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The president shouldn’t have sole authority to trigger nuclear war

Two to Tango With Nuclear Weapons The president shouldn’t have sole authority to trigger nuclear war., US News, By Peter D. Zimmerman   April 26, 2017 Somewhere in the American southwest, not so very far from civilization, there is a fenced and guarded compound within another fenced and guarded compound in the distant reaches of a large military base……Beneath the fence is a vault where nuclear weapons wait ……

Under the prairies of Montana or the Dakotas underground bunkers are buried adjacent to a bomb-proof silo containing a Minuteman intercontinental missile…….
Somewhere under the ocean a missile submarine receives a message. The captain and his executive officer separately decode and authenticate it.
 It always requires two people, two separate actions, to launch, steal, sabotage or tinker with an atomic warhead. This is the inviolable two person rule intended to prevent misuse of a nuclear weapon. ……

But the system deliberately breaks down at the single point where failure would be catastrophic. Only one person need act in order to launch all American nuclear weapons. The president. There is no two-person rule for ordering a strike. Nobody except the president needs to agree; nobody in the chain from president to launch officer has authority to question the order. If the president orders a launch, the system executes it. The service members involved may have their doubts, but years of military training have conditioned them that even this order must be obeyed………

The United States vowed that never again would a potential enemy be able to launch a surprise attack to which this country could not respond instantly and in kind.

This made sense during the height of the Cold War when the United States, terrified by the prospect of a nuclear Pearl Harbor, sought to ensure that a counter strike could not be thwarted by a clumsy decision-making process that would require more time than the country expected to have………

At least twice the Soviet Union and the United States have come very close to launching nuclear weapons based on the warnings provided by radar and satellite systems. A Soviet officer did not pass a notification of a rocket launch to the Kremlin at a time he knew that tensions between the powers were minimal. A good thing; it was not a nuclear missile but a small scientific rocket launched from a Norwegian island and carrying an innocent payload. The Soviets had been notified in advance of the launch, but somehow the message was lost.

 Bad weather has sometimes fooled American defenses into thinking that a flight of geese was actually a nuclear missile, and only good judgment stopped the alert in its tracks. But human intervention is only legal going up the chain to the president. It’s ruled out if the president sends down a message ordering a launch, even if he or she is mistaken.

Nor is there any way at all to stop a drunk president, an angered and offended president, an insane one, or merely a bored and curious one from simply ordering the opening of the football and the launch of one or more nuclear weapons………

the president and the Congress must work together now, ignoring partisanship, to prevent an accidental, or even an intentional nuclear holocaust. It is time to extend the two person rule to the top of the pyramid, so that not even the president can start a nuclear war alone.

Peter D. Zimmerman CONTRIBUTOR

Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, was chief scientific adviser of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Bureau of Arms Control at the State Department. He also served as chief scientist of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is professor emeritus of science and security in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London and lives in Northern Virginia. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2017-04-26/the-president-shouldnt-have-sole-authority-ove

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April 29, 2017 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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