imposter and that the real President is probably on a dissecting table on a V2 alien space ship.

    They would then likely let someone else speak for the US during the first contact. Probably the Secretary of State (because this is a foreign affairs matter) or the Vice President (as the next in line when the president is incapacitated).

  • If the V1 aliens aren't stupid either (and considering that they figured out interstellar travel they have to be pretty smart), they would also know what is going on and not rule out the possibility that whatever hairless monkey claims to speak for Earth is actually a V2 alien in disguise.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd pick your answer, but they closed the question on me. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ Also any nuclear strike order needs to be confirmed by the secretary of defense, the president alone cannot order one, this is done to actually make sure it IS the president giving the order. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 3:27


The President will be watched closely at all times - especially a conventional establishment President like Nixon. There is a reason the real Nixon is in that bunker. He was moved there for his safety. His whereabouts are known at all times and not just incidentally, but by people who are employed to do just that.

If Nixon strolls into the White House (presumably with a doppelgänger secret service detail) the secret service / security still in the White House will ask how he got there and why he left the safety of NORAD. While these questions are asked, calls will be made to NORAD and it will be established that Nixon is right where he was the day before and the day before that, with the individuals comprising his security detail.

At the very least, the new Nixon whose origin cannot be accounted for would be held prisoner while issues were sorted out. To substitute new for old, you must do away with the old first or at the same time. You would think pod people would know this!

  • $\begingroup$ thank you for your input, it helped me to clarify my question. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ Is the doppelganger in Washington or the bunker? $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThymetheSecond - when I answered I assumed the fake was in DC since that is where the aliens went and there was no mention of aliens going to the bunker. I figured the real Nixon had moved to the bunker some time previously because of uncertainty in the USSR. But I guess I misread; real Nixon is in DC. Same logic applies. Nixon suddenly showing up at NORAD would prompt questions of him and his agents and phone calls to DC. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Cadence Continuity: Once of them has been under near-constant observation since before inauguration. The other has "come out of nowhere". $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal: Not necessarily an insurmountable problem. Let's say one Nixon has been under near-constant observation — while the other Nixon is found unconscious in a restroom half an hour after the first one walked out of there and claims, upon waking up, to have been attacked by an amorphous blob monster that crawled out of an air duct. Guessing which one is actually the alien imposter and how many layers of psychological games the aliens are really playing is left as an exercise for the reader. ;) $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 17:01

Willk did a good job of addressing the problem of a doppelganger president. I'd like to address the topic of the President's (or any politician's) role in the military in the event of an invasion of the United States, particularly as applies to nuclear strike options.

While the use of a nuclear strike option in theory rests solely with the President, the actual ability rests with the operators. And this was particularly true for the era in question (1969). At that time there were few locks in place to technically prevent the operators themselves from activating and launching a strike and only physical security and chain of command prevented this from happening.

Moreover, with the use of such devises, strike protocol is absolutely necessary. There most likely were (are) not protocols in place for performing a nuclear strike on US soil, so for missiles delivery systems the operators would have no possible way of performing this action. Contrary to popular belief the operators do not directly "aim and shoot" the missiles, but rather, they follow protocols for target selection which limits the targets they can be used against. Any modification to this would require a significant technical modification and is not something which can be done "on the fly".

The other means of nuclear weapon delivery are by aircraft and artillery, and while these are not as technically restricted in their usage as missiles would be, again protocol would most likely be adhered to without deviation. That is to say, if an order was received to perform a nuclear strike against DC, it is very unlikely that it would actually be carried out. First, the orders would be passed laterally through Generals, if any of them felt that the order was illegitimate it would not proceed. Thus, if there was any deviation, ambiguity or contradiction from protocol through the chain of command, the order would quickly be halted.

Even after proceeding through the chain of command down to the actual field grade officers in charge of the devices themselves, the order could be legitimately halted should any them order the operators to stand down, or if the operators themselves were to believe that the order was illegitimate. Operators of nuclear devices themselves are almost always field grade officers and as such have a duty above and beyond that of normal officers and NCOs. Thus, it is highly unlikely if not impossible for a rouge general or officer to start a nuclear conflict, or for a spoofed message to result in a nuclear strike since there are enough checks in place to prevent this from happening.

There is also plenty of historical precedent regarding this, from both American and Soviet sources. Probably the most notable example can be found in the Cuban missile crisis (see One minute to midnight)

As an aside, the only way I could see a nuclear strike occurring on US soil, even in the event of an Alien invasion, would be if the conflict were seen as more or less conventional (in the style of Battle: Los Angeles for example), and not subversive (Invasion of the Body Snatchers for instance). The more confusion there is in who is giving the order and who or where the enemy is, the less likely highly destructive options such as nuclear strikes.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The President is not in charge of the launch codes. They are generated daily by the Pentagon, and then given to the President. Giving the same codes to two different Presidents would seem to me to be impossible. The codes would have to be duplicated and then follow two completely divergent paths, The degree of penetration of doppelgangers would have to be extensive, so why bother with the president? Just dopplegang the generals that actually turn the key and press the button. The only thing the codes did was to confirm the identity of the President, not control the actual launch. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ The most obvious reason for American forces aiming nukes on American soil would be a civil war. No launch codes necessary. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ If Nixon is in the NORAD bunker, where the 'button' is pressed, he does not need launch codes. His identity would be confirmed by his physical presence. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ What was the name of the blockbuster movie that came out in the 70-80's, about NORAD accidentally sending an attack order to bomber command, the crew sets off to bomb Moscow, the rescind code does not come soon enough, they drop a nuke on Moscow, and the President orders his loyal commander to drop a nuke on New York so the Russians will not retaliate? $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThymetheSecond Are you sure you are not just mis-remembering Dr. Strangelove? Here's a short summary of the plot: 1. An insane Air Force general orders his aircraft to bomb Russia, and then commits suicide. 2. Upon learning that the Russians have a Skynet-esque AI that will make Earth uninhabitable if bombs are used, the President sends the recall code. 3. One of the bombers does not receive the code due to having a damaged radio array, and thus drops its bombs. 4. The Russian Skynet does its thing, making all water on Earth undrinkable for 93 years and thus exterminating humanity. $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2020 at 1:05

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