Saturday, September 23, 2017

Can Anyone Stop Trump If He Decides to Start a Nuclear War?

Bunner Tony,

image (not from article) from
The larger North Korea problem — and much of the present crisis — is not President Trump’s fault. It is not Trump’s fault that Kim Jong Un is the murderous leader of a personality-cult state armed with nuclear weapons and a fast-developing missile program. It is not his fault that Kim menaces two allied nations — Japan and South Korea — and is in a position to kill millions of people in one of the world’s great metropolises with artillery only a few miles away. It is not Trump’s fault that Kim is now poised to be able to deliver nuclear weapons to American shores.
Indeed, any president would be facing the same crisis as Trump is today. It is the product of decades of policy since the Korean War that has failed to rein in the Kim dynasty. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both pursued a North Korea strategy focused on preventing the Hermit Kingdom from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Both failed. Presidents Bush and Barack Obama both subsequently pursued a policy toward the country focused on denuclearization. Both failed. No one has yet offered a good strategy for what to do now. It’s a cliché to say that there are no good options with respect to North Korea — but it’s really true.
One aspect of the current crisis, however, is entirely Trump’s own doing — namely, his incendiary rhetoric in fueling a situation that needs firm, clear signaling to be managed effectively. Trump’s talk of “fire and fury” — along with his more general bombastic verbal flailing — has raised questions in a lot of people’s minds about the current president’s fitness to oversee the U.S. nuclear arsenal. President Richard Nixon famously articulated the “madman theory,” the notion that creating uncertainty as to the rationality of the nuclear actor offers strategic advantages. As Garrett Graf wrote recently:
That unilateral launch authority is so powerful, so unchecked, and so scary that, years before Watergate, Nixon had turned it into its own geopolitical strategy, the so-called Madman Theory, with which he threatened the Soviets and the Vietnamese that he might actually be crazy enough to nuke Hanoi—or Moscow—if they didn’t accede to his demands. The “mutually assured destruction” of the Cold War was predicated on the idea that the leaders of both superpowers were rational enough to avoid a war that would end with the destruction of both nations. The Madman Theory forced the world to consider a more frightening option: That the man in charge of the nukes might not be rational at all. 
Trump himself has declared that he wants the United States to be less predictable. The trouble is that he has delivered on this convincingly not merely to the North Koreans but also to many of his own compatriots. Indeed, if you’re using public diplomacy and rhetoric as your means of communication, as Trump has been, it is probably not possible to convince only foreign adversaries that you’re on a hair trigger and might go off at any minute. The American public sees it all, too. And many people will respond nervously, as they have with Trump.
It’s possible, of course, that the entire spectacle was an act. But for present purposes let’s assume that it wasn’t and that the concerns about Trump’s fitness to command the nuclear arsenal are reasonable ones. What, if anything, can be done with this nervousness without denuding the presidency of the vital capacity to protect the country? The answer, rather scarily, is that probably not all that much can be done. ...

1 comment:

Brian said...

Not so. During the last days of Watergate before Nixon's resignation the Secretary of Defense quietly issued an order to all commands that no order from the White House was to be acted upon unless it came down the chain of command.