Strategic Command Would Ignore ‘Illegal’ Nuke Order From Trump

By on November 19, 2017

One of the scariest aspects of the presidency of Donald Trump is that his irrational spates of anger could lead to a nuclear war. Trump has also hinted he reserves the right to launch a nuclear strike against North Korea, and while presidents in the past have asserted as much, when it comes from Trump’s lips it seems like a more sincere (and dangerous) threat.

“We are concerned that the President of the United States 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 US national security interests,” Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said earlier this month.

As president, Trump is the sole person in charge of the nuclear launch codes, and when to use them. Lawmakers like Murphy are proposing that the power to launch a nuke go through a process that requires oversight.

They’re right to insist upon it — no one person should wield that much power, and it’s even more dangerous when that person has a short fuse like Trump.

But some precautions may already be in place. Gen. John Hyten, who heads Strategic Command, said that an order from Trump to launch a nuclear attack might not be carried out under some circumstances.

“If it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen. I’m going to say, ‘Mr President, that’s illegal,'” Hyten said. “And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?'”

After that, Hyten explained, he and the president would discuss different options.

Hyten also said that he’s discussed this already with President Trump, telling the commander-in-chief that an illegal strike command would not be followed. “We think about these things a lot,” Hyten said. “When you have this responsibility how do you not think about it?”

It’s reassuring to hear that Trump can’t launch a strike carte blanche if he wants to. Still, more should be done — the scenario of one man being able to stop Trump from launching a nuclear weapon isn’t exactly that much different from Trump ordering his launch without any oversight.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress ought to study the issue further, and make recommendations based on what’s the best option for the nation, and the world overall.

Featured image via Master Sgt. Luke P. Thelen/U.S. Air Force