It's Crazy the President Can Launch Nukes on His Own

Op-ed argues that Congress should amend the War Powers Act
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2017 12:40 PM CDT
We Need to Curb President's Power to Launch Nuclear War
A mushroom cloud from a US nuclear test conducted decades ago.   (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory via AP)

The saber rattling currently taking place between the White House and North Korea makes clear that it's time for Congress to close a dangerous loophole, write two op-ed writers in the New York Times. They think it's outrageous that one person—the president—has the authority to launch a nuclear strike and set off a potentially catastrophic war. Therefore, Congress should amend the War Powers Act to specifically cover preemptive nuclear strikes, write Jeffrey Bader and Jonathan Pollack. For example, the revised rule could require that a small group of people—perhaps the president, the vice president, the defense secretary, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—agree unanimously before things go nuclear.

"This would ensure that the president could not simply provide the codes to his military aide carrying the nuclear 'football' and launch such an attack on his own authority," they write. A similar system is in place in the actual silos where a missile would be launched: A pair of officers must simultaneously activate the launch under a "two-key" principle that guards against rogue actors. Given the stakes involved, it makes sense to apply the principle higher up the chain, note Bader and Pollack: "We should put in place a system of constraints to ensure that a preventive or pre-emptive nuclear strike by the United States must be evaluated through a careful, deliberative process." (Click to read the full piece.)

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