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The “clown emperor” …… and the “nuclear button”…


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Author Topic: The “clown emperor” …… and the “nuclear button”…  (Read 6 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: November 16, 2017, 07:48:45 pm »


from the Los Angeles Times....

Is there anything stopping Trump from launching a nuclear strike? Nope.

“Trump can annihilate the people of North Korea entirely on his own.”

By DOYLE McMANUS | 4:00AM PST - Wednesday, November 15, 2017

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, left, at the East Asia Summit on November 14th in Manila, Philippines. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.
President Donald Trump, accompanied by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, left, at the East Asia Summit
on November 14th in Manila, Philippines. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.


HERE, IN A NUTSHELL, are the laws and procedures that limit President Trump's power to launch a nuclear strike against North Korea anytime he likes:

There aren't any.

If the president wakes up one morning, turns on Fox News and decides that Kim Jong Un has ignored his warnings of “fire and fury” — by announcing, for example, that he has built a nuclear warhead that can reach California — Trump can annihilate the people of North Korea entirely on his own.

He isn't required to consult his secretary of Defense and other advisors, although that would be a good idea. He isn't required to ask Congress for permission, either, even though the Constitution reserves the power to declare war for the legislature.

All he has to do is call in the military officer who carries the “football,” the bulky briefcase containing the nuclear codes, and work through a brief procedure to transmit launch orders to U.S. Strategic Command.

“There are really no checks and balances,” said Bruce G. Blair, a former nuclear launch control officer who is now a researcher at Princeton University. “The presidency has become a nuclear monarchy.”

The streamlined procedure was designed during the Cold War for speed and certainty, in case Washington was in imminent danger of destruction by a Soviet attack. It relies, to an astonishing extent, on the judgment and steadiness of just one person. It wasn't designed for a case like North Korea: a small nuclear power with the power to threaten but not destroy the United States. Nor, of course, was it designed for a president like Trump, whose temperament tends toward impulsiveness.

And that's why the Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened on Tuesday to discuss whether the rules need to change — the first time in 41 years that Congress has re-examined the doomsday procedures.

The chairman of the panel, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, said the inquiry wasn't aimed at one president in particular. “This is not particular to anybody,” he claimed.

But since Corker has frequently complained that Trump lacks the competence and stability to be president, and once described the White House as “an adult day-care center,” nobody was fooled.

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

Needless to say, the senators didn't arrive at any kind of consensus.

Murphy and other Democrats argued that Congress needed to take action to rein in the president. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and other Republicans fretted about the danger of weakening nuclear deterrence or reducing “strategic ambiguity” by limiting Trump's freedom to bluster.

A former commander of U.S. nuclear forces, retired Air Force General C. Robert Kehler, told the committee that military officers could prevent a disaster by objecting to an order they considered illegal. But he acknowledged that objecting wouldn't stop the order from being carried out. Instead, he said dryly, it would lead to “a very difficult conversation.”

Blair, the nuclear scholar, has suggested requiring more than one signature on a nuclear war order — ideally, the secretary of Defense and the attorney general as well as the president. Every other step in launching nuclear weapons, he noted, holds to a “two-man rule,” requiring two people to concur; only the decision to begin a nuclear war is given to just one person.

Some Democrats, including Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Ted Lieu of Torrance, have proposed requiring that a president obtain authorization from Congress before using nuclear weapons, except in response to a nuclear attack.

That's not a crazy idea. It wouldn't bind a president's hands in a genuine emergency. It's been endorsed by former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, a nuclear technologist who was willing, during the Clinton administration, to go to war against North Korea. (Diplomacy made that war unnecessary, he says.)

Apparently, however, that constitutional remedy is a bridge too far for most. Markey has collected only 13 cosponsors for his bill, all Democrats — just one-third of his party's members in the Senate.

That leaves the senators united in a single sentiment: wishing they had a less volatile president to worry about. Just like most of the rest of us.


• Doyle McManus is Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He has been a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, a White House correspondent and a presidential campaign reporter, and was the paper's Washington bureau chief from 1996 to 2008. McManus, a native of San Francisco, has lived in Washington, D.C., since 1983 but still considers Hermosa Beach his spiritual home.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-mcmanus-nuclear-procedure-20171115-story.html
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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Having fun in the hills!


« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2017, 07:48:56 pm »


from The New York Times....

EDITORIAL: The Senate Questions the
President's Power to Launch Nukes


By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pablo Delcan. — Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg.
Pablo Delcan. — Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg.

PRESIDENT TRUMP and North Korea have prompted Congress to do something it hasn't done in more than four decades: formally consider changes to the law that gives American presidents the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.

In a governing system that relies on checks and balances, that may strike some people as odd. But the uncomfortable truth is that Mr. Trump, like all his post-World War II predecessors, is uniquely empowered to order a pre-emptive strike, on North Korea or anywhere else. We're talking about the authority to unleash thousands of nuclear weapons within minutes. And with scant time to consult with experienced advisers.

As the first formal hearing on the issue in 41 years unfolded before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Senator Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, bluntly outlined the stakes with a president who “is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests.”

Republicans were not as harsh nor so Trump-centric. But Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who is the committee's chairman, and recently expressed concern that Mr. Trump could lead the country to World War III, said it was important to examine the “realities of this system” by which the use of nuclear weapons is decided. He's right.

Mr. Trump has brought on himself this examination of his authority to order the launch of the world's most deadly weapons. His erratic, taunting threats to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea and even destroy the country, his glib talk about nuclear weapons and his impulsiveness generally raise serious questions about his willingness to incite war.

He is engaged in a dangerous game of chicken with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, who has kept up his own steady stream of bombastic insults against Mr. Trump and threatened attacks on the United States with an arsenal that has gone from zero to at least 20 nuclear weapons, plus the missiles to deliver them, over the past 30 years.

The president's sole control of nuclear launches stems from the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, passed when there was more concern about hawkish generals than elected civilian leaders. C. Robert Kehler, a retired Air Force general who once headed the Strategic Command that oversees the nuclear arsenal, said at the hearing on Tuesday that the military could refuse to follow what it considers a disproportionate and unnecessary order. He said he did not know what the president's response would be in such a case. But Brian McKeon, a former Pentagon official, told the committee that the president could appoint a new general and defense secretary to carry out his orders — further evidence, not at all reassuring, of the president's unilateral powers.

Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Ted Lieu of California, both Democrats, have introduced legislation to bar the president from launching a first nuclear strike without a declaration of war by Congress. A president would, of course, still have the power to retaliate if America was attacked, but their bill could help restrain a trigger-happy president. Another idea would be to stipulate that the vice president or the secretaries of state and defense, or all three, must concur in any decision to strike first with nuclear weapons.

Because such changes could affect the country's ability to deter adversaries with the threat of a rapid nuclear attack, they must be carefully considered. The Republican-led Congress, which has shown few signs of pushing back against presidential powers, may end up taking no action. Mr. Corker says he does not see a legislative solution at the moment, though “over the course of the next several months one might develop.” What we do know is that there are hard questions to be addressed, especially now that the American people have been alerted to the scope and potential peril of Mr. Trump's powers.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/opinion/senate-trump-launch-nukes.html
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