Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Just in case you're still not convinced...

... that Donald Trump must not win this election, you should read this LA Times op-ed by a Minuteman III nuclear launch officer (who also happens to be a Republican):
[C]onsider Trump’s words in a town hall event during the primaries: “Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” Or the words of Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, who also asked the unaskable on Fox News: “What good does it do to have a nuclear triad if you’re afraid to use it?”
Having spent five years of my life as a Minuteman III launch officer, and a year as an instructor teaching young officers how to run that weapon system, I’m equipped to answer the Trump campaign’s question. The very point of nuclear weapons is that they are never used. We have them to dissuade hostile powers from attacking us, and vice versa. 
Deterrence, as this policy is known, has been the backbone of U.S. national security for decades. That a candidate for the highest office in the land needs this explained to him, not once but thrice, should give every voter pause.
During my years in the Air Force, I worked over 300 nuclear “alerts”—24-hour shifts 100 feet below the Wyoming tundra. I sat at my post believing, through both the Bush and Obama administrations, that the president was fundamentally rational and would never ask me to do my terrible duty. Not unless the country was in the direst of national emergencies. 
With Trump as president, the young men and women who are assigned to our nuclear forces will have no such assurances.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

You think Trump starting a nuclear war is unthinkable? Think again.

I was writing up a response to comments on my last post about The Donald and the clear and present danger he presents to the security of the U.S. and the world.  It got so long that I found myself writing, "I should just write a whole post about this," so here it is.

The general tenor of the comments I was responding to was: Yes, in theory the president has the power to launch nukes, but in practice cooler heads would prevail.  Somewhere in the chain of command, someone would realize that Trump had run off the rails and refuse to relay the order or turn the key.

Some select quotes from Steven Lefevre:
[a soldier refusing a nuclear launch order] would prevent a nuclear first strike.  And in the meantime, a response could be organized. Congress could convene an emergency session and rescind the War Powers act. They could impeach the president. They could immediately defund the military chain of command... I have trouble believing that all US military personnel, esp. those literally with their fingers on the button, are just going to blindly follow nuclear strike orders.
and Peter Donis:
Me: Anyone who refused the order would be arrested and court-martialed and replaced with someone else. 
Peter: On whose orders? The President's?  The same President whose SecDef just refused to confirm a nuclear launch order?
These arguments miss this crucial point: the danger is not that Trump would wake up on an otherwise uneventful day and say, "You know, what Kim Jong Il said about my hands really pisses me off, let's nuke Pyongang."  The nightmare scenario goes more like this:  Kim Jong Il says something about Trump's hands. Trump responds by insulting Kim. Kim responds by mobilizing the DPRK army. This alarms the Chinese, who respond by imposing a naval blockade at the Malacca straight and the South China Sea. In the midst of escalating tensions there is sudden news of an explosion in Seattle. Trump goes on TV and announces that the U.S. has been attacked by North Korea. It was a nuclear warhead, but fortunately it failed and only the conventional explosive detonated. Is it true? Who the hell knows.  No independent confirmation is available, but President Trump is on TV saying, "Believe me folks, it was a nuke, and it was the North Koreans."  In retaliation, Trump has just issued orders to counterstrike by nuking Pyongyang and all of North Korea's known nuclear sites because, "We can't just sit around like pussies waiting for another attack hoping the next one will also be a dud too."  Secretary of Defense Chris Christie concurs with the order.

Under those circumstances, do you really expect a member of the military to refuse a launch order?  Or, if they do, for that refusal to stand for more then thirty seconds?

What about the other possibilities?  Yes, Congress could convene an emergency session and rescind the War Powers act.  The problem is that rescission would not become law until the president signed it, which, under the circumstances, would be unlikely.  A pocket veto cannot be overridden by Congress, and least not for two weeks.  By then it's way too late.

The only thing Congress could do immediately without Trump's approval would be to remove him from office through the impeachment process.  But the problem is that in order to stop Trump from launching nukes they'd have to do it not in a matter of days or even hours, but minutes.  That might be theoretically possible, but I sure wouldn't want to bet the planet on those odds.

The danger that Trump poses is not that he'll suddenly go crazy with no warning.  Quite the contrary, he's given us ample warning.  The reason Trump is dangerous is that he gradually, deliberately, and -- what is most distressing -- effectively moves the needle towards crazy.  A year ago it was unthinkable that a presidential candidate who had actively avoided the draft could get away with saying that someone who volunteered to serve in Viet Nam was not a war hero because he was captured and held as a POW.  It was unthinkable that a presidential candidate could casually lob around phrases like "Bomb the shit out of 'em" and survive politically. It was unthinkable that a U.S. presidential candidate could actively condone violence against peaceful protesters and "opening up libel laws" in order to silence the press.  Thanks to Donald Trump, none of these things are unthinkable any more.  They are part of our reality.  In the span of one year Donald Trump has made us forget a big chunk of what sanity and civil society even look like.

There is a long, long list of things that used to be unthinkable that Donald Trump has made normal (in just over one year too!).  Hence I take little comfort in the idea that he won't start a nuclear war because it would be unthinkable, that in some as-yet-to-be-determined way cooler heads would prevail in that case when they have failed to prevail up to that point.  Turning the unthinkable into reality is Donald Trump's stock in trade!  That is why he must be kept as far from the mechanisms of power as possible.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Yes, Trump could go rogue with nukes and no one could stop him

This is according to The New York Times:
The commander in chief can also order the first use of nuclear weapons even if the United States is not under nuclear attack.

“There’s no veto once the president has ordered a strike,” said Franklin C. Miller, a nuclear specialist who held White House and Defense Department posts for 31 years before leaving government service in 2005. “The president and only the president has the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.”
Some scholars (and Wikipedia entries) insist that a system of checks and balances puts the secretary of defense in the decision loop. But Bruce G. Blair, a research scholar at Princeton University who as an Air Force officer would have launched a nuclear missile if an order had come from the president, said that rule applied in the silos but not at the top of the command chain. 
“There’s nothing the secretary of defense can do,” Dr. Blair, who wrote a book on nuclear command and control, said in an interview. “He has no authority to refuse or disobey that order.”
And as long as we're consulting the Grey Lady, this piece by former CIA director Michael Morell is also worth noting:
During a 33-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, I served presidents of both parties — three Republicans and three Democrats. I was at President George W. Bush’s side when we were attacked on Sept. 11; as deputy director of the agency, I was with President Obama when we killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. 
I am neither a registered Democrat nor a registered Republican. In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties. As a government official, I have always been silent about my preference for president. 
No longer. On Nov. 8, I will vote for Hillary Clinton. Between now and then, I will do everything I can to ensure that she is elected as our 45th president. 
Two strongly held beliefs have brought me to this decision. First, Mrs. Clinton is highly qualified to be commander in chief. I trust she will deliver on the most important duty of a president — keeping our nation safe. Second, Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.  [Emphasis added.]
Worth reading the whole thing.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Trump campaign catastrophes continue

I'm running out of words to express the extent of my flabbergastiness.  The unbroken run of Trumpian train wrecks goes on for yet another day.  I've lost count, but I think that makes a full two weeks where not a single day has gone by without some breaking news that makes Trump look even more horrible than he already did (as if such a thing were even possible at this point!)  The bombshell du jour:   Melania Trump (almost certainly) worked in the U.S. illegally.  As the (third!) wife of a presidential candidate whose platform is built largely on vilifying (and promising to expel!) illegal immigrants, this is a big deal.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: the Trump Taj Mahal casino is folding.

Now hear this

Anyone who still feels sanguine about Trump's finger on the nuclear trigger needs to read what a former nuclear missile officer has to say about it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

OMG. what a day

Wow.  Just wow.

Donald Trump asked an advisor why the U.S. can't use nukes.  Three times.  (And the Washington Post has doubled down on its earlier reporting that the POTUS can launch nukes unilaterally.)

Trump refused to endorse Paul Ryan and John McCain (though his running mate, Mike Pence, apparently didn't get the memo) sending the GOP leadership into "a new level of panic."

The idea that Trump is actually mentally ill is getting a fair amount of traction.

And as if that weren't enough chaos for one day, a 777 crashed on landing in Dubai.  That this isn't even close to being the top story of the day gives you some idea of how utterly insane things have become.  Loki would be proud.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Trump is more dangerous than ISIS

If there was any doubt in your mind that Donald Trump must not be allowed to win the election, consider this:
“The president has almost 100 percent control over the launch of nuclear weapons in any circumstance and under any condition he so chooses,” [Macolm] Nance [a counterterrorism and intelligence consultant] told me in Philadelphia last week. “He needs to consult no one and can, if mad with power, personal vendetta or feeling national rage, launch an attack that the Constitution and his staffers cannot control.”
Part of Trump's appeal, according to those who still support him, is that he "tells it like it is."  He's not a politician.  He isn't shackled by the bonds of "political correctness."  And it's true: Trump's transparency is indeed a good thing because with him we know what we're getting: a petulant, vindictive, adolescent tyrant.  We don't have to wonder if he will increase the threat of nuclear armageddon: he has promised us that he will.

If Trump wins, there are only two possibilities: he will either have to walk back just about everything he ever said during the election, or he will destroy the U.S. and quite possibly start World War 3.  If the latter happens, it will not be Trump's fault.  He was straight with us.  If Trump wins and continues to behave in the way that he consistently has during this entire campaign, that will not be on him, it will be on everyone who voted for him, and everyone who supported him.  It will be on everyone who endorsed him.  It will be on you, John McCain and Paul Ryan and Chris Christie.  And if you vote for Trump this November, it will be on you.

Your grandchildren will not forgive you.