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We should require a second voice when it comes to ordering first use of nuclear arms

A Nuclear Strike Should Require More than One Person’s Order.   We should require a second voice when it comes to ordering first use of nuclear arms. Defense One,        BY STEVEN PIFER    FELLOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, NOVEMBER 12, 2020.    Donald Trump has proven to be volatile, erratic, vengeful and prone to angry outbursts. Last week, as the vote count pushed his reelection bid out of sight, he reportedly fell into a dark mood. At the time, Mr. Trump had—and now has—sole authority to order the launch of U.S. nuclear weapons, just as he had in October, when his medications for COVID had side effects including mania, euphoria and a sense of invulnerability.

Do we want Mr. Trump, or any president, alone making the most consequential decision that an American president likely would ever make?
As a Foreign Service officer working on arms control, I had the opportunity to get close to nuclear weapons on three occasions. One involved viewing, through a thick, shatter-proof window, two technicians working on a warhead for a Trident ballistic missile. Our escort noted that, should one leave the room, the other would also have to leave. A “two-man” rule applied around nuclear weapons.

Another time, on a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, our group saw a nuclear-armed cruise missile in its canister with an attached cable. Ship’s officers explained that, if the canister moved slightly, alarms would sound and other sailors would quickly arrive, some with weapons. A “two- (or more) man” rule applied.

The third time, on board an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine at sea, I was offered the chance to climb into a Trident missile (yes, that is possible, and yes, I did). When the hatch to the missile was open, standard protocol provided for the presence of two armed sailors. Again, the “two-man” rule.

As a Foreign Service officer working on arms control, I had the opportunity to get close to nuclear weapons on three occasions. One involved viewing, through a thick, shatter-proof window, two technicians working on a warhead for a Trident ballistic missile. Our escort noted that, should one leave the room, the other would also have to leave. A “two-man” rule applied around nuclear weapons.

Another time, on a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, our group saw a nuclear-armed cruise missile in its canister with an attached cable. Ship’s officers explained that, if the canister moved slightly, alarms would sound and other sailors would quickly arrive, some with weapons. A “two- (or more) man” rule applied.

The third time, on board an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine at sea, I was offered the chance to climb into a Trident missile (yes, that is possible, and yes, I did). When the hatch to the missile was open, standard protocol provided for the presence of two armed sailors. Again, the “two-man” rule.

At only one level does the “two-man” rule not apply: the president, as commander-in-chief, has sole authority to order the use of U.S. nuclear arms. There is not even a requirement that the president consult someone. The always nearby “football” carries the briefing materials, codes and communications allowing the president to launch nuclear weapons. Were the president give the order, the system would rapidly transmit it. Intercontinental ballistic missiles could blast out of their silos within minutes.

If nuclear weapons are used first against America or its allies, it makes sense to allow the president sole authority to order a nuclear response. However, current U.S. policy envisages the possibility that the United States would use nuclear weapons first, perhaps in a conventional conflict that goes badly or in response to a non-nuclear strategic attack. (Whether U.S. first use makes sense is a separate question.)

When President-elect Biden takes office, we can breathe easier. Nothing guarantees, however, that a future president might not have something more like Mr. Trump’s temperament—and he reportedly is mulling a 2024 run.

We should require a second voice when it comes to ordering first use of nuclear arms………..  https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2020/11/nuclear-strike-should-require-more-one-persons-orders/170004/

November 16, 2020 - Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war

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