A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS OF VAPORIZING THE ENTIRE MIDDLE EAST AS A MEANS OF ENDING WORLD TERRORISM
Proposal: That the entire Middle East, and everyone in it, be vaporized.
Goal: An at least temporary end to world terrorism.
Suggested strategy for realization of goal: Presumably the re-targeting and utilization of the entire American nuclear arsenal, and possibly what's left of the Russian one. In order to cover the entire area, which if you include Afghanistan is somewhat larger than the continental United States, the megatonnage involved here is still probably somewhat insufficient, but for the discussion we will assume perfect conditions and God on Our Side.
Best case cost line: Several trillions of dollars for hardware and military execution. Probably about a quadrillion more in long term loss of commerce, and the uncountable cost of many hundreds of millions of dead human beings. Unpredictable future expenses for war against the entire continent of Asia when it unites against the United States, which will no longer have a retaliatory nuclear capability. Destruction is expected to be great, requiring a very large after-fact investment. This expense increases if the European Union joins in as well.
Best case scenario: The elimination of an appreciable fraction, perhaps as high as 50 per cent, of the world's thousand or so terrorists. This outcome is somewhat low in confidence, however, due to the likelihood of new terrorists joining up by the tens of thousands.
Worst case cost line: All the money in the world ceases to exist, forever.
Worst case scenario: Unpredictable; probably includes several or all of these possible side effects: Climate change, global heating, ice age, nuclear winter, worldwide exposure to lethally radioactive clouds, worldwide exposure to toxic smoke from thousands of burning oil wells, ocean rise, epidemic, collapse of all institutions, human extinction. Note that, in the case of human extinction, the best case scenario is revised to the total elimination of world terrorism, accomplishing the goal.
Conclusion: Vaporizing the Entire Middle East has a non-zero probability of benefit exceeding cost, but only if the human race indeed becomes extinct. It is the conclusion of this analysis that, while possible, this option is costlier than such less risky procedures as changing American policy toward the rest of the world.
cc: IMC, President of the United States