The Buzz

Almost 1,000,000 Casualties: If North Korea Nuked Washington D.C.

If you’re a student at Howard University, you are a bit luckier—but not by much. You may escape with your life (if you were in a building at the time of the explosion, there’s a very high probability that you would be crushed underneath concrete, cement and glass), but the physical side-effects of a nuclear attack would be the stuff of horror movies. Passengers waiting for their flights at Ronald Reagan International Airport across the Potomac can expect third-degree burns which destroy the nerve endings in the skin.

The final death tally based on the parameters of this particular nuclear strike: 412,880 fatalities and 527, 490 injuries, casualties approaching nearly a million people.

Is any of this a guarantee? Not my any stretch.

There is no evidence that would suggest that Kim Jong-un is a crazy, sociopathic nutcase who is spending billions of dollars and years of investment just to nuke an American city or kill hundreds of thousands of Americans. The only thing he values on about the same wavelength as himself is the regime that his family has built over seven decades. If Kim wants to be the man presiding over the deaths of millions of his citizens and the elimination of his country, then sending a nuclear ICBM towards Washington is the best way to do that.

The numbers, however, are a reminder of how truly ugly and calamitous a military conflict between the United States and North Korea could be. Add nuclear weapons into the scenario, and the calamity would look a bit like the Hollywood blockbuster Sum of All Fears—except actual people would be dying.

Daniel DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities.

This first appeared in November of last year. 

Image: Reuters.