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In The Hunger Games, Capitol nuked District 13 during the first rebellion of Panem. But, we later learned that District 13 also had nukes, but they didn't use it because it would have meant nobody would have survived.

Now, the question is: How could Capitol even think of using nukes provided Mutual Assured Destruction was in place?

Mutual assured destruction is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. It is based on the theory of deterrence, which holds that the threat of using strong weapons against the enemy prevents the enemy's use of those same weapons.

In case Capitol didn't know District 13 had nukes, District 13 could always showed it off to ensure Mutual Assured Destruction was in place.

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    Not every individual or nation in modern times abides by this doctrine. Why would you assume that nations in a totally different future context would? – Adamant Jan 13 '18 at 16:10
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    Two questions, then. The first is this: why is everyone so worried now about North Korea launching a nuclear weapon against Japan, South Korea, or the US? Surely the natural doctrine of MAD that is always in place by inviolable physical law would prohibit it? – Adamant Jan 13 '18 at 16:19
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    The second is: What forces someone to retaliate when they’re attacked? There have been some rapid capitulations in conventional warfare, as well as countries that did not retaliate with attacks on civilian targets when invaded. What makes nuclear weapons special here? – Adamant Jan 13 '18 at 16:23
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    In case Capitol didn't know District 13 had nukes, why didn't District 13 showed it off? Showing off their nukes to the capitol would also show off their nukes to the other districts. That would be detrimental to the effort of organizing a rebellion - either the other districts would begin to question why 13 needs everyone else's help when they have nukes to blow the capitol up alone OR they'd start to worry about where those nukes would get pointed next assuming the rebellion succeeds. – Steve-O Jan 13 '18 at 16:27
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    Not so obviously to many knowledgeable individuals. ;) There’s a reason the doctrine is called MAD, and it’s not because all sensible people see the logic of it. – Adamant Jan 13 '18 at 16:57
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I think you're missing the point. The idea of Mutually Assured Destruction is precisely why the Capitol didn't use nukes in the first war.

During the Dark Days, the rebels in 13 wrested control from the government forces, trained their nuclear missiles on the Capitol, and then struck a bargain: They would play dead in exchange for being left alone. The Capitol had another nuclear arsenal out west, but it couldn't attack 13 without certain retaliation. It was forced to accept 13's deal. The Capitol demolished the visible remains of the district and cut off all access from the outside. Perhaps the Capitol's leaders thought that, without help, 13 would die off on its own. It almost did a few times, but it always managed to pull through due to strict sharing of resources, strenuous discipline, and constant vigilance against any further attacks from the Capitol.

-- Mockingjay, chapter 2 (emphasis mine)

Mutually Assured Destruction ("if you attack us, we both die") is the exact concept being referred to here. The Capitol didn't nuke Thirteen because of MAD - that's why Thirteen was allowed to survive. In short, the answer to your question is:

How could the Capitol use nuclear weapons against District 13 provided that “Mutual Assured Destruction” doctrine was in place?

They didn't, and precisely for this reason.

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  • I believe Capitol not using nukes against District 13 was invented in the 3rd book. In the 1st book/movie, it seemed Capitol actually nuked District 13. And, in the latter movies, it isn't clear. – Umbrella Corporation Jan 15 '18 at 2:21
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    @Bat That's all part of the story. Yes, the Capitol made it seem (to people in other districts, including the viewpoint character Katniss, and therefore to us the readers) as if they'd nuked Thirteen. In reality, they hadn't. – Rand al'Thor Jan 15 '18 at 2:27
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    Well, they might actually have done so. ;) But it wasn’t for war, if so, it was to destroy the surface structures. – Adamant Jan 15 '18 at 4:19
  • @Adamant Bombed, not nuked, I suspect. A nuke would have done more damage, and I don't recall any mention of radiation sickness in Thirteen. – Rand al'Thor Aug 16 '18 at 9:09

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