Mil­i­tary: Nukes launch re­quires im­mi­nent threat

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY ALEX SWOYER

Le­gal and mil­i­tary ex­perts told law­mak­ers Tues­day the pres­i­dent does not have com­plete au­thor­ity to launch a nu­clear first strike when the U.S. is not faced with an im­mi­nent threat.

In tes­ti­mony to the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, the wit­nesses grap­pled with what sce­nar­ios en­com­pass “im­mi­nent” threats, when the pres­i­dent could or­der an at­tack with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval and what checks ex­ist.

“He would re­quire lots of peo­ple co­op­er­at­ing with him to make the strike hap­pen, and they would be ask­ing the ques­tions that would slow down that process,” said Peter Feaver, a pub­lic pol­icy pro­fes­sor at Duke Univer­sity.

Re­tired Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, for­mer com­man­der of the U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand, said if top mil­i­tary of­fi­cials re­ceived an or­der they didn’t think was le­gal or prop­erly vet­ted, they would have au­thor­ity to raise ques­tions about the or­der be­fore it pro­ceeds.

“So, we can have a lit­tle com­fort even though the pres­i­dent has the au­thor­ity, there are lim­its to that?” asked Sen. Ron John­son, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can.

“Even if time is com­pressed, there are cir­cum­stances I can en­vi­sion where I would have said the same thing, which is ‘Wait, stop. We need to resolve th­ese is­sues or we need to ad­dress this ques­tion,’” Mr. Kehler said.

The mil­i­tary ex­perts’ tes­ti­mony stood in con­trast to law­mak­ers, who seemed fear­ful of Pres­i­dent Trump hav­ing his fin­ger on the nu­clear trig­ger.

“We are con­cerned the pres­i­dent of the United States is so un­sta­ble, is so vo­latile … that he might or­der a nu­clear weapon strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests,” said Sen. Christo­pher Mur­phy, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat. “Let’s just rec­og­nize the ex­cep­tional na­ture of this mo­ment in the dis­cus­sion that we are hav­ing to­day.”

Tues­day’s hear­ing was ar­ranged by Sen. Bob Corker, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can, who has feuded with Mr. Trump for months.

In call­ing the hear­ing, Mr. Corker said it had been decades since Congress had looked at the is­sue, and point­edly said it was time to take a new look.

He said the nu­clear doc­trines were worked out dur­ing the Cold War, when the pres­i­dent was given sole au­thor­ity to or­der a nu­clear strike. Once given, the or­der can’t be re­voked, Mr. Corker said.

“To be clear, I would not sup­port changes that would re­duce our de­ter­rence of ad­ver­saries or re­as­sur­ance of our al­lies. But I would like to ex­plore … the re­al­i­ties of this sys­tem,” he said.

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