The Nuclear Chain of Command

Donald Trump has been musing about nuclear war since the 1980s, and now he’s bringing our fears to life with his tweets against North Korea. Also, playing the role of a decisive and serious executive, he told the military back in July that he wanted to increase the US’s arsenal of nuclear weapons back to the maximum we had during the Cold War. That seems to have been the trigger for Rex Tillerson to call him a moron. Tillerson wasn’t wrong.

As always with Trump, it’s a good idea to have the facts before us. So here are some.

A president launches nuclear missiles via an electronic briefcase (“the football”) that is always at his side, carried by a service member at the O4-O5 level. That’s a major – lieutenant colonel or lieutenant commander – commander. The services rotate, and both male and female service members have been in this role. One of them made the news back in the spring of this year when he allowed Mar-a-Lago patrons to take selfies with him. Their role is to be unobtrusive and to follow orders.

Some of us have been discussing the chain of command since the election. This article contains a nice graphic that explains how a president would order a nuclear strike. Unfortunately, it’s too big to steal and insert into this post. One of the questions we had was whether the Secretary of Defense is a necessary part of the decision chain. Alex Wellerstein found documents that clearly say no: the President is the sole decider, although he may consult with others.

[BTW, there is no big red button, not on Trump’s desk and not in the football. Launch activation at the missile bases is by two people turning two keys after some other steps.]

Another argument is whether the chain of command is likely to disrupt an order from the President to launch the missiles. This argument depends on assumptions about the military and the President’s advisors. It is unresolvable until the worst happens.

Once the President decides that a nuclear strike is necessary, he uses a communications device inside the football to speak to the Pentagon War Room. The President carries a card (“the biscuit”) with challenge codes that verify who he is. After the order is transmitted, carrying it out is somewhat mechanical, following military rules.

This chain of command for nuclear weapons was developed during the Cold War, for a potential exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, which had approximately equal numbers of nuclear weapons. Once a launch is detected, there is about a half-hour to respond.

The situation is different with North Korea. They probably have, at most, a few nuclear missiles that can reach the United States. The time to respond is about the same as for the Soviet Union because of orbital mechanics. But there are more decisions to make: How many missiles? Where are they headed? What kind of retaliation is needed – one missile as a signal? Destruction of North Korea? The Soviet – US model of instant response is not appropriate.

Further, Trump’s “fire and fury” and other tweets and statements seem to imply preventive war. Added to that, his emotional instability brings up the question of whether he would order a first strike for spurious or mistaken reasons. Because a nuclear strike at North Korea could result in a much wider nuclear war with Russia or China, we need to think about how that can be stopped.

Once the order has been sent out by the President to the War Room, it’s unlikely it can be stopped. Vasili Arkhipov and Stanislav Petrov have been cited as stopping the Soviet chain of command’s progression to the use of nuclear weapons, Arkhipov during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Petrov in 1983. Neither man directly countermanded orders, but rather argued against nuclear use and succeeded within the system. The American system no longer has room for such argument, and those in the system have been selected for their willingness to carry out the nuclear order.

So attention has focused on the men around Trump, in particular John Kelly, H. R. McMaster, and James Mattis, former and current generals. There is a story that as President Richard Nixon came closer to impeachment, his aides were concerned about his mental state. Alexander Haig (also a retired general) is said to have told aides to consult with him before taking any action. This history is disputed.

The idea is that Kelly, McMaster, or Mattis would restrain Trump from a disastrous decision to loose the missiles. There is a rumor that the three have a pact that one will always be near him to stop him if necessary. Another rumor (reported in a more positive way than the speculation it is) is that the three have talked about physically restraining Trump if necessary.

It would not surprise me if these rumors were true. I have been wondering about Trump’s volatility and ignorance of nuclear weapons since before he was elected. Without having any confirmation, I am positive that the military people around Trump have thought about them too and have probably discussed them.

Because these three are former or current military officers, restraining an action of the President can be seen as a military coup. We like to think that we don’t do that in America, but my feeling is that if the choice is between a military coup and nuclear destruction, I’ll take the former.

It shouldn’t come to that. Senator Bob Corker said that he fears that Trump could provoke World War III and that other senators, who have remained quiet, share his fear. The best solution would be for Congress to impeach this incompetent and dangerous president. But so far the Republicans look a lot like that command chain, obeying unquestioningly.

 

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner

69 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    The best solution would be for Congress to impeach this incompetent and dangerous president. But so far the Republicans look a lot like that command chain, obeying unquestioningly.

    They just want something to show their donors so they can run again in 2018 or 2020. The whole world could be on fire in the background, but the Koch’s and Mercers and Walton’s all got the Estate Tax repealed and their tax cut done. So, elect me again, I guess?

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  2. 2
    Corner Stone says:

    I watched some of the Sheryl Sandberg Shitshow ™ today with one of the world’s most accomplished ass polishers and sycophants, Mike Allen now of Axios.
    It left me feeling nothing more certain than that all extremely wealthy people need to be purged from our society. Their wealth confiscated and they all being sentenced to ordinary daily labor for the rest of their lives.

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  3. 3
    joel hanes says:

    If I were Kelly, I would have long since arranged things so that the biscuit carried by Donald J. Trump will not verify.

    “Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. President, we seem to be having technical difficulties.
    While we’re working on them, I’d like to remark again on just how big your electoral college margin was.
    Historic! Very very good! Huge! Everyone’s talking about it.
    Would you like a Diet Pepsi ?
    By the way, has anyone seen Ivanka about ? I’d like to talk to her about something …”

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  4. 4
    Corner Stone says:

    Now Trump is going to de-certify the Iran deal and he has zero idea what that means. For Iran, for NK, for any actor in the world outside the US. He thinks that’s an example of being “tough”.
    But hey, tax cuts. Amirite?

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  5. 5
    catclub says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Koch’s and Mercers and Walton’s all got the Estate Tax repealed and their tax cut done.

    I think a tactic that would work (ie. could get 50+ GOP senators) – but would use up the reconciliation slot – would be just repealing the Estate Tax.
    Anything else risks divisions in the GOP senate.

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  6. 6
    Served says:

    I’m just imagining Kelly karate chopping Trump once in the back of the neck and the war room breaking out into applause.

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  7. 7
    catclub says:

    The American system no longer has room for such argument, and those in the system have been selected for their willingness to carry out the nuclear order.

    ouch. makes me nervous.

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  8. 8
    Mike in DC says:

    My understanding, based on an offhand comment by a retired general, is that we have a 30 warhead “package” for an all out attack on NK. My assumption is that this would mostly consist of weapons delivered by strategic bombers, not ICBMs or SLBMs. That close to China and Russia, you really can’t afford to make a move that could be misread as an attack on them.
    30 warheads on a small country like that would probably kill half the population of North Korea, and the direction of the fallout could be crucially important.

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  9. 9
    Corner Stone says:

    Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. President, we seem to be having technical difficulties.

    “It’s ok though, as we have built in a backup. Please turn the nearest tv on and read the chyron displayed on Fox News so we can authenticate. Wait, what? New revelations in Hillary’s emails that may lead her to prison? Sir, that sounds much more important than nuking anyone. No, no. We’re here all the time. Looking forward to hearing from you next time as you’re doing the best job we have ever seen, if I may say so.”

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  10. 10
    Corner Stone says:

    Welp, Sen Chris Coons just pussed out fucking hard core on MSNBC. Jesus Fucking Christ, man.

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  11. 11
    Baud says:

    I have been wondering about Trump’s volatility and ignorance of nuclear weapons since before he was elected.

    That’s because Hillary Clinton done warned us of this risk is simple to understand terms.

    (Although I’m confident you didn’t need the warning.)

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  12. 12
    MobiusKlein says:

    The Constitution says Congress is the sole authority that can declare war.
    This is usually hard to litigate, especially in a hot war.

    Perhaps Congress can pass a sense of Congress resolution stating that the use of nukes outside of a formal declaration of war is an unconstitutional usurpation of their authority. Thus any soldier is bound to refuse such an order.

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  13. 13
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Served: NO FIGHTING IN THE WAR ROOM!

    ReplyReply
  14. 14
    encephalopath says:

    I would like to think that if Trump attempted to order a preemptive nuclear strike the cabinet would immediately invoke a 25th Amendment vote and remove him.

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  15. 15
    Wjs says:

    We would hit NK from the sea, not US territory, I would imagine. This would mean using 7th fleet assets that are probably under direct control of someone who knows Mattis and Kelly personally.

    That’s your failsafe, and it is of little comfort. But, please note that a nuclear first strike would not trouble the GOP base at all.

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  16. 16

    I can’t believe what we’re talking about openly now. I wish to hell more Republicans than only Corker would begin talking about this openly. It’s great that two thirds of the country and pretty much the whole press has given up on the pitiful charade that this asshole is anything other than what he is, but we really need more Republicans to step out into the light and say what they need to say.

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  17. 17

    I’m bleakly reminded of the novel Failsafe, where the point was how the assumption that a “safe” failure was one where the attack was delivered. Once the order is given, that is, I understand, the situation we’re in.

    For a ridiculous thing to ponder: what would have to happen, as a result of a nuclear attack, for Fox news and the GOP to say Trump was wrong to do it?

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  18. 18
    dmsilev says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I see Trump more in the Russian Premier role:

    Dr. Strangelove: Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn’t you tell the world, EH?
    Ambassador de Sadesky: It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

    and

    [the President calls the Soviet Premier]
    President Merkin Muffley: [to Kissoff] Hello?… Uh… Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can’t hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?… Oh-ho, that’s much better… yeah… huh… yes… Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri… Clear and plain and coming through fine… I’m coming through fine, too, eh?… Good, then… well, then, as you say, we’re both coming through fine… Good… Well, it’s good that you’re fine and… and I’m fine… I agree with you, it’s great to be fine… a-ha-ha-ha-ha… Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb… The *Bomb*, Dmitri… The *hydrogen* bomb!… Well now, what happened is… ahm… one of our base commanders, he had a sort of… well, he went a little funny in the head… you know… just a little… funny. And, ah… he went and did a silly thing… Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes… to attack your country… Ah… Well, let me finish, Dmitri… Let me finish, Dmitri… Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?… Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?… Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello?… *Of course* I like to speak to you!… *Of course* I like to say hello!… Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I’m just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened… It’s a *friendly* call. Of course it’s a friendly call… Listen, if it wasn’t friendly… you probably wouldn’t have even got it… They will *not* reach their targets for at least another hour… I am… I am positive, Dmitri… Listen, I’ve been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick… Well, I’ll tell you. We’d like to give your air staff a complete run-down on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes… Yes! I mean i-i-i-if we’re unable to recall the planes, then… I’d say that, ah… well, ah… we’re just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri… I know they’re our boys… All right, well listen now. Who should we call?… *Who* should we call, Dmitri? The… wha-whe, the People… you, sorry, you faded away there… The People’s Central Air Defense Headquarters… Where is that, Dmitri?… In Omsk… Right… Yes… Oh, you’ll call them first, will you?… Uh-huh… Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri?… Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Omsk information… Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm… I’m sorry, too, Dmitri… I’m very sorry… *All right*, you’re sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well… I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don’t say that you’re more sorry than I am, because I’m capable of being just as sorry as you are… So we’re both sorry, all right?… All right.

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  19. 19
    Corner Stone says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (Formerly Mumphrey, et al.):

    but we really need more Republicans to step out into the light and say what they need to say.

    “Tax reform is vitally necessary to get the economy working for every American and help the jobs creators kick into high gear.”

    ReplyReply
  20. 20
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @dmsilev: Of course, Kissoff is supposed to be drunk, and Trump does not drink.

    ReplyReply
  21. 21
    Bill Arnold says:

    Thank you Cheryl for the Alex Wellerstein piece. I was wondering how the POTUSSecDef interaction worked.
    (Anyone who knows this stuff has thought it through to similar conclusions. At least I hope so.)

    @Wjs:

    But, please note that a nuclear first strike would not trouble the GOP base at all.

    How do you know this? Serious question. The nutcases in the 50s/60s are mostly no longer with us.

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  22. 22
    encephalopath says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    It will be Pence delivering those lines…

    PRESIDENT PENCE: I’m sorry too, Dmitri. I’m very sorry. All right, you’re sorrier than I am. But I am sorry as well. I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri. Don’t say that you’re the more sorry than I am because I am capable of being just as sorry as you are. So we’re both sorry, all right? All right.

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  23. 23
    Scott says:

    Because these three are former or current military officers, restraining an action of the President can be seen as a military coup.

    Commissioned Officer swears to uphold the constitution, not follow the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. May not be seen as a coup.

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  24. 24
    Mike in NC says:

    Trump only wants the biggest, best, most beautiful mushroom clouds.

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  25. 25
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @encephalopath: I can see Pence saying that.

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  26. 26
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Scott: Yes. I have made that argument. I would also expect one of the three, if he had to do that, to go to the media immediately and explain himself. Maybe to someone in Congress or the Cabinet first.

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  27. 27
    jl says:

    Thanks for an informative post. I wasn’t going to read it for fear it would be too distressing, But I read it anyway.

    Part of the post seems to assume that the US is responding to a first strike by NK with nukes that might have capability to reach some part of the US. Seems like the US would respond. So, if NK is nutso enough to do that, then Trump should press the button.

    But if Trump gets gas pains one afternoon and decides he’s just fed up with trading insults with Rocket Man and decides to launch a preemptive strike, wouldn’t the military have to right to disobey? They could make a good case that they would be participating in a war crime if they obeyed the order, and they are not supposed to obey illegal orders.

    There is a huge gray area, a Cuban missile crisis type scenario, where military refusing a command could be plausibly construed as a mutiny or coup, though. That is what worries me the most.

    Edit: also, I remember reading that the military made an informal arrangement with itself when Nixon was losing it, that there would be independent verification by Sec of Defense, or Joint Chiefs, before a nuclear launch. Is that true?

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  28. 28
    Mike in DC says:

    @Wjs:
    I guess we could use naval cruise missiles and b61s dropped by f-18s. But i wonder how many warheads are actually carried by the 7th.

    ReplyReply
  29. 29

    […] Cross-posted to Balloon Juice […]

  30. 30
    debbie says:

    Do we know whether Trump’s wanting a ten-fold increase in the nuclear stockpile was ever verified? I’ve heard nothing definitive.

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  31. 31
    joel hanes says:

    @MobiusKlein:

    Perhaps Congress can pass a sense of Congress resolution

    IIRC, Congress did just that, forbidding use of US government funds for guerilla wars in Salvador (and Guatemala? it’s been a while).
    Never daunted, the Rs found a Bible and a cake in a shape of a key and talked to their old associates among the Iranians and we ended up with Oliver North and nun-raping death squads called Contras and an epidemic of crack cocaine.

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  32. 32
    hellslittlestangel says:

    Don’t worry. The invisible hand of the free political market will solve all problems. Just watch how badly a deranged simpleton president does in his re-election campaign after starting a nuclear war.

    ReplyReply
  33. 33
    Wjs says:

    @Bill Arnold: you can’t be serious. They are nazis.

    ReplyReply
  34. 34
    Chris says:

    @joel hanes:

    IIRC, Congress did just that, forbidding use of US government funds for guerilla wars in Salvador (and Guatemala? it’s been a while).

    Wasn’t it Nicaragua? The whole Iran-contra thing was about Reagan raising money on the down-low for terrorists that Congress wouldn’t allow him to fund.

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  35. 35
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @jl: I probably should have said more about Trump’s ordering a first strike. That’s the most disturbing scenario, and the one in which military intervention or insubordination would be the most justified. As you say, there is also a gray area. What if Trump just lies, Gulf-of-Tonkin style? And so on.

    I did say something about that Nixon story up top. It’s being argued by the historians as to whether it really happened. I haven’t followed their evidence closely.

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  36. 36
    Citizen_X says:

    China—who is as fed up with NK as anyone else at this point—said recently that they would defend North Korea if we attacked them unprovoked. So a crisis could spin catastrophically out of control, and I would not trust Trump to keep that from happening.

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  37. 37
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @debbie: Trump has denied it via tweet and public statement. My own reading is that he actually said it in the meeting, found out that Tillerson called him a moron for it (for not knowing a little bit about the arms control treaties, what it might take to build up that way, etc.), saw that everyone is laughing at him, and decided to try to cover his tracks. NBC had three sources who were in the meeting.

    I keep being amazed at how many people keep leaking.

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  38. 38
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Citizen_X: Also, missiles and intercepting missiles could fly into Chinese or Russian airspace. They might not like that.

    ReplyReply
  39. 39
    debbie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Thanks. I was hoping it wasn’t fake. I expected NBC to respond but hadn’t found anything online.

    ReplyReply
  40. 40
    Chris Fisher says:

    The Republican Senators are, I still think, betting that they can get their conservative justices appointed and their tax cuts signed and the ACA killed by a thousand executive orders before Trump does the unthinkable or goes completely fucking bonkers.

    They are putting their agendas and careers ahead of the good of the country, but I would expect nothing less than that from them.

    ReplyReply
  41. 41
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Wjs:
    I am serious. Nazis or otherwise [generic evil], they should understand that in the event of a US first nuclear strike on NK,
    (a) South Korea would get destroyed by NK weapons, somehow (tunnels, perhaps), and perhaps one or more Japanese cities, perhaps one or more US cities though a covert delivery mechanism. The plans would not work – NK has been preparing for US nuclear attack since the 1950s, and that’s before the recent (2016/09) theft of war plans. The world economy would probably collapse (all the fragility aka “efficiency” in the supply chains). The US would become a pariah state, at best. The Chinese would probably decide to take action, not necessarily nuclear (since they would be destroyed in an exchange), but severely damaging to the US. An all-out multi-party exchange a possibility, almost certainly underestimated. The scenario tails are very long, and very nasty, and involve billions of human deaths, including most Americans.
    (b) It would be bad.
    (c) It would be bad.
    If they do not understand this, then they need to be convinced, really quickly. This is basic stuff.
    (I know the survivalist stuff reasonably well (older version), having internalized it in the 1980s – it presumes most people die.)

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  42. 42
    wjs says:

    @Bill Arnold: Dude, Cleek’s Law.

    ReplyReply
  43. 43
    Bill Arnold says:

    @wjs:

    Dude, Cleek’s Law.

    Agreed, in principle. But we’re seeing a lot of legitimately worried sane Republicans too. This is not a case where cleek’s law dominates, IMO. At least not among the leadership.

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  44. 44
    dm says:

    The situation is different with North Korea. They probably have, at most, a few nuclear missiles that can reach the United States. The time to respond is about the same as for the Soviet Union because of orbital mechanics.

    I think the time to respond is not the same. With the Soviet Union there would be a threat to our ability to respond: a Soviet first-strike would pose a credible threat to our ability to retaliate (“use it or lose it”).

    In the case of North Korea, the handful of targets of the Korean missiles are gone if we choose to retaliate as the missiles are in flight, or choose instead to retaliate the following day. Our ability to retaliate remains in place even after the North Korean missiles destroy their targets.

    In other words, there is time for Congress to convene and declare war in retaliation before US weapons are launched.

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  45. 45
    misterpuff says:

    The question is “Is Kelly packing?” or will they just Taze President Bro? Cause if you draw on POTUS what does the Secret Service do? Does the SS stand watch in the War Room?

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  46. 46
    different-church-lady says:

    @Served:

    I’m just imagining Kelly karate chopping Trump once in the back of the neck and the war room breaking out into applause.

    “Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here, this is the War Room!”

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  47. 47
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @misterpuff: That’s one of the questions I came up with. Is the football carrier always in the room with the President? Is the Secret Service? I tend to think that the answer to both is “no,” but they would be nearby, just outside the room.

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  48. 48
    dr. bloor says:

    @encephalopath:

    I would like to think that if Trump attempted to order a preemptive nuclear strike the cabinet would immediately invoke a 25th Amendment vote and remove him.

    The availability of the cabinet would depend upon how impulsive Trump’s decision is, and it’s pretty clear that we can’t depend on the desiccated cauliflower that are his frontal lobes to protect us. I’d like to think that in a pinch the White House physician has the sense and authority to tell Kelly that Trump is as mad as a hatter and lacks the capacity to make the decision.

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  49. 49
    msdc says:

    The American system no longer has room for such argument, and those in the system have been selected for their willingness to carry out the nuclear order.

    This strikes me as… a less than ideal system.

    But so far the Republicans look a lot like that command chain, obeying unquestioningly.

    And that would be why.

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  50. 50
    Scott says:

    As to the possibility of a preemptive strike, I would look at the movement of American families accompanying the American service folks. If they start moving out, then that is a step much closer to war.

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  51. 51
    different-church-lady says:

    @joel hanes:

    If I were Kelly, I would have long since arranged things so that the biscuit carried by Donald J. Trump will not verify.

    I think it would be cool if the Nuclear Football were an actual football, and the president had to hit a field goal from 54 yards or further out before the command was accepted.

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  52. 52
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @misterpuff: Trump is an unhealthy 70 year old man who hasn’t taken any serious exercise in years. Kelly is a former Marine who looked very spry for his age during the press conference today.

    I imagine he knows plenty of empty hand techniques to disable DOLTUS if necessary.

    If we are playing this game, however, the question would be how the other people in the room, also mostly military, would react. Also can the war room be locked down from the inside preventing intervention from Trump loyalists?

    I’m amazed we’re speculating along these lines even, hopefully, as a speculative exercise.

    ReplyReply
  53. 53
    Christopher Hades says:

    Maybe we also need to consider than many republicans secretly would like a war with North Korea to reestablish America’s superiority in the world.

    What do you guys think.

    ReplyReply
  54. 54
    Sloane Ranger says:

    Further to my previous post, why assume it’s going to happen in the war room? As I understand it, there’s nothing to stop Trump watching Fox during lunch and hearing that Kim said something rude about him and perhaps having a touch of indigestion calling football guy over immediately and doing the deed.

    Kelly can’t be with him 24/7. Presumably a COS has work of their own to do.

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  55. 55
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Christopher Hades:

    Maybe we also need to consider than many republicans secretly would like a war with North Korea to reestablish America’s superiority in the world.

    That sounds like a caricature of an Underpants Gnome style theory.
    Here’s what a war between North Korea and the US could do to the global economy
    Profits would be significantly adversely affected. This would make anti-capitalists happy. :-)

    Supply chains globally would be affected, with Capital Economics using the major floods that hit Thailand in 2011 as a comparison “because of the huge disruption and damage they caused to the country’s manufacturing industry.” The writers continued: “The impact on the economy was considerable. GDP in the final quarter of 2011 fell by 4% y/y, led by a 16% contraction in manufacturing output.”
    Further, they said the “impact of a war in Korea would be much bigger,” adding, “South Korea exports three times as many intermediate products as Thailand.”

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  56. 56
    smedley the uncertain says:

    @Scott: The Panama -Noriega attack is an example where the non-combatants other than senior officers wives did NOT move out. We are not likely to tip our hand. A DPRK first shot would not offer the luxury of evacuation. There are thousands of sponsored families in South Korea. Sadly, I don’t think family evacuations figures in the Presidents calculations.

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  57. 57
    Christopher Hades says:

    @Bill Arnold: But the republicans simply wouldn’t care about this. They only like war and all that!

    ReplyReply
  58. 58
    jl says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thanks. You did mention the Nixon episode, but I missed it. Sorry.

    ReplyReply
  59. 59
    Bonnie says:

    Here is a political ad that needs to put Trump in it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDTBnsqxZ3k

    ReplyReply
  60. 60
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Scott: It is a good idea generally to look at troop and equipment movements to judge Trump’s tweets and rumors. So far no movements on the Korean peninsula.

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  61. 61
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Sloane Ranger: The President has to identify himself to the top command. That can be done through football and biscuit, or he can go to the War Room in person. I think the idea of the War Room got stuck because the quote from “Dr. Strangelove” is so irresistable.

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  62. 62
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Christopher Hades:
    Out of curiosity, I did a brief look for any detailed arguments for US war with North Korea.
    Not even close to an expert in this area so please forgive (and correct) any flawed arguments or incorrect vocabulary. Also, apologies if these are duplicate links.
    The closest I could find was North Korea: The Case for War, Crispin Rovere
    July 11, 2017 (also http://nationalinterest.org/bl.....orea-21500 )
    It’s horseshit, at least as presented (maybe Crispin has a much longer fully unfolded version); it’s two very (probabilistically) narrow illustrative slices (or threads, if you prefer) through a huge and uncertain scenario graph, “War Now” and “War Later”, roughly, presented by implication as representing most of the scenario graph. e.g. KJu could be assassinated, domestically or by an outside entity (long possible list, including China, SK) – consequences? Also it discounts KJu’s survival instincts, made starkly obvious by regular execution of opponents by anti-aircraft cannons. And the bad consequences are not nearly fleshed-out enough. I could go on at length, particularly if prodded, and Cheryl and many others could do it better.

    Crispin Rovere is a member of the Australian Labor Party and previous convenor of the ACT ALP International Affairs Policy Committee.

    So probably not as concerned about the fate of the US as people in the US. I suppose that’s technically a mild ad-hominen attack (sorry!); his affiliations are quite clearly documented in the article FWIW.

    Here’s another similar one, Nuke North Korea now: It’s the only option Kevin R. James | Aug 21, 2017, Washington Examiner, again by a non-US person advocating for the US to do a nuclear first strike, FWIW.
    Similarly extremely weak arguments; presuming some on Trump’s staff have seen it because it’s local. It argues that deterrence is too risky, but e.g. presuming that the NKs have not built (and/or will not build) a survivable retaliatory mechanism is just silly, so the pressure to counterattack early (or just attack first) is very probably much lower than postulated. And most consequences are ignored, notably including the (very(very(very(very)))) bad long tails which involve multiple possibilities of resulting civilization-ending nuclear exchanges by major nuclear powers resulting in human gigadeaths (majority starvation).

    Has anyone seen anything else of this nature?

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  63. 63
    J R in WV says:

    @Mike in DC:

    But i wonder how many warheads are actually carried by the 7th.

    More than enough!

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  64. 64
    Jay Noble says:

    “The American system no longer has room for such argument, and those in the system have been selected for their willingness to carry out the nuclear order.”

    So how accurate was this scene?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReJ3RltihME” rel=”nofollow”

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  65. 65
    J R in WV says:

    @debbie:

    Do we know whether Trump’s wanting a ten-fold increase in the nuclear stockpile was ever verified? I’ve heard nothing definitive.

    Since it’s impossible in less than 8 years, it doesn’t matter what Trump asked for.

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  66. 66
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Bill Arnold: If it’s just a nuclear war between NK and the US, most of the American cities destroyed will probably be in blue states, which ought to tip the electoral balance in nice ways for them.

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  67. 67
    Ptocopius says:

    @Mike in DC: There’s a really lovely map of global winds at https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-240.48,25.79,396
    I looks like the winds pass from west to east over the northern part of the Korean peninsula and then turn north over Manchuria and Siberia. There are also winds heading south that seem to travel over the east coast of China, a very densely populated region.

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  68. 68
    wjs says:

    @Bill Arnold: But we’re seeing a lot of legitimately worried sane Republicans too.

    Fuck them. They stand around and do nothing while everything burns, drowns, and dies. Fuck. Them.

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  69. 69
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Jay Noble: Of course, I don’t know those details. That was the 1980s, and both technology and personnel selection have changed since then.

    I like to hope that someone in the launch chain would have second thoughts about burning the world, but who knows.

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