Keep Trump in check
THE broad debate over President Trump’s fitness for the difficult and demanding office he holds has recently been reframed in a more pointed and urgent way: Does he understand, and can he responsibly manage, the most destructive nuclear arsenal on earth?
The question arises for several reasons. He has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. He has reportedly pressed for a massive build-up in the American nuclear arsenal, which already contains too many warheads. And soon he will decide whether to sustain or set a course to possibly unravel the immensely important Iran nuclear deal.
Doubts about his competency were reinforced this week by Senator Bob Corker, who charged that Mr Trump was treating his office like “a reality show”, with reckless threats that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”
Mr Corker says he is relying on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to help “separate our country from chaos”.
Many have hoped, and still hope, that Mr Trump’s aggressive posture is mostly theatre. But there is no underlying strategy to his loose talk, and whatever he means by it, Congress has been sufficiently alarmed to consider legislation that would bar the president from launching a first nuclear strike without a declaration of war by Congress.
As things stand now, the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, passed when there was more concern about trigger-happy generals than elected civilian leaders, gives the president sole control.
He could unleash the apocalyptic force of the American nuclear arsenal by his word alone, and within minutes.