Presidential authority on nuclear war

Most Americans are generally aware that the United States and Russia have huge arsenals of nuclear warheads. But this issue has never risen to prominence until recently. Now Americans are hearing bellicose statements from the president that can only be construed as veiled threats of nuclear strikes against Iran and North Korea. Such statements, if taken seriously, could precipitate a nuclear conflict.

How has this situation arisen? Previous administrations did not boast of the US nuclear arsenal, nor did they take actions that would exacerbate international tensions. In fact, in July 2015, the United States, along with five other nations, agreed to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for that country’s promise not to develop nuclear weapons. Since then, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly inspected all potential nuclear weapons sites and certified Iran in compliance, most recently on May 24, 2018.

Despite this, the current president affirmed that “The Agreement with Iran was one of the worst and most unilateral transactions in which the United States has entered”, and in August 2018 his Administration again imposed economic sanctions on that country. .Mister. Trump justified his action by saying: “The United States will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. And we will not allow a regime that chants” Death to America “to gain access to the deadliest cities. weapons on Earth. ” On July 22, 2018, Trump posted the following statement on Twitter: “To Iranian President Rouhani: Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences like few in history have suffered …”. Are you indirectly referring to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Iran had no nuclear weapons or ICBMs. American cities were not threatened with destruction.

The country of North Korea has also been the subject of Trump’s ire and, at times, ridiculous. On January 2, 2018, Trump tweeted: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Has anyone in his regime exhausted and hungry for food? Will you report that I also have a Nuclear Button, but it is much bigger and more powerful than yours, and does my Button work? “Also, journalists Peter Baker and Choe Sang-Hun wrote the following in the August 8, 2017 issue From the New York Times: “President Trump on Tuesday threatened to unleash ‘fire and fury’ on North Korea if it endangered the United States, as tensions with the isolated and nuclear-armed impoverished state escalated to Perhaps the most serious foreign policy challenge of his administration so far, they put Americans at risk. But it was unclear what specifically would cross their line. Administration officials have said a preemptive army will strike ga, although it is a last resort, is one of the options that have been made available to the president. “

A preemptive military strike against North Korea? Is it that easy to do? No. Also, it doesn’t matter if the military strikes against North Korea (or Iran, for that matter) are with conventional or nuclear munitions. Trump and his advisers must read applicable laws and congressional resolutions before threatening to attack another country militarily.

Let’s start with the Constitution of the United States. Article I, Section 8, states that only Congress has the authority to declare war. Additionally, the Presidential War Powers Resolution, often called the Presidential War Powers Act, states that the executive branch must consult and report to Congress before engaging US forces in foreign hostilities. Proponents of the president’s broad and unrestricted action argue that Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution establishes that he is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and militias of the various states, and that position replaces war. restrict the authority of Congress. This title, however, is more political than military. It is intended to protect our civilian government from a military takeover. It is not a military title that allows the president to personally command the military forces. More importantly, it does not mean that the president can unilaterally order nuclear strikes against other countries.

Directive 5100.30 of the Department of Defense establishes that “The NCA (National Command Authorities) consists of [singular verb] only of the President and the Secretary of Defense or their alternates or alternate successors. The chain of command [for conventional military operations] it goes from the President to the Secretary of Defense and from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Commanders of the Unified and Specified Commands. The communication channel for the execution of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) [nuclear war] and other urgent operations will be from the NCA through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, representing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the executing commanders “.

The directive thus imposes a two-man rule on the presidential authority to order or direct military operations, whether conventional or nuclear. In the first case, decisions must pass both the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff before they can be implemented. In the second case, the decisions of the NCA go directly to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then to the executing commanders. There is no provision for the President of the United States to act unilaterally in either case.

There is a possible exception to the two-man presidential rule. In the unlikely event that a major nuclear power unleashes a missile strike against the United States, our retaliatory response must be swift and secure. If the president is hesitant or unsure what to do, a senior military official will make the decision for him. The scenario could be the following:

Mr. president. This is the NMCC. We are tracking 60 incoming Russians

missiles. We must execute the SIOP, and we recommend SAO-2, retain

Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Our current president might respond by asking: What is SIOP? What is SAO-2? What does “retain” mean? Rather than attempting to run a last minute tutorial on nuclear war for Trump, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will simply direct the NMCC to publish an Emergency Action Message and run the SIOP. The alternative would be widespread destruction in the United States without the benefit of retaliation. In this limited scenario, the two-man rule would be irrelevant.

Conclution. Violent and threatening statements by the President of the United States do not advance the security or other interests of this country. They can be misunderstood by other countries, some of which have their own nuclear arsenals. Furthermore, since both nuclear and non-nuclear military missions are subject to a two-man decision rule for safety, response times are of paramount importance if the United States is under attack. Our national leaders must always demonstrate maturity, professionalism, and restraint when discussing nuclear war.