Hypothetical World War III

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Captain Clark Terrell, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    Geez, from what I gather about what you're imagining, Mr. Laser Beam, it sounds something like Zef Cochrane and Lily were living in a Walking Dead-type environment, and that just can't be the case. It would be impossible for the likes of Rick Grimes and his rag-tag bunch of zombie-bait to decide to build a faster-than-light ship rather than, y'know, survive.

    Besides, Zefram was only interested in $$$ - money. Who's going to pay him for his warp ship if there's no civilization, and therefore no economy, to speak of?

    Clearly the world didn't end with World War III, but came close enough to scare the survivors into cleaning up their act.
     
  2. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    For the record, we get a glimpse at the start of World War III in The Lost Era: The Sundered, by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin. The Sundered establishes that the nuclear strikes commence on 1 May 2053. It specifically establishes that London, New York City, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Mecca, Riyadh, Karachi, and New Delhi were hit by atmospheric detonations, and that nuclear detonations happened on every inhabited continent. The novel implies that one hundred million likely died in the immediate attacks on the first day, and establishes that the planetary economy collapses as a result of the war. It also establishes that the self-sufficient O'Neil colonies established on a number of hollowed-out asteroids in Earth orbit helped Zefram Cochrane obtain the materials needed to launch the Phoenix, which is implied to be an independent continuation of a U.S. government project Cochrane had led before the government collapsed.
     
  3. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    That's nice.
     
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Maybe. On the other hand, I don't recall O'Brien needing to be treated for radiation exposure upon his return from any of the alternate pasts, so I'm inclined to interpret his "things never got THAT bad" line as a reaction to something social rather than physical.

    It seems probable that a version of WW3 would have played out in a Bell-less timeline; perhaps the social degradation caused by Bell's absence caused the social impact of the war to become even worse, even if the weaponry used remained the same? I could see a devastated society that has already gotten used to mass imprisonment and exploitation of the poor in the Sanctuary Districts deciding, in a timeline without Bell to provoke an anti-Sanctuary District backlash, ending up falling under the sway of elites who revive forced labor and de facto slavery, for instance.

    There are any number of possibilities -- maybe the Vulcan government follows a similar course to that outlined in the alternate history featured in Christopher's DTI: Forgotten History, for instance, eventually rejecting Romulan interference in their government but emerging not as the Confederacy of Vulcan, but as the aggressive Vulcan Protectorate. Thus, perhaps Earth remains under a Vulcan-imposed "no-fly zone," and the Romulans are trying to establish a presence in Alpha Centauri -- perhaps in a bid to eventually conquer Earth and turn its still-pre-warp population into a subject race?

    Or maybe that was actually a Vulcan ship the Defiant detected at Alpha Centauri, and the post-V'las Vulcan government uses communications protocols derived from the Romulans, leading to the Defiant's mistaken identification?

    Quite a few possibilities.
     
  5. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    I think it might be safe-ish to assume that one of the things that might have made WW3 actually happen is the reduction of MAD as deterrent concept. Either ABM technology or arms reductions had gone to the point where the great powers no longer felt threatened by assured destruction. The fact that so many major population centers survived suggests that the gigantic stockpiles of multi-megaton MIRV warheads were no longer a valid counterforce weapon. If there was a nuclear exchange, the first shots with the really big warheads (e.g. Minuteman III silos) would probably be aimed at counterforce operations and the hits on cities would probably be single SLBMs from the surviving ballistic missile subs. Also the recent wave of arms reduction treaties have reduced the total stockpiles and put restrictions on things like delivery systems.

    So we can probably see half of lower Manhattan being destroyed by a ~100-250kt SLBM, but there's probably sufficient defenses to keep that from outright destroying the city.

    The thing that's more likely to cause long-term damage to things like governance is the destruction of electronics stemming from widespread EMP. Again, as postulated earlier, if ABM systems are sufficiently advanced, they may have gone for targetting high altitude bursts with the goal of knocking out the entire communications infrastructure of modern states instead of killing people (perhaps expecting limited retaliation as a result).

    Either way, we're probably not talking about a Cuban Missile Crisis retaliation style outcome, but more an outcome where you have cities badly damaged, but not rendered completely uninhabitable by the nuclear exchange.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Mr. Laser Beam, you're mistaking one possible form of WWIII for the only possible form. As I've said, many works of fiction portray WWIII as a limited nuclear exchange. Not all nuclear weapons are huge multi-megaton city-killers; there are also smaller, tactical nuclear weapons designed for more surgical strikes. Both fiction and real-life military analyses have always acknowledged the possibility of a more limited, targeted nuclear war that would fall far short of global armageddon.

    Keep in mind, after all, that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not actually do more damage than the most extensive conventional firebombings employed in the war. They were just a more efficient way of doing what had already been done to the majority of cities in Japan by that point, as well as many in Europe. So nuclear weapons are not automatically a quantum leap upward in destructive scope. They can be more targeted, focused, efficient.

    And this makes perfect sense in a Trek context extrapolated from our own present state. The idea that nuclear war would destroy all life on Earth was a product of the '70s and '80s when the US and USSR built up hugely disproportionate nuclear arsenals, driven as much by the greed of defense contractors as by any legitimate military need for that much overkill. But we've both disarmed significantly since then. Not to mention that the geopolitical status quo has changed considerably since the old two-rival-superpowers paradigm; there are more nuclear players, most of whom have smaller arsenals and more localized rivalries. So the old all-or-nothing paradigm of WWIII that you're thinking of is outdated. There are many possible ways it could go. A nuclear conflict could devastate some parts of the world while leaving others virtually untouched. It could be asymmetrical, with one nuclear state devastating a non-nuclear state so that there'd be no mutually assured destruction. Or it could be fought surgically, with small, tactical nukes directed mainly against military targets. Heck, thinking in modern terms, it might be fought mainly using suitcase nukes smuggled in by suicide bombers, rather than by spreads of missiles flying between continents.
     
  7. Markonian

    Markonian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Might that explain America's swift recovery vs. ECON's post-atomic horror in the 2070s (building the Conestoga, Valiant and Friendship One vs. Encounter at Farpoint)? It always made me wonder.


    Like the TV series Jericho depicted it, I'd imagine.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Stands to reason. Even a world war can affect different parts of the world differently. People often say VGR's "Future's End" must've been in an alternate timeline without the Eugenics Wars because Los Angeles in the 1990s was intact. But none of the real wars of the 20th century had any battles fought on American soil, so why should a fictional war be any different? America is a very small percentage of Earth.

    Although I think the ships you mention were the work of UESPA, not America exclusively. At least Friendship 1 was, and that tells us that United Earth had to exist as a government by then, even if it didn't include the whole world yet.
     
  9. Garrovick

    Garrovick Commander Red Shirt

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    Back during the early years of TNG, I remember noticing a curious coincidence - Q refers to his courtroom in "Encounter at Farpoint" as "a court of the year 2079, by which time more "rapid progress" had caused all United Earth nonsense to be abolished". And, even though Q's courtroom did have a vaguely Asian feel to it, there were plenty of non-asians in the crowd. Then, in "The Royale", when the Enterprise-D finds debris with a US flag on it from the Charybdis in the atmosphere of Theta VIII, Riker notes that the 52-star flag was in use from 2033 to 2079. It made me think that 2079 had to have been at or near the end of WW III and that the US was severely weakened if not destroyed, as a government, at least.

    But after First Contact came out, I've questioned that. Riker's line about 600 million dead, major cities gone, governments collapsed, etc. certainly makes it sound like the whole world was damaged to one extent or another, and the camp in Bozeman didn't seem very luxurious to say the least. But on the other hand, they somehow managed to scrounge up materials to convert an ICBM into the Phoenix (nacelles and all) and that can't have been easy or inexpensive, so they must have had access to some kind of resources. Plus, the Phoenix obviously had to have managed to return to Earth and land again somewhere near hier launch point without being destroyed (since Picard has seen it in the Smithsonian), so the modifications to the ICBM must have been truly extensive. So the fact that Cochrane, despite his group's raggedy-looking appearance, must have had some kind of support from someone, which to me argues against the US (or at least the northwestern US) being in a post-atomic horror-like state.

    And, of course, one Asian-looking courtroom and a small camp in rural Montana probably shouldn't be taken as a picture of Earth as a whole. It would be awesome to have a unifying explanation for all of the various WW III allusions over the years, although I tend to doubt it would ever happen.
     
  10. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    Is this where we slyly suggest maybe characters in the Rise of the Federation series might discuss WWIII as a comparison point to other cultures?