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A follow up to this question about an asteroid (which I will give 48 hours before picking an answer).

Consensus was that I was being way too optimistic, and that only a small population will survive at best, even in the near future where a closed system is possible, because of the short warning and sheer logistics involved.

New Scenario: About a month into government plans to shelter everyone, people realize that it was just a smokescreen and that it was just lip service. Riots break out all over the world, and most are violently suppressed. Most countries go into martial law lock down and dissatisfaction is at an all time high.

Question: Would countries, having their hands full suppressing their own populations already, go to war with another country? Are there any countries that might try and fight the United States (and vice versa)?

Bonus: If warfare will happen, how big would the scale be, and would it escalate into nuclear warfare? On one hand, the general armies has nothing left to lose. On the other hand, the national leaders would prefer not to be nuked since they have a chance to survive the meteor in a shelter.

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    $\begingroup$ What would be the point of the war? A better first question would be "would the military continue to keep the peace, or would they join in the rioting?" $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jun 12 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ There was no point in war, but some nutjob might got for a last huzzah once they realize that things are fubar. They might start killing another country's citizen's or something, and then the other country retaliates under pressure. All sorts of things CAN happen, but I'm not certain if it's realistic that they DO. $\endgroup$
    – Henry Shao
    Jun 12 at 8:16
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    $\begingroup$ I guess some countries would start a war just for case the apocalypse will not happen in the end. There is nothing to lose if the world ends, but there might be something to gain in case it doesn't $\endgroup$ Jun 12 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDyingOfLight Nuclear powered particle beams? If we had those, we'd be using them for missile defense. We don't have em. The nuclear arsenal? How do you plan on matching ∆v with this asteroid? Blow it up and we still die. Your faith is strong, but engineering, which is the main issue with your set of solutions, is not religion. This faith you have in it will not save you, or us from this doom. We need more time. $\endgroup$
    – chiggsy
    Jun 15 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDyingOfLight Yes the idea is very simple. Most ideas are. The C language spec is very simple. But compilers are hard. Fission is a simple idea. Making a bomb is hard. Firing a particle beam through the atmosphere at this object? Non trivial engineering problem. Again, it's falling from interstellar space, very high velocities, and burning pits onto it's face won't do much to push it out of the way. Six months? Not even enough time to launch the website. $\endgroup$
    – chiggsy
    Jun 15 at 21:17
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Almost certainly

North Korea might suppress the information of the impending doom. Some shelters with long lasting stores have been made for a select few of the elite. Now is the time to settle old scores and possibly get some more resources into the country for rebuilding after. As the USA is likely in turmoil, an egocentric culture based on a dream of having it all, combined with widespread weapons and people still trying to survive somehow, it is an easy target. Don't get me wrong, it is still likely suicide because of the minuteman nuclear silos of which some might still be functional. Though they also represent the safety the masses are looking for as underground bunkers. Yet with the world ending, you might as well just show your power and go into your bunkers a bit earlier.

Other countries might do the same, if some cohesion can be found. Nationalism or a strong sense of community and culture. China and Japan are likely candidates, allowing them to quickly spread and retrieve many resources in the hope they can use it later. Even if large parts of the system is failing, many facets of the military might still work because of the sense of duty. Most likely all conflict reasons are thrown out and any country will be sacked as long as it's not some of their own people.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your answer is very reasonable. What resources do you think might be available after the war, though? You mean stuff like natural gas and mines? They might as well wipe out some potential post-apocalypse competitors and get a head start afterwards while being prepared. Also, you think the East Asian countries will start something to settle old scores, and then it devolves into a world-war-esque escalation as favors are called? $\endgroup$
    – Henry Shao
    Jun 12 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ @HenryShao I think they would focus on mostly ready materials for rebuilding. That is most important after a calamity. Mines and such can be taken afterwards if you have an edge on anyone else, if they are left and competitive, but survival is more important than mines and such. They might attack each other as preemptive strike in fear of getting disadvantaged, but settling old scores only if it does advantage them directly. The aim is optimistic survival with an impeding apocalypse. Not wanton destruction. Still, world war-esque scenarios might unfold, especially as getting attacked unites. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Jun 12 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ What "rebuilding?" You follow peoples SIGINT directly to the bunkers. Wearing a simple mask during covid was too much to ask for a large part of the population, how they gonna react to "sorry you have to die." Bunkers won't save you from the hoi polloi, after all there's food in there, and potable water. Sure people like me will eat the dead the day after the impact, why let them rot? Why am I eating corpses? Because I'm not in the bunker, eating caviar. Am I happy about this? Nope. The last walls that saved anybody fell to the Turks in 1453. Expect company. $\endgroup$
    – chiggsy
    Jun 15 at 20:59
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If there was only 5 months before a devastating asteroid strike, I would imagine that the prospect of any major conflict breaking out is not huge.

Each nation's military assets will probably have their hands full trying to maintain some semblance of order internally, and it would make much more sense to preserve as many military assets to defend what scarce resources remain should their nation survive the asteroid strike.

For major powers like the US, China and Russia, there wouldn't be much to gain from any war with either their neighbours or another major power. Most of them have enough domestic resource production such that their efforts would probably be on stockpiling oil, food and machinery, and trying to prepare as best as possible. Trying to defeat a strategic rival 5 months before they are likely obliterated by an asteroid would seem somewhat redundant.

By the time it takes to plan, mobilise, fight a war and then consolidate any gains, you won't have much time to make use of any land or resources taken as one would imagine much of it will be devastated by the asteroid.

For minor powers in the Middle East and North Africa, for example, if their neighbours are too distracted by internal turmoil to properly defend oil fields, arable farmland etc, you could expect some border clashes as they annex certain regions in attempt to stockpile as much as they can. As international trade will likely take a big hit in this period, if they are able to seize resources with little resistance this may put them in a better position to survive. However, being drawn in to a major conflict is the last thing they would need, using up much needed military personnel and fuel, so even modest resistance would make this more effort than it is worth.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you think it's reasonable that there will be mass desertions and loss of materiel for the less organized countries, that then result in roving bands of bandits in conflicts that resemble multiple small-scale wars? $\endgroup$
    – Henry Shao
    Jun 12 at 8:53
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryShao I would imagine that even very professional and well organised militaries would have significant problems with desertion. While they will probably be able to maintain discipline for the first few months, for a large chunk of the military it will be every man for himself in the last days. It may not be roving bandits as much as it would be soldiers grabbing weapons, fuel and vehicles, and deserting to get themselves and their loved ones somewhere safe (unless they have enough confidence in their nations chances of survival) $\endgroup$
    – Jack
    Jun 12 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ The world is going to need to manufacture as much equipment as it can before impact but supply of raw material would halt because of rioting, so I might expect military assisted seizure of raw material from weaker nations to keep supplying factories up until the last minute. Probably it would be done by a coalition of western powers with the understanding that each would get a proportional say in who goes into the shelters. $\endgroup$ Jun 12 at 13:29
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Medium-large scale war with some nuclear strikes?

YES IT'S POSSIBLE. BEAR WITH ME.

A dimensional rift suddenly opens and a 20 km-wide rock of mostly unknown material hurls to hit Earth? "This is exactly as prophesied in [insert a holy book]! God has started the Apocalypse!"

Religious group(s), armed with their unwavering faith, quickly seize control amidst the anarchy. They capture the disorganized militaries' facilities and weapons. Then they control the media or whatever's left of it. They absorb the general people into their ranks by promising safety/salvation. "Don't worry, for God will save us the believers!" or "Be strong, together we are able to [do something commanded in holy book that sounds more plausible than bunkering down entire populations], and soon after that God will reopen the dimensional rift right above Earth and send the asteroid back to anywhere it came." Basically, spreading optimism and rallying people together by celestial promise. In hopeless times, religious promises provide the only hope.

The group(s) then very soon after wage holy wars. They believe they're the good guys of the Armageddon, the Final War of the World. They want the eternal record to see them as the protagonists of the last act of the universe's theatrical stage. They may or may not declare themselves officially as a country beforehand, but in reality they're comparable to one already.


From there it's not difficult to imagine United States (or any major world power, give or take) painted as the bad guys in their perspective. Modern imperialism, extracting world resources to be enjoyed by the few ultra-rich; capitalism, putting property above life/modesty/decency/humanity; secularism, separating official national matters from the obligation to follow ways of life; too much liberty that all conservative religious laws were removed/changed/adapted; oppression and/or unjust neighborly treatment; racial motivations; etc.

Nuclear war? Well, does the group originate from nuclear state? I'm not sure on can they acquire nuclear weapons and how much. But, their immense faith may justify a nuclear first-strike to destroy their enemy, if one is available.

Second-strike retaliation may happen, but I'm not certain.

  • Possibility 1: Group(s) launch enough nuclear weapons to destroy United States entirely (unlikely? I am speculating it's unlikely). United States fully commit their second-strike.

  • Possibility 2: Group(s) launch small amount of nuclear weapons (more likely, if they can do it at all). United States basically shrugs off and ignores one or two city being obliterated. World is ending and people will die en masse anyway. Either they fully ignore, or retaliate with also small amount just because they can. No full-scale nuclear war, only limited exchange.

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  • $\begingroup$ Problem with religion is that they had their time. We know exactly what such a religious war will look like, after all it's not like they can do it differently this time around, right? We will unleash the AI's upon them. Even with the End-of-Days blotting out the sun I will oppose them, if I somehow miraculously survive the impact. "They believe they're the good guys of the Armageddon, the Final War of the World." They're so not. $\endgroup$
    – chiggsy
    Jun 15 at 20:47
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100%, there will be wars within the first few days

tldr; border skirmishes for the best places to survive, civil wars dragging in other nations, and neighbouring countries being attacked by non-standing armies and being forced to invade.

Other answers so far have focused on standing armies declaring war officially, but there are many non-official triggers for a full scale war between nations.

Here are my predictions.

Firstly, a scramble for higher ground will result in border wars, particularly around mountainous areas - consider Afghanistan and Pakistan. There's not a lot of arable land at high altitudes - whatever does exist, will suddenly be highly sought after.

Secondly, armed groups not affiliated with governments can start full scale wars between international entities. Rebels from one side attacking the standing army of another, or engaging in terrorist activities, resulting in an invasion.

Thirdly, some people will attack their own governments, out of anger, desperation, or because they believe the flying spaghetti monster can be placated if only their government stops building roads and starts building massive statues of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Substitute this with real, existing religions (I'm not going to mention any). Nearby countries may be forced to act on foreign soil to protect key resources such as oil supplies, ports, etc. This might include "Boots on the ground".

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I'll quibble at the lockdowns in America there are just too many guns, and with the media the way it is (re: watergate) it's possible that the media and the internet is used to stoke a revolution. the leaders should realize that wasting resources here would be bad so that it might be possible that after he knee jerk lock down they make a plea to the populace:

what must be preserved after the impact?

what should we save as we cannot save?

letting the people decide who to save would improve america's chances greatly and by letting people vote with their labor; (remember dollars would be worth nothing quickly in an apocalypse scenario) we can channel everyone's labor toward the preservation of man.

then it's a measure on what should resources should be spent on other than bunkers I'd argue for a mechanism to clear the air of he detritus and seed banks. the argument being if we can clear the air fast enough after the impact we worst of the impact will be removed (the blocking of the sun from reaching plants)

so to the others what size are the particulates and wat can be done to clear as much of it out of the air as possible?

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Yes there will be war, but not the one imagined.

The soldiers understand that the high rank officers want to exploit their role to save themselves and they kill them. Middle rank officers manage to keep together some military units which then turn into uncontrollable armed gangs. Such is the fear and the pressure that it will be easy for a chasmatic leader to take control of a gang and the war quickly turns into a war between warlords.

Immediately the new warlords start looking around for supplies and the nearest place that can be turned into a shelter like an abandoned mine. I doesn't matter if what they need is on the other side of the border they try to seize whatever they can. Some of them manage to seize some atomic weapons, but they realize that they are useless, they can't risk to contaminate the place where they should shelter and they cant use the bomb as a threat when everybody has nothing to lose.

Legal borders will disappear, government leaders will retire in their own shelters with the few military units that remained under their control. They will try to stave off the pressure from the warlords and the rest of the population by promising that a program to deflect the asteroid is going on. Nobody knows whether it's true, but they'll end up fighting each other and leaving the ex leaders alone.

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I would expect to see religious wars. I'm not going to make it anyway, why not kill some of my hated enemy before I die?

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