Senate to explore president's unchecked nuclear authority

The Senate is to debate the powers the US President has over a nuclear strike
GettyThe US Senate is debating the nuclear powers of the US President

15 Noviembre, 2017

Kehler was testifying alongside other former officials at the first House or Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the nuclear command and control structure since 1976.

Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, referenced Trump's claims on previous occasions that he would come after Pyongyang with 'fire and fury' and he would have 'no choice but to totally destroy North Korea' if Kim continues to threaten the United States.

A diplomatic source from that country said they were more comfortable following a briefing on the subject.

As then-Vice President Dick Cheney explained in December 2008, the president "could launch a kind of devastating attack the world's never seen".

When it comes to the use of nuclear weapons, it is not just some academic question, but one with potential real life or death consequences, with Russia, the United States and North Korea. "It's going to be a very robust period of time".

Since he left for Asia, Trump has warned more than once of his willingness to unleash the 'full range' of the United States' 'unmatched military capabilities' on North Korea if the homeland or any of the nation's allies are threatened.

"We are concerned that the president 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 US national-security interests", said Senator Murphy, explaining the reason for the public hearing. "And they would be asking the questions that would slow down that process".

"The system is designed entirely for speed, not deliberation", said Stephen Young, a senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

US President Donald Trump in Washington
EPAThe Senate is due to look at the powers the US President has for issuing a nuclear strike

At an Oct. 30 Senate Foreign Relations panel hearing, lawmakers pressed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about policies for using nuclear weapons.

The Democrat who represents Maryland said today's security challenges require the Senate to revisit the United States' posture that the commander in chief should have the 'sole and unchecked authority' to authorize the use of nuclear force.

'Now, many interpret that to mean that the President is actively considering the use of nuclear weapons in order to deal with the threat of North Korea.

"Fortunately. these are all hypothetical scenarios". Kehler, who served as the head of Strategic Command from January 2011 to November 2013, said the legal principles of military necessity, distinction and proportionality also apply to decisions about nuclear weapons use. "This discussion is long overdue, and we look forward to examining this critical issue".

Mr Kehler admitted: "I don't know".

A central question surrounding the potential of a nuclear launch is whether it would cause undue widespread human suffering when there are other, less dramatic military options. "That's a very thin reed on which to have the fate of the planet being dependent". "There would be a large group of advisers and legal advisers weighing in on this". On Nov. 11, he said it was "certainly a possibility" that he could become friends with Kim Jong Un, hours after insulting the North Korean leader on Twitter.

Kehler said, 'The decision authority relies with the president, however'.

The administration is trying to soothe concerns by arguing the existing launch process that presidents have operated under for decades has sufficient checks in place that would discourage Trump from taking imprudent action.

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