Sen. Bob Corker, who referred to the White House as “an adult day-care center” in a tweet critical of Donald Trump, will hold a hearing aimed at reining in the American ‘president’s’ authority to launch a nuclear war.
Scheduled for next Tuesday, witnesses at the hearing will include Brian McKeon, an Obama Acting Under Secretary for Policy at the Department of Defense critical of Trump’s approach to North Korea; retired Gen. Robert Kehler, formerly of the U.S. Strategic Command; and Peter Feaver, a former director for Defense Policy and Arms Control under George W. Bush who says that Trump’s temperament could lead to apocalypse.
As he announced the hearing, Corker made it clear that he is not the only senator worried about the potential for a global thermonuclear disaster brought on by Trump.
“A number of members both on and off our committee have raised questions about the authorities of the legislative and executive branches with respect to war making, the use of nuclear weapons, and conducting foreign policy overall,” Corker said in a statement Wednesday.
“This continues a series of hearings to examine those issues and will be the first time since 1976 that this committee or our House counterparts have looked specifically at the authority and process for using U.S. nuclear weapons. This discussion is long overdue, and we look forward to examining this critical issue,” Corker said.
The key words there are “authority and process.” America’s nuclear command infrastructure is a product (some say a relic) of the Cold War, when strategic planning required the ability to respond to a sudden, “bolt from the blue” attack by the Soviet Union. With the flight time of an intercontinental ballistic missile being just 30 minutes long — even shorter for missiles launched from submarines off America’s coasts — there was no time to convene Congress and request a declaration of war.
With the end of the Cold War and a decline in strategic tensions, nuclear “posture” was altered but the systems by which a president commands the nuclear force did not change. There have been technological updates, but the “nuclear football” has been close at hand at all times for every president since Dwight Eisenhower.
As a result, Trump is set up to order a nuclear strike at any time, for any reason, without any check on his impulses. To make matters worse, Trump has put the Air Force on 24-hour alert again, pressed for a larger arsenal, and ordered the design of smaller bombs that will tend to make their use seem more permissible.
Democratic donor Tom Steyer has made waves by calling for the impeachment of Trump, arguing that “He’s brought us to the brink of nuclear war” in a nationwide TV commercial. Sen. Corker and many of his colleagues clearly share that concern, and now they’re ready to talk about it.
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