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Too much power to USA president, to control nuclear war strategy: what if he is ill?

Why The President Is The Weakest Link In U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Forbes, Loren Thompson  7 Oct 20 President Trump’s hospitalization after testing positive for Covid-19 is one of many instances in which the performance of the nation’s chief executive has been impaired by medical issues.

Eisenhower had a massive heart attack in 1955. His successor, John F. Kennedy, was afflicted by Addison’s disease and various other maladies that required heavy use of painkillers. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, was hospitalized during the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968.

Other presidents have seen their performance compromised by psychological issues.

Richard Nixon became clinically depressed during the Watergate controversy and took to drinking heavily. Ronald Reagan may have exhibited early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease during the closing years of his presidency.

Such frailties have long been a part of the human condition, but the advent of nuclear weapons raised alarming possibilities about where presidential disability might lead. You see, the president has unilateral authority to launch nuclear weapons, and that power is one of the few places in the federal system where no checks and balances exist.

Numerous articles were written during the 2016 presidential campaign about the prospect that nuclear launch authority might be conferred upon Donald Trump. The nation’s foremost expert on nuclear command and control, Bruce Blair, wrote a lengthy essay for Politico warning that Trump would enjoy “absolute control” over use of the nuclear arsenal, and that military personnel in the chain of command would have no legal authority to resist his orders.

So when CNN reported Tuesday that one of the military aides charged with carrying the president’s nuclear authentication and launch codes had tested positive for Covid-19, it should have been a reminder that a president always has awesome military power at his fingertips, waiting to be exercised on short notice.
…………..  unlike everybody else in the nuclear system, the president would have unfettered, unilateral authority to act. All the other actors in the system need a second person to cooperate in arming and launching nuclear weapons.
But not the president. As Wikipedia puts it, “The president has unilateral authority as commander-in-chief to order that nuclear weapons be used for any reason at any time.”
And once a presidential order is issued, everybody else in the chain of command is trained to execute that order. To quote longtime Pentagon nuclear specialist Frank Miller, “There’s no veto once the president has ordered a strike.”

Thus, the prosect that a president might be physically or mentally impaired is alarming………

Mr. Trump’s recent hospitalization highlights some of the things that might go wrong. A report released this week by the Northwestern Medicine healthcare system found that a third of the patients hospitalized for Covid-19 in the system’s Chicago-area facilities developed altered mental states, including confusion and delirium.

In addition, President Trump’s doctors administered a heavy regimen of drugs aimed at mitigating the health consequences of his infection. Unfortunately, one of those drugs was a steroid, and steroids are known to cause psychological symptoms in some patients such as anxiety, agitation and mood swings.

When you consider the awesome nuclear authorities vested in the president, it is unsettling to contemplate how impaired judgment or medical disability might impact decision-making in a crisis………

October 8, 2020 - Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war

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