This article is not going to be a feel-good piece. For that, I am sorry. But these words need to be spoken. You need to be reminded of something that America has not truly worried about in 26 years – the threat of nuclear annihilation.
But before I talk about that, I’d like to bring you back to 1964, to the Stanley Kubrick classic, Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Dr. Strangelove is a dark comedy – a frighteningly accurate one – which posits a hypothetical situation in which a Strategic Air Command base commander, motivated by conspiracy theories about water fluoridation and probable mental illness, decides to, on his own authority, initiate a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. The attack succeeds, and we are left to assume that the Soviet military will activate their fantastic doomsday machine, ending human civilization as you know it.
Does anything sound familiar about that situation? Does anything ring an alarm bell in your head? Here’s a hint – Doctor Strangelove is a movie about a paranoid man who believes in conspiracy theories and ideologies, who lets that brand of thinking erode his sanity to the point where he ends this world. Are you following my thought process?
Donald Trump, the supreme commander of the most powerful military in the history of the world, draws many parallels to Jack D. Ripper, the base commander who is so concerned about the sanctity of our bodily fluids. He shows ample evidence of an angry, petty, and paranoid personality. He has a public feud against our intelligence agencies, and has shown evidence that he trusts fringe outlets like Breitbart and Alex Jones’ InfoWars more than those intelligence agencies. And there is no one that could stand in his way – not the Secretary of Defense, not the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not the Vice President or the entire Congress – should he make up his mind.
Yes, you heard me correctly. There is only one person standing between us and nuclear war. He is 70 years old. His actions paint the picture of a paranoid, irritable, angry, and vindictive man, and he values loyalty in his subordinates over competence or experience. But worst of all, there is no one that can oppose him, should he choose to utilize the 1,411 nuclear warheads deployed in air bases, missile silos, and nuclear submarines against any of our adversaries, ready for use at a moment’s notice.
And at this moment, surrounded by sycophants, inexperienced political appointees, and, thankfully, General Mattis and a few capable generals and intelligence officers, Donald Trump is about to be tested. Two foreign policy crises – the North Korean nuclear program, and the civil war in Syria – have drawn United States military responses. Of particular note is that a US carrier battle group has been redeployed to the Korean peninsula as a response to North Korea’s repeated tests of increasingly sophisticated nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
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I do not know what the future holds. Those potential flashpoints could fizzle out. Trump could decide to scale down our Syrian commitment, or the Chinese could place enough economic and political pressure on North Korea to end their nuclear program. But another crisis could rear its head tomorrow, and this is the first time we have had a dangerously incompetent and unstable man in office since our nuclear program. We don’t know how he will react moving forward.
But Trump could, tomorrow, decide that he wants to use those weapons, and no one could overrule him. With provocation or without, he could decide to turn Pyongyang into a radioactive wasteland, or any other city on Earth, on a moment’s notice, in a fit of senility or paranoia, or when urged by unreliable advisors to do so.
But there is something we can do.
Today’s nuclear protocols were designed for the Cold War. In order to maintain a credible deterrent, we needed to be able to respond on a moment’s notice, without deliberation or long thought, to an incoming military attack. We would only have minutes, at best, to make the decision, before the enemy ICBM’s hit our nuclear silos and disabled them.
But that isn’t the case today. We no longer need to allow the President to be able to execute first strikes on a moment’s notice. We rely less and less on old-style intercontinental ballistic missiles, in favor of warheads carried by aircraft and housed in nuclear submarines. So, even if an adversary struck first, bypassing all of our defenses and destroying every single silo in the American midwest, we maintain sufficient nuclear deterrent scattered across Europe and hiding under the waves in undisclosed locations that it would be impossible for an adversary to eliminate our retaliatory capability.
So, why let one person – no matter who they are – hold the fate of the entire world in their hands? Why let one man or woman hold the keys to the chariot of Death Incarnate, supreme, above veto or counteraction? I cannot think of a reason.Thankfully, there are lawmakers that agree. Enter the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 – a simple piece of legislation, introduced into both chambers of Congress, which largely solves the problem. This piece of legislation restricts the President from launching a nuclear first strike and forces him or her to receive approval from Congress before doing so. Retaliatory strikes are still permitted; the deterrent preserved, and our allies protected.
But we are safeguarded from the possibility of a single man deciding, on a whim, to destroy this world. And no matter how remote that possibility, no matter how responsible the person in office, no one person should have that kind of power.
Especially one that believes vaccines cause autism, climate change is a hoax, that President Obama is out to get him, mistrusts his intelligence community, and who encourages battles within his own staff. One who listens to Adam Jones and Breitbart and is entering his seventh decade of life.
It’d be a problem with the most responsible person in the planet sitting in that chair. It’s a nightmare with Trump.
So, call your Senators, and your Representative, and ask them to support the Resisting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act. Take a minute out of your day, and express your support for this simple safeguard which might save our entire planet.