Suppose a group of intelligent but insane people has developed mind control technology. They have managed to plant a chip inside the US president's head. They can wirelessly send signals to his mind and he will obey them without question. The president is as rational as before, and perform his day-to-day tasks as before. When he receives an instruction, his own counter-reasoning shuts off and he obeys the commands. He is still rational in understanding the commands, also behaves rationally, making it almost impossible for a common man to notice. However a series of tests by a psychologist will probably reveal the mind control. So will an operation on his brain.

If the group wants to eliminate as much of the human race as they can (even including themselves), what would be the best strategy* to do so? Would it be to just ask the president to try bombing the whole world with nukes**? Or will it be a more planned and subtle approach that makes use of the other powers of the president?

*Best may be hard to determine, so any good strategies are welcome.

**Using nuclear weapons requires approval of a second person, so it will take some planning even to get access to the nukes.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ According to the linked discussion, NO, IT DOESN'T. The only other input, other than the US President, is to authenticate that the order is being issued by the designated CiC, not an imposter. Other than that, a launch order is a launch order, unless someone down the chain refuses to comply. $\endgroup$ – nzaman Mar 4 '17 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ @nzaman Refusing to comply is quite possible unless there is a real reason to use the nukes.. $\endgroup$ – ghosts_in_the_code Mar 4 '17 at 12:42
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ To avoid refusal to launch, you need to provoke and repeatedly escalate. Recognise Taiwan. Offer to station troops in Ukraine to protect against Russian aggression. Restart anti-missile shield deployment. Destabilise countries neighbouring China and Russia, and send in troops 'for their protection' when Russia or China responds. Keep pushing, giving them motive and opportunity to escalate. Every time they do escalate, respond in kind. $\endgroup$ – frodoskywalker Mar 4 '17 at 14:48

No. Your chipped president works intelligently. If he gets his command, he probably won't shout on the spot to his aide, "nuke Iran, Russia, Europe, Israel, Japan, China and every NOW".

Instead, first he would slowly change the people in the command chain to ones who don't question his orders even in such a case. It wouldn't be hard, because most people obviously does this.

Second, he would create such a world political atmosphere, where attacking everybody wouldn't be a hilarious decision. It may take years. It probably requires the analysis of intelligence documents, how every nuclear power would behave in the case of a nuclear attack.

Furthermore, the Humanity has the capability to wipe out its race from the Earth, but he didn't develop the technology for that until now. It is mainly because no nuclear power has such an intention. They want to win over the others, but not the humanity (including themselfes). Even if all of the nukes would be detonated, they (+ nuclear winter + long term radiation + infrastructural damage) would only wipe only the majority of the humanity. Some people in deep bunkers would survive.

There are atomic bombs tuned for long-term radiation - in plans. They would be ordinary fusion/fission bombs, but with a cobalt coating. The neutron radiation of the explosion would irradiate this to such a cobalt isotope, which is strongly radioactive, and decays enough slowly that even the few people living in bunkers won't have enough time to wait the end of the radiation. To our best knowledge, no such bomb was ever built. Exploding enough from them could exterminate the humanity.


TLDR: Either quick, spontaneous nuke before anyone suspects or enough propoganda to get the country behind you and then nuke.

There will be two methods our insane group will see:

  • Hit hard and fast before anyone has the chance to intervene.
  • Slow and subtle so no one notices.

Because the real obstacle is that, according to the 25th amendment if the president's cabinet have reason for concern that he is unfit for office they can transfer his power to the vice-president (though congress must also agree). If they make the president do anything drastic but can be stopped it is likely the cabinet will try to stop him.

So we need a balance.

Spontaneous Nuke:

  • A Nuke attack must be discussed with an aide and be verified by the secretary of defense, however the secretary of defense has no power to VETO the order (he is only there to verify that it is, in fact, the president sending the order) and the aide, whilst there to advise on the method of attack can be fired and the president could hire anyone he wants as his aide - anyone who will agree with him.
    • This Nuke launch would, therefore, be a viable option unless any of the officers along the way who must verify a launch were to object (though it is illegal for them to do so and will be given no reasons, only the coordinates and codes for their attack. As such it is likely at least one of the nukes will be fired.
    • After a nuke is fired at another nuclear capable country - most likely Russian - and make sure not to disable any of their own nuke sites. Firing on moscow would be most effective in forcing retaliation. I'm unsure as to whether any of the other countries would join in though, they have been given no reason for an attack.

So nukes could cause pretty devastating effects. The US and Russia have by far the most and between them they have enough to wipe out all life. But you need them to fire them all without anyone intervening, without a sensible person saying "Hang on, we don't want the world to end."

Now we move on to the second choice. Slow and subtle:

  • Propaganda, provocation and espionage. Probably working between US and Russia again (because those nukes are still our best bet) but we want everyone involved to really think that launching those nukes is the best bet.
  • We want the president himself to believe attacks are what is best (when he isn't under effects of mind control).
    • The US is no stranger to propaganda and it is likely the president has some input. You want to increase the dislike for Russia, reduce trade with them, increase the cost of flights there etc.
    • Increase the checks on Russian nationals visiting the US to make them feel they are singled out.
    • Perform US military exercises in places near to sensitive Russian sites. The Russians will see this and, suspecting a move, prepare their own propoganda and increase tensions.
    • Launch some small scale attacks within Russian through planted spies and leak enough information to Russia to have them catch your spies but not after they blow up part of a military base or some other sensitive area.

Once tensions are high you need to organise a fake attack on the US and claim it was Russians. Then you can start a war and, eventually, use nukes. The problem here is you need to rely on getting it done in four years or getting re-elected.

Or, you could just get rid of any pollution bans, increase your use of fossil fuels and give global warming the boost it needs to be irreversible.


You could have a 2 stage plan for the slightly more patient. Biologicals followed by Nukes. Start with the man in charge launch a covert biological weapon strike in the middle east, preferably as near as you could get to Pakistan and India both. Perhaps another in a Muslim majority nation as close to China and maybe even Russia if at all possible. This is because the current geopolitical bad guys are ISIS, so you could get a little bit of plausibility. This starts the massive death thing going.

Next Propose a plan that the only way to curb the plague is to use thermonuclear weapons. Cauterize the wound, so to speak. At around the same time as this rhetoric starts, leak to Pakistan, China, Russia, and India, that the US President is nuts and has territorial ambitions in those same areas. He also started the plague. Give it a few hours for maximum freak out, but not really enough time for cooler heads to take over. Just as the rhetoric reaches a fever pitch, Launch.

The whole Mutually Assured Destruction thing should start kicking in at this point. India and Pakistan will hit each other, destroying that part of Asia. The entire Middle East gets reduced to glass. Russia, China, and the US render the remainder of the planet almost completely uninhabitable. You get left with part of Africa and maybe South America more or less untouched, but they won't last long as the side effects of destroying the northern hemisphere wreak havoc on weather patterns, depositing radioactive fallout, and so on, take their toll.

To be more certain of the Southern Hemisphere, just make sure the plague gets released in Johannesburg and Santiago the day before the exchange. A bunch of people huddling together in shelters should make for major petri dish conditions.


Does the president actually have to do it? If not:

Control the president.

Now is the time of Space! Kennedy only went to the Moon, we are going to the asteroids! It's time for space mining!

Launch a mission to grab a 10 mile diameter iron asteroid and bring it back to Earth's orbit with an Orion drive.

This part of the project operates aboveboard, the only tampering is that some of the black hats are deeply involved in the project. However, they are acting in the interest of success, spotting them will be extremely difficult.

The dirty deed is taking over the guidance programming. Rather than a high capture orbit (you don't want to be using an Orion too close to Earth if you can help it) it's on an impact trajectory.

Use all the bombs, including those meant for the capture. It's heading for Earth on this orbit, intercepting it is going to be very difficult.

While this might not get a total kill it will end us as a technological species.


Certainly, even without the extra details it's easy to say without reading that he could.
Given that the most powerful man on the planet has access to nuclear weapons, and that the US has enough nuclear weapons to end the world as we know it, I would very much say that it is entirely possible to end the human race. Maybe not directly, but, say, you nuke North Korea; Now North Korea is going to send out nukes to wherever they can, and you'd essentially start a third world war.

Another option would be to start a third world war without nuclear weapons- You seemed to put an emphasis on nuclear warfare as an implication. Have the president declare war on the rest of the world, this gives you an excuse to use the nuclear weapons. Now that the entire planet is against you, it wouldn't seem illogical to fire all the nukes you've got. We had enough nuclear power to eradicate humanity during the cold war, I don't imagine we went backwards at any point over the years.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Could you provide sources indicating that firstly the president can declare war unilaterally, that other nations would also be forced to respond with nukes, and most importantly, your claim that we have enough nukes to end ourselves completely? $\endgroup$ – ghosts_in_the_code Mar 4 '17 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ This is all assuming a fictional world- The president had might as well have his scientists develop something that eradicates life. law.cornell.edu/wex/executive_power $\endgroup$ – Nate Dukes Mar 4 '17 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ @ghosts your third question is trivial to check. First link: the megatonne analysis. Second link: number of nukes on hand. google.com/amp/gizmodo.com/5899569/… en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_the_United_States If you compare the stockpile numbers in the second link to the yield requirements in the first link, you should see that the USA alone has the capacity to destroy every landmass on Earth if it chose, although disarmament under Obama brings us close to being below the threshold. $\endgroup$ – SRM Mar 4 '17 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @ghosts on your question 1, the answer is the War Powers Act of 1973. Prez has 48 hours to notify Congress that he/she has started a war and may continue that war for 60 days without a Congressional declaration. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Powers_Resolution $\endgroup$ – SRM Mar 4 '17 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ It wouldn't let me edit; This is all assuming a fictional world- The president had might as well have his scientists develop something that eradicates life. law.cornell.edu/wex/executive_power The president will very much influence the decision of war. In your 'world', or 'book', you could create a conflict of sorts that gives the president reason, as well. In 1967 the US had over 30,000 warheads, that is the peak. The amount of warheads may or may not have increased, and the technology regarding nuclear weapons/etc has improved vastly. $\endgroup$ – Nate Dukes Mar 4 '17 at 12:57

They would probably crack open one of the secret virus weapons from a covert lab. Much easier for crazy leaders to push the button on such a weapon, than try to retarget and launch thousands of nukes without being stopped by someone sane, or some sanity check safety systems. Although the president has their finger on the launch codes/button, there is still a looong chain of command and computer systems required to actually carry out launches.

A viral weapon only needs a handful of people to go out to subway stations, shopping malls and airports.


None of the nuclear or viral options would end the human race. Kill a lot of people, sure, but there'd be survivors who'd eventually rebuild. No, what you have to do is accelerate the burning of coal & other fossil fuels, to the point where you cause a replay of the Permian-Triassic Extinction.

  • $\begingroup$ I strongly disagree I don't see how anyone could survive nuclear war true some people might survive the initial blast they be killed off by radiation and nuclear winter good and with either a very small number of survivors or more likely none at all. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Mar 5 '17 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Bryan McClure: There are a limited number of nuclear weapons, which will target cities and military bases. If you're not close to one of those, you're fine. (Some of us might not even notice for a week or two :-)) The dangers of radiation are grossly exaggerated: contrast the claims of tens of thousands of people dying from Chernobyl or Fukushima radiation with the reality - a few hundred at most for Chernobyl, zero for Fukushima. Nuclear winter could be a problem, or it could just counteract global warming. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 5 '17 at 5:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.