Could any­one stop Trump from launch­ing nukes? The an­swer: No

Manteca Bulletin - - Nation -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Here’s a ques­tion rarely raised be­fore Don­ald Trump ran for the White House: If the pres­i­dent or­dered a pre­emp­tive nu­clear strike, could any­one stop him? The an­swer is no. Not the Congress. Not his sec­re­tary of de­fense. And by de­sign, not the mil­i­tary of­fi­cers who would be duty-bound to ex­e­cute the order.

As Bruce Blair, a for­mer nu­clear mis­sile launch of­fi­cer and ex­pert on nu­clear com­mand and con­trol, has put it, “The pro­to­col for or­der­ing the use of nu­clear weapons en­dows ev­ery pres­i­dent with civ­i­liza­tion-end­ing power.” Trump, he wrote in a Wash­ing­ton Post col­umn last sum­mer, “has unchecked au­thor­ity to order a pre­ven­tive nu­clear strike against any na­tion he wants with a sin­gle ver­bal di­rec­tion to the Pen­tagon war room.”

Or, as then-Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney ex­plained in De­cem­ber 2008, the pres­i­dent “could launch a kind of dev­as­tat­ing at­tack the world’s never seen. He doesn’t have to check with any­body. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts.”

And the world has changed even more in the decade since, with North Korea pos­ing a big­ger and more im­me­di­ate nu­clear threat than had seemed pos­si­ble. The na­ture of the U.S. po­lit­i­cal world has changed, too, and Trump’s op­po­nents — even within his own party — ques­tion whether he has too much power over nu­clear weapons.

These re­al­i­ties will con­verge today in a Se­nate hear­ing room where the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee — headed by one of Trump’s strong­est Repub­li­can crit­ics, Sen. Bob Corker of Ten­nessee — will hear tes­ti­mony from a for­mer com­man­der of the Pen­tagon’s nu­clear war fight­ing com­mand and other wit­nesses. The topic: “Au­thor­ity to order the use of nu­clear weapons.”

Corker said nu­mer­ous law­mak­ers have raised ques­tions about leg­isla­tive and pres­i­den­tial war-mak­ing au­thor­i­ties and the use of Amer­ica’s nu­clear arse­nal.

“This dis­cus­sion is long over­due,” Corker said in an­nounc­ing the hear­ing.

Alex Weller­stein, a his­to­rian of sci­ence at the Stevens In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy who has re­searched and writ­ten ex­ten­sively about pres­i­den­tial nu­clear au­thor­ity, said he hopes the dis­cus­sion “might shed some more light on as­pects of the pro­ce­dures for pres­i­den­tial use of nu­clear weapons that I think re­ally needs to be known and talked about.”

He said the U.S. sys­tem has evolved through tra­di­tion and prece­dent more than by laws.

“The tech­nol­ogy of the bomb it­self does not com­pel this sort of ar­range­ment,” he wrote in an email ex­change. “This is a prod­uct of cir­cum­stances. I think the cir­cum­stances un­der which the sys­tem was cre­ated, and the world we now live in, are suf­fi­ciently dif­fer­ent that we could, and per­haps should, con­tem­plate re­vi­sion of the sys­tem.”

Asked about this Mon­day in an im­promptu ex­change at the Pen­tagon, De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis was re­luc­tant to de­scribe his role in nu­clear strike de­ci­sion-mak­ing. “I’m the pres­i­dent’s prin­ci­pal ad­viser on the use of force,” he said. Asked whether he was com­fort­able with the sys­tem as it ex­ists, he said, “I am,” but did not elab­o­rate.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.