# Can the US military seize a country which has the ability to kill anyone based on the victim's name and face?

Setup: Earth, current day. US president decides to attack fictional country of Lalalistan, because terrorism/drugs/whatever. This attack has big support in NATO countries and Russia with China officialy object the attack, but remain neutral. (Example: Lybia attack).

So, while it is officially NATO action, it is mainly driven by US Army.

The twist The dictator of Lalalistan sealed a deal with the devil and obtained Death Note and Name vision

=== For those who do not know how Death note works: ===

If you know Anime series Death Note, you can skip this section, because the dictator of Lalalistan obtained exact Death Note as used in this Anime series. So for these who do not know how the Death Note works:

• Death Note is magical artifact in form of usual paper notebook
• The human whose name is written in this note shall die.
• This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person's face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.
• If the cause of death is written within the next 40 seconds of writing the person's name, it will happen.
• If the cause of death is implausible, or not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack.
• After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Source

The Name Vision works simply: If you look at a person (even through video recording), you can see their real name and therefore write it into the Death Note correctly.

=== End of Death Note mechanics explanation ===

Lets give the country of Lalalistan shape: The Libya example could work well: Lalalistan is about as big as Libya and has military force of Libya a year before NATO attack. However, it differs from Libya in two details:

First, the people of Lalalistan support their dictator and think that the NATO attack is act of aggression and second, I doubt that the fine people of Libya ever dealt with a devil.

The question: Could the US military with joint help of other NATO countries sucessfully attack this country without using nuclear weapons?

Also, bear in mind, that the Death Note is only one example in this world and the artifact works even if you tear the pages to small pieces.

To add more details: If only names should be written into the notebook, and someone clever would be using the notebook, you could fit in 250,000 names. The dictator is not that clever, so lets give him capacity of 100,000 names before the Death Note is fully used.

• I just wanted to mention, that choosing the way the Person dies has a bigger impact then you might think. For example, the dictator could just Mass execute famous people left and right, but this would make him look like Satan himself. If he uses his Power to the full potential he could look like a victim and trick the people in the USA/NATO to fight for him. To give you an example, Barack Obama gets killed by the deathnote, he doesn't get killed with a stroke but gets eaten while hunting Lions. The next elected president dies while having sex with a hooker, etc. After some time people would at – Johannes Geidel Apr 20 '16 at 7:03
• A hundred thousand people later: YES. YES. YES. Tittle edit: Would the US military still have the wherewithal to seize countries after its current leaders and key personnel (and the next 95k of them) were assassinated? None of this death note stuff is needed and it would still not be a WB question. VTCed. "What's the defense against Death Notes?" would be much more succinct (and still off-topic?). – Mazura Apr 21 '16 at 0:17
• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – HDE 226868 Apr 21 '16 at 22:35

In order for the dictator to remain in power he will have to keep his powers secret (this is vital), while strategically eliminating foes in the international political arena.

The US has decided to attack. This is bad, however it is NATO that is backing the US's access to your country. The US is bound to have political opposition in NATO who would be able to vote against the invasion, you just need to nudge them into action.

If you simply start executing politicians left, right, and center you'll paint a target a mile wide on your back. You want to create an image of being a victim, not as a dangerous maniac with magical assassination abilities.

Tipping the Scales

Any US invasion is going to face both international and homegrown opposition. You could start by assassinating a few key US politicians, and loosening the President's grip on the opposition in Congress/the Capitol.

Remember that you can't just kill the President and end the war. The US military is a machine that cannot be stopped simply by cutting off its head. They must be ordered off the attack.

Your army must be ready to hold the US off for as long as possible. During this time you must contact the leaders of China, and Russia. Kill one of their powerful enemies and tell them that you have "agents" in place that can solve their problems, in exchange for a little political help.

In the mean time destabilize the governments backing American foreign policy. Cause the "accidental", and very public deaths of the leaders of Germany, France, etc. In order to make their deaths appear accidental you could try killing them while they are all attending an event together, and dictate that they die in a fire, etc.

With so many NATO states in turmoil the US is going to find the political landscape shifting beneath their feet. Now would be a good time to assassinate the president, maybe by having him commit suicide in a very public way. Can death note also make the victim say some words before they die? "This invasion was a mistake, I am so sorry" would be a good little script before blowing his own brains out in front of a room full of journalists, for example.

You can come out of this smelling like roses, all while redefining international politics, and changing the political landscape to suit your needs.

As I mentioned, your military forces are going to have to oppose the US army/navy/air force for a little while. This time might be as short as a day, or as long as a few weeks. You can use your assassination abilities to seriously screw with the American war effort.

For example, it is relatively common knowledge which military leaders are in charge of the invasion, or which admirals are running the show off of which carrier.

Heck, this information is even provided in the news sometimes. It's also quite easy to find pictures of these officers on naval websites, on books they have published or been the subject of, etc.

So here's an idea:

Kill the admiral commanding the attack fleet by having him detonate a ship-board nuclear device. (or some other powerful bomb in one of the ship's ammo bunkers)

Now that is going to put a crimp in the US's invasion plan, and buy you some time to bring down the political alliance against you. In response to the tragic accident that the US fleet has suffered you can then initiate talks for a temporary cease fire in order to allow the American fleet to care for their wounded.

If you are seen as a reasonable and compassionate person you will receive a lot more support from the international community. You will also have complete and utter deniability as far as how the attack took place, as your country clearly doesn't have the capabilities to attack the US Navy on that scale.

Warning

Revealing your abilities to anyone will cause the world to come crashing down on you. You will become the most hunted man to ever have lived. Keep it a secret.

• Note to self: never, ever, anger AndreiROM. – Matthieu M. Apr 19 '16 at 17:36
• @MatthieuM. - Good man. When I am Master of the World I will allow you to live. For a while. – AndreiROM Apr 19 '16 at 17:43
• @MatthieuM. HAHAHA! Seriously though, this was such a strategic and cold blooded answer! – Revetahw Apr 19 '16 at 17:56
• This wasn't really explained in the question, but it's worth noting that the Death Note can only cause people to die in ways that are physically plausible. If you write a cause of death that isn't physically plausible (such as "explodes with the force of a small nuclear device") the target simply dies of a heart attack. On the other hand, suicide is always an option, and you can use the cause of death to manipulate the target's actions prior to their suicide, so having the admiral sabotage something on the ship before dying isn't out of the question. – Ajedi32 Apr 19 '16 at 19:42
• Really good answer, but death by detonating nuclear warhead would kill other peoples, so the admiral would simply die by cardiac arrest. You can still screw with the motor of the ship, or have him sabotaging whatever is in the ship, but he can t kill someone else. – DrakaSAN Apr 21 '16 at 10:08

The thing is, the United States also has that ability.

It's called an "MQ-1 Predator Drone" and it is an unmanned aerial vehicle which flies at a high altitude and fires hellfire rockets at a ground target. The United States frequently uses this technology to assassinate people it suspects of being involved in terrorism. Threatening to magically kill a large number of US citizens by death note definitely fulfills the definition of a terrorist threat, so the precedent is there.

All they need to know is the current location of the president and they can assassinate him with a drone strike.

• Not quite. The US can destroy any house it knows about. Perhaps the bad guys are inside, perhaps just some wedding party. Lalalistan can kill any person it knows about, without collateral damage. – o.m. Apr 19 '16 at 15:29
• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Serban Tanasa Apr 20 '16 at 21:00
• I don't see anything special about that drone, there are a gazillion other ways to kill someone if you know his current location. That's the hard part, which you don't explain. – Oriol Apr 20 '16 at 22:53
• I agree with @Oriol things like ICBM can nail target anywhere on Earth (further than drone flight range). But first you must know where the target is and you better have a good explanation for what you're doing. – Tomáš Zato Apr 21 '16 at 10:33
• Predator/ICBM solutions will have very powerful political backlash in international politics... ICBM solution will probably initiate a combined chinese/russian ICBM strikes in US for just 1 ICBM, we may not be in cold war but a single ICBM strike can easily turn the situation to worst. Predator drone isn't stealth, it can be shot down if there are visual observation posts which many countries has, even 3rd world ones. – mico villena Apr 22 '16 at 4:55

No. You can't attack them. The Dictator would simply start killing world leaders or famous people until the attackers went away. It's the ultimate MAD.

However there would then be an intensive program to work out just where the Death Note is stored and steal it or hit it with a nuke. A single deterrent is not effective long term as it can be neutralized and then you have no backup.

• It should be mentioned you can also tear out pages of the Death Note, and they have the same properties of the original. Those could serve as a backup. – mattsven Apr 19 '16 at 17:12
• "ultimate" MAD? I'm not sure about that...it's hard to write down 7 billion names while thinking of each person's face. On the other hand nukes could extinguish all those people quite easily. I think nukes win the "which one is more ultimate" competition. – Jimbo Jonny Apr 19 '16 at 20:36
• @JimboJonny Not at all. Because the leaders of hostile countries are known. If you order an attack then you personally are going to die. Not some "statistics" in terms of X% troops and Y% collateral damage. You as the minster/president/prime minister/whatever who voted for the war are going to die. That's pretty mutually assured from their perspective. – Tim B Apr 19 '16 at 21:00
• So... assassination of a few leaders is more "destruction" (that's what the D stands for) than global annihilation of the entire race? Being able to kill with surgical precision without collateral damage is pretty much the opposite of what MAD was. Your statements about what would happen to the leaders are true...but your terminology for it is completely off base. That is not MAD. MAD is where 2 nations going to war means both of them will end up completely razed without a man, woman, child, or blade of grass left to tell the story of woe. – Jimbo Jonny Apr 19 '16 at 22:26
• From the point of view of the leaders destruction is mutually assured. It's mutually assured destruction not mutually assured mass destruction... – Tim B Apr 19 '16 at 22:49

There are two lessons here learned from Iraq. First: finding the leader of a country isn't easy. Secondly, Even after you take out a country's leadership, you are still a long, LONG way away from seizing/securing the country.

You actually have to eliminate everyone willing to take up arms against you. On the other hand, all you have to do to defend your country is have people still fighting when the other side gives up or is unable to continue fighting.

So at the absolute guarantee of going on every watch list on the planet here's what you write:

• Barack Obama - Nuclear blast @ the White house.
• Joe Biden - Nuclear blast @ the pentagon.
• Robert J. Bentley - Governor Alabama - Nuclear blast @ the Alabamian capitol building.
• Bill Walker - Governor Alaska - Nuclear blast @ the Alaskan capitol building..
• etc

And you continue for the rest of the states. By waiting longer than the needed 6 seconds after each kill, you can ensure that each death is its own explosion. With a mushroom cloud at the capitol building in each state, the country will not be able to continue their war. Even if they did have the capacity to continue the fight, they will be far more interested in getting home and fixing things there than the drugs or terrorism.

If you don't think that will make the army go home (maybe they'll think you had some sort of part to play in the nuking and want revenge) have the US ambassador to Russia and China assassinate those country's leaders instead of dropping nukes. They'll be too busy fighting off super powers to mess with Lalalistan.

An agglomeration of these two methods could be really evil. "Barack Obama - Russian nuclear blast @ the White house" All the advantages of both scenarios.

If you have a problem with the collateral damage, just aim for the leadership of the government and military. It probably wouldn't be as effective, but your power advantage over the US attacking you is so vast, I don't know if it would matter.

• Donald Trump - 1000kg anti-matter detonation, Earth. – Serban Tanasa Apr 19 '16 at 21:35
• @SerbanTanasa :0 We want to defend Lalaland, not crack the planet open like an egg. That would create a crater the size of Kansas and a wall of intense heat the size of the continental US. But I like your thinking :) – Shane Apr 19 '16 at 22:01
• Good idea, though cases of death should be elaborated more or tweaked somehow, because of a rule OP didn't mention: death should be physically possible for victim to arrange - i.e. he must somehow be able to initiate/command/provoke nuclear blast - or it automatically reverts to "heart attack". – Oleg V. Volkov Apr 20 '16 at 11:49
• Please note that is death note nation starts using nuclear death notes, than the retaliation will be nuclear; as the the use of nuclear weapons is off the table, it must be for both sides. – Joshua Apr 21 '16 at 1:16

Yes, taking over this country is entirely possible. How?

## Assasination

I'm fairly sure every single intelligence agency and military force of the world would be interested in getting control of the Death Note, or at least would want this president to no longer be in control of it. Quite apart from that the larger criminal organizations and many warlords would also try to get control.

If it was discovered who exactly had these powers and how they worked the person would make it to the top of the priority-to-kill-list of the CIA easily and instantly.

Taking him out should be a fairly easy task, as he has no special magical powers of any kind protecting him. Depending on how clever the dictator and his people are he might die within a week from a drone strike, or maybe in a car bombing after a couple of years... But I'm certain that his fate is sealed them moment his powers get publicly known.

Obviously these operations would be covert as to not give the dictator any target to retaliate against should some of them fail.

• I highly doubt he is going to go and announce that he made a deal with the devil and has this superpower. Saddam Hussein wasn on the top of the CIA assassination list for nearly 30 years before they started a full scale war to kill him. If it takes even as long as a week to get the drone or car bomb, that's enough time for the dictator to depopulate the US. That's not even getting into the fact that you need to take out more than one person to take over a country. Most of the US's fighting happened after Saddam was captured. – Shane Apr 19 '16 at 21:04

You've just developed a new form of international stalemate:

## Mutually Assured Assassination

If you attack our country we'll assassinate your entire leadership. All of whose names and faces are publicly known.

While the country could be attacked, you're going to lose a lot of people who consider themselves to be important. Presidents, Defence Secretaries, Queens, Prime Ministers etc. If you feel the almost guaranteed loss of these people is worth the risk, then yes, sure you could invade.

However should any of these people die unexpectedly in mysterious circumstances the leader of Lalalistan will be prime suspect and probably wouldn't survive the week.

Can the deathnote mechanics be abused? Is it possible to write that someone dies in bed at a grand old age after a happy retirement surrounded by great-grandchildren?

• To answer your question: Kinda. The Death Note anime had several deaths specified like "14th November 2016, commits suicide". So this could be doable – Pavel Janicek Apr 19 '16 at 13:54
• @PavelJanicek: How about hacking in all kinds of things into the "death details" description? E.g. get rich by executing someone by having the Death Note drop 10 tons of gold on them. Or get some mass destruction by specifying a 100m meteor impact as the death cause... – fgysin Apr 19 '16 at 15:06
• @fgysin That is a great idea. Though, the problem is, the cause of death needs to be something reasonable. (Blame the author of Death Note.) – Stefnotch Apr 19 '16 at 16:04
• @fgysin, it's simply a matter of being willing to kill someone for every bit of magic you do. There's no reason not to make Trump fly to Lalalistan, sign all his assets over to the state then drop dead, but that last bit is key, you always have to kill someone. – Separatrix Apr 19 '16 at 16:20
• The rule is essentially that a death that is too improbable just doesn't happen. The experiment done in the show was a series of deaths that violated some factor of the environment. The 10 tons of gold is probably void unless creatively written, the Trump solution is completely valid provided you can be sure he's not already doing something that voids it. – Kaithar Apr 19 '16 at 16:43

Death Note has a weakness. It cannot be used to control any others except the to-die. Any attempt to do so results in the method used switching to [induced] heart attack. If the target cannot be killed by heart attack due to not possessing a heart (this already exists) it does not die.

Kind of expensive, but if we can keep our leaders alive we can press the attack by any means necessary. Death note is not very powerful against an APC operated by an unknown individual.

The United States probably wouldn't be able to effectively fight this guy. He could relatively easily assassinate every high-ranking government and military official and have >= ~20,000 names to spare. As a matter of fact, as soon as the first US troops enter his petty kingdom, I expect him to be busily copying names from the order of presidential succession and googling videos of them speaking/having his minions bring him physical copies of said videos.

That is why you make the dictator think you will do what he says. The chances are high that he will demand the US(NATO) withdraw from Lalalistan immediately. He will probably execute a high-ranking US official/general(probably the president) to provide of his power. Have the US make a big show of pulling out - load gear onto ships/mass forced-marches out of the country. Once Evil Dictator Dude sees this, he will believe he has won. He will put his guard down some.

Then have the US send a SEAL team to assassinate him. They succeed, his country collapses into a million warring factions, and the US has control of the Death Note. Now Mr. FormerVicePresidentCurrentPresident can go back to pretending to furiously hunt for the terrorists/drug dealers/crooks while taking bribes from Big Tobacco to not make tobacco illegal.

You forgot to mention a critical feature of the Death Note as shown in the anime. You can control the actions of the victim. Lalalistan can use this to get confidential information. If they work very aggressive with the Death Note they can obtain the names of every high ranking officer within hours, causing their command structure to collapse or simply change the orders. The US and their allies would even lose the ability to lunch their own nukes. So no, the US has no chance against a country with a death note.

• Hi Enan84, and welcome to Worldbuilding and Stack Exchange. I am a little uncertain as to whether this qualifies as an answer according to our standards, but I edited it slightly to highlight what seems to be your proposed answer. Note that we reserve the answer space strictly for answers to the question as asked. For more on this, see How do I write a good answer? in our site's help center. You can edit your answer to clarify and expand on it, should you wish to do so. – a CVn Apr 19 '16 at 19:50
• Hi, thank you for your feedback. Can you specify what worries you? PS: I edited my answer to make it clear that I am referring to the Death Note as shown in the anime, which the thread starter stated to refer to. – Enan84 Apr 19 '16 at 19:57
• You're welcome. I hope you will stay around and become a regular contributor. – a CVn Apr 19 '16 at 20:57

This is classic MAD, so we need to think about disarming strikes.

Short answer: NATO has got good odds.

A disarming strike is a power surprise attack that destroys the enemy's ability to counter attack effectively. This is normally nuking all the enemy's nukes.
In this case is either destroying the note (breaking it into such small pieces that you can't fit a single name in it) or killing enough aviators to disable the NATO air force.

How fast can one the book kill? The average person writes around 20 words per minute. Assuming you have to write the first and last name, that is 10 kills per minute or 1 kill every six seconds. The US has over 3600 combat air craft; let's assume the rest of NATO has the same amount for a total of 7200 planes and assume 2 pilots per plane. Assuming the writer knows all the pilots names, he will need $\frac{7200 \cdot 2 \cdot 6}{60 \cdot 60}~\text{h} = 24~\text{h}$ to wipe out the air force. Assuming he does not run out of space on the paper.

On the other hand, the air forces only needs 1 bomb in the right place and they have easily 7200 tries. So if the location of note is ever discovered, they can pounce and win.
I like their odds, BTW it’s hard to see a plane incoming and you get a few seconds of warning so I don’t think the note book writer will get many kills.

What if we divide the note? The question states the notebook still works if sheets are torn out. So a wise user will divide the note among many users across hundreds of users to make it hard to destroy and so prevent a “perfect disarming strike”. In the event of war, this also increases the notes kill rate by a factor of a hundred. This makes it possible to still drop many enemies and to make the invasion very costly.

• He doesn't need to wipe out the air force. - At least not initially, it's sufficient to wipe out the command structure of the air force. – Taemyr Apr 20 '16 at 11:13

## Deny them knowledge

Off your head, how many politicians and military leaders can you name of a major country that is not yours?

If your first step is to disconnect them from all communications networks and isolate them from other media, then Obama and a bunch of other top public personae are vulnerable, but all the people and officers actually planning and implementing an attack are effectively anonymous in the absence of intelligence leaks. They could continue the invasion even (or especially so) after assassination of the first line of political leaders, while not being vulnerable themselves.

Furthermore, normal combat would not be affected - Name Vision applies when seeing a particular person, but much modern warfare is conducted beyond visual range or in vehicles. And that assumes that the president is willing to be on the front lines - which would end everything after a sniper from cover, artillery shot or a bomb from some aircraft.

In pure military means, a person with such a death note would be similar to an extremely good sharpshooter but not much more, and also have most of the same limitations - they must notice the enemy first in order to do damage, and are vulnerable to vehicles, all kinds of indirect fire and close range combat/ambushes.

The deathnote could be easily defeated.

Just write a computer program to generate names consisting of a few million characters and makes the names official. Now one name will physically not fit in the notebook, rendering the notebook useless.

If the notebook magically scales to the size of an average name, etc. It would still take thousands of years to write a name.

Basically, human manual input is the weak point.

As mentioned already, use Death Note ability to command what person should do in the minutes leading to his death to not only kill, but to give enemy leaders bad image in the process.

Make president go ballistic, grab a security's automatic pistol and open fire on peaceful anti-Lalalistan war demonstration and be killed in process. If we call back to anime already, think Code Geass' Yuffienator case.

Make top generals announce their heinious plans on TV to bomb "those Lalalistan untermensh" with new ultra-toxic-checmical-bio-bomb to "preserve only lives that matter - our soldiers", then to personally press big red button in bombing facility only for it to blow up spectacullary and kill generals in process (it is not necessary for them to actually develop such weapon - only to announce and blow themselves up in some imposing-looking lab, so that should be plausible by DN rules).

Plan about 10 performances like that and general chaos of forces left without command and backlash from other nations should be enough to make US busy with its own affairs instead of invading Lalalistan.

No, the USA does not stand a chance.

The death note can easily kill people it doesn't know the name of.

Even keeping to plausible scenarios, we can use the 7 minutes and 20 seconds of description of how someone died to write a single name and cause dozens, thousands, millions or billions of deaths as required.

For 20 years, the US nuclear launch code was 00000000000.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2515598/Launch-code-US-nuclear-weapons-easy-00000000.html

Even after they were changed to something more secure, Jimmy Carter left them in his suit pocket when it went to be dry cleaned.

2 of the 3 required officers on a Russian Nuclear Submarine voted to launch their nuclear missiles when an American destroyer launched 'practice rounds' at them. If the 3rd had agreed, the missiles would have launched. With the USA and Russia both at war in Syria (and not exactly on the same side), we have seen some incidents recently that could have escalated.

As recently as 1995, Russian early warning systems detecting a nuclear launch (actually a weather balloon).

While a nuclear war is far from probable, it is certainly plausible.

Pick a single person living in a mid sized US city, and write the note that he died "In the Russian nuclear retaliatory strike".

Originally this post involved a person spontaneously travelling back in time and exploding with force sufficient to destroy the continent of the USA. This was before the Question specified that implausible deaths will just result in heart attack.

• Implausible death scenarios are automatically reverted to "heart attack" per original DN rules. – Oleg V. Volkov Apr 21 '16 at 12:32
• Was not aware of that. The DN still grants 7 mintues 20 seconds, not quite of omnipotence, but still of power unmatched by nearly any mortal in fiction. Edited the answer to make the scenario plausible, yet the basic premise remains. – Scott Apr 22 '16 at 0:31
• There's also "no collateral deaths" rule. DN will kill exactly one specified person. If scenario doesn't fits that - it too automatically reverts to "heart attack". – Oleg V. Volkov Apr 22 '16 at 10:19

Unless the word implausible in the description of the Death Note means what it means when I use the word, the US has no chance at all. As the Death Note and Name Vision are described, the dictator of Lalalistan has infinite wishes, limited only by requirement that he must envision a specific person for each wish, who then dies.

So the dictator simply envisions a random public figure from America, and writes "X sends out a mental blast which kills every other American, and then dies from the stress."

If the term implausible is meant to exclude that, then the specific meaning of implausible in this context needs to be expressly spelled out.

• 1) no collateral deaths can come from the book, AFAIK. 2) Implausible means "not likely to happen" in this context... so, I think psychic powers are off. – Patrice Apr 22 '16 at 14:36