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Watching the Nukes

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USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN-730)

Well, things are getting serious.

This is reassuring in the sense that it means there will be some brakes applied if the President decides to go out in a blaze of glory. That said, if the military disobeyed a lawful order from the President to launch nuclear weapons (and there’s almost no question, under existing US law, that such an order would be lawful) then it would in effect constitute a military coup.

The hope, obviously, is that emphasizing the presence of guardrails will be sufficient to limiting the President’s ambitions, whatever they may be, for watching the world burn. And in due fairness to President Trump (when will I ever say that again?) I don’t actually think he’s likely to give such an order, or even an order-of-magnitude-less-severe order to launch a military strike against Iran. But as we are fond of saying, the Constitution is not a suicide pact, and it’s good to see that the people are at least thinking about the problems.

… with respect to Presidential authority to launch nukes, this is useful:

The U.S. President has sole authority to authorize the use of
U.S. nuclear weapons. This authority is inherent in his
constitutional role as Commander in Chief. The President
can seek counsel from his military advisors; those advisors
are then required to transmit and implement the orders
authorizing nuclear use. But, as General John Hyten, then
the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command
(STRATCOM), noted during his September 2016
confirmation hearing, his job is to give advice, while the
authority to order a launch lies with the president.

And here are two short plays laying out some considerations about what might happen if the President ordered a nuclear launch under certain scenarios…

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