Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

For first time in 40 years, Congress debates U.S. president's nuclear power

Kim Jong-un in North Korea GettyNorth Korea's leader Kim Jong-un
Melinda Barton | 15 November, 2017, 02:06

"It should be the congressional prerogative to declare nuclear war", added Markey, who has written a bill to ban the president from being able to launch a first nuclear strike against North Korea without the authorization of Congress.

In August, Mr Trump vowed to unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" on North Korea if it continued to expand its atomic weapons programme.

In the event of an ongoing or imminent nuclear attack, senators and expert witnesses agreed that the president had full authority to defend the nation in accordance with the US Constitution. The order then travels down a chain of military command.

Raising concerns about the retaliatory strikes and other impacts that could come from a nuclear first strike, the Democrat argued that the power to launch such an attack should not rest in the hands of one person.

Markey, from MA, started his time by saying that nuclear weapons are "for deterrence not war fighting", and that "absent a nuclear attack upon the United States or our allies, no one human being should have the power to unilaterally unleash the most destructive forces ever devised by human kind".

Peter Feaver, a politics professor at Duke University and a specialist on presidential war powers, said: "I would say distinguish between scenarios where the military wake up the president versus scenarios where the presidents wake up the military". Many in Congress believe there should be a mechanism for the president to get their approval before launching.

Trump's shifting posture on how to address nuclear threats has made lawmakers in both parties uneasy, particularly as the crisis over North Korea's ambitions escalates.

Throughout the panel, both the experts and senators distinguished between a preemptive strike by the USA and a reactive strike to the United States being attacked.

"Once that order is given and verified, there is no way to revoke it", said the committee's chairman, Senator Bob Corker, who described the hearing as the first since 1976 to focus on presidential authority over nuclear weapons.

"Making the decision to go to war of any sort is a heavy responsibility for our nation's elected leaders", Corker said. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said at the hearing Tuesday. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from CT.

"We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile; has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear-weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests", Democrat Chris Murphy told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "So let's just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment".

Retired Gen. Robert Kehler, who previously headed the U.S.'s command that would be in charge of the nuclear arsenal during a war, said while the us military is obligated to follow legal orders, it is not duty bound to adhere to illegal ones. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., to write Iran-related legislation that could pass with bipartisan support. "If there is an illegal order presented to the military, the military is obligated to refuse to follow it". Murphy asserted that the reason for the hearing was to discuss what would happen if Trump chose to use nuclear weapons.

"The president would not make this decision by himself", said Brian McKeon, a former acting undersecretary for policy with the Department of Defense. "Even General Kelly, the president's chief of staff, can't control the president's Twitter tantrums". "I don't think the assurances I've received today will be satisfying to the American people". "They'd be asking questions that would slow down that process".

"It boggles the mind that there is not at least one Constitutional office holder that has to be consulted before a nuclear strike is ordered", he said.