Sunday, November 19, 2017

Control Over US Nuclear Strikes and the Drums of War

Yesterday I observed that Yahoo and Newsweek were beating the drums of war in their mis-representation of the results of a Japanese public opinion poll concerning North Korea (see )

Today I read in the Asahi Shimbun that "the top officer at US Strategic Command" says that an order from the President to launch a nuclear weapon can be refused if the order is determined to be illegal:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (2017, Nov 19). US general says nuclear launch order can be refused. The Asahi Shimbun,

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia--The top officer at U.S. Strategic Command says an order from President Donald Trump or any of his successors to launch nuclear weapons can be refused if that order is determined to be illegal.  Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of Strategic Command, told a panel at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday that he and Trump have had conversations about such a scenario and that he would tell Trump he couldn't carry out an illegal strike.  In the event that Trump decided to launch a nuclear attack, Hyten would provide him with strike options that are legal. The command would control nuclear forces in a war.
The same story can be found in the US press (see NBC here). I am RELIEVED to see emphasis on the checks-and-balance system that helps mitigate against deployment of nuclear weapons.

This checks-and-balance system is encoded in the Us Uniform Code of Military Justice:
Lawrence Mosqueda (2003, February 27). A Duty to Disobey All Unlawful Orders Counterpunch. Available
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) 809.ART.90 (20), makes it clear that military personnel need to obey the “lawful command of his superior officer,” 891.ART.91 (2), the “lawful order of a warrant officer”, 892.ART.92 (1) the “lawful general order”, 892.ART.92 (2) “lawful order”. In each case, military personnel have an obligation and a duty to only obey Lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to disobey Unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ. The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S. Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ.
The US repressive apparatus is legally limited by the US Constitution.  Of course, constitutional interpretation is notoriously ambiguous and polyvalent, but at least there is another institutional authority (e.g., Supreme Court) beyond the whims of an individual or a single office tasked with deciding the fate of humanity. At least....

What I find strange is that a top officer at U.S. Strategic Command would be reminding the world publicly that he stands between the President and nuclear war.

So, I'm wondering what is going on behind the scenes? Are allies concerned that the US will go Dr. Stangelove and launch a nuclear assault against North Korea? Concern about such a trajectory has been expressed in the media:
Justin McCurry & Tom Phillips (2017, September 5). North Korea Nuclear Crisis: Putin Warns of Planetary Catastrophe The Guardian
But it doesn't make sense that the US Strategic Command's message is targeted for international authorities because there are plenty of back-channels this message could have traversed to re-assure key allies. This message is not for political elites. It is is a message for the public.

So, the public is both being exhorted toward the inevitability of war against North Korea (as I demonstrated in my post yesterday), and reassured that nuclear war is not an inevitability.

Perhaps this is all part of a campaign to elicit public support for a non-nuclear but still catastrophic first strike against North Korea?


1 comment:

  1. Our government does not seem very rational Majia. They do nothing about Fukushima. They do nothing, as Japan continues to start possibly damaged reactors, in Japan. Reactors in high risk earthquake zones. There are many Americans, and many American service people in Japan.
    Our government did nothing to shutdown coastal reactors, at risk during hurricanes.
    The South Korean Government, is taking steps, to phase out its 23, some odd reactors in S Korea.
    The Russians and Chinese, do not like the new American rocket-radar systems in S Korea, that can spy on them.
    It almost seems, like Japanese leaders, are saying they have nothing to lose. Nothing to lose if the US attacks N Korea. Pretty irrational.
    Many Korean people want N Korea and S Korea, to at least open their borders more. Many Koreans on both sides dream of Korea someday reuniting.
    Things always start boiling in Korea, when a new hard-lined regime comes to power in America. They did under Reagan, and Bush 2.
    This time there is a less-stable president in power.
    The outcome for a war there, does not bode well.


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