Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Life&Culture | By Rose Hansen

Duke Professor Testifies on the Control of Nuclear Weapons

Duke Professor Testifies on the Control of Nuclear Weapons

"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 strike that is swildly out of step with USA interests", said Sen.

That was the message Tuesday from an extraordinary, first-time-in-four-decades hearing convened by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker ― who last month said he anxious that Trump could "start World War III" and called the White House an "adult day care center". On Tuesday, he insisted the hearing was "not specific to anybody", but Democrats on the committee did not pull punches.

"We are concerned that the president 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 USA national-security interests", Murphy said.

Kehler acknowledged, however, should the military reject a nuclear strike order that would result in a "very hard conversation". "I fear that in the age of Trump the cooler heads and strategic doctrine that we once relied upon as our last best hope against the unthinkable seem less reassuring than ever".

"I don't think that the assurances that I've received today will be satisfying to the American people", said Markey, a Democrat from MA.

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Not the Congress. Not his secretary of defense.

Senators trying to prevent President Trump from launching an unprovoked nuclear attack were stymied Tuesday, after a panel of experts warned them against rewriting laws to restrain a commander in chief many worry is impulsive and unpredictable enough to start a devastating global crisis. Kehler, a retired US Air Force general, said the military principles of "necessity" and "proportionality" also apply to decisions about nuclear weapons. He threatened Kim in August with "fire and fury like the world has never seen", a likely reference to nuclear war. Kehler, who led the agency responsible for nuclear launches, insisted on several occasions the military could refuse to act on any nuclear launch order it determined to be illegal - and there is time to push back against a president in any situation, apart from responding to an imminent attack. When the president initiates the idea of using a nuclear weapon, particularly in a case of preventive war, there is a coterie of lawyers and advisors in the White House and Pentagon who openly debate the issue.

Corker, who has emerged as vocal critic of Trump's foreign policy, said he wanted to explore the "realities of this system" that allows the president to use nuclear weapons. Under current rules, a president could launch a nuclear strike by entering codes into a device known as "the football" - a briefcase that always travels with the president - and is not obligated to consult other government officials. Edward Markey, is why his bill requiring a president to seek congressional approval before launching a first strike is so necessary.

On Monday, Mattis was directly asked about the hearing and its implications.

Tuesday's hearing comes two weeks after Mattis himself was grilled by Congress about the president's authority to launch a nuclear strike and resisted the suggestion that it's time to update the system.

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