General: Nuclear launch order can be refused
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the committee's top ranking Democrat, asked Kehler if that means Strategic Command can deny the president's order if it fails the test of proportionality and legality.
“Yes,” Kehler responded, adding such a situation would lead to a “very difficult conversation.” It might prompt a president to put a new general in charge to carry out his order, said Brian McKeon, a former acting undersecretary of defense for policy during the Obama administration, who testified with Kehler.
But if a president's order to fire nuclear weapons, even pre-emptively, is determined to be sound and legal, there's no one who can stop him.
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 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.”