Making the United States the Bully

Robert Bateman at Esquire recently managed a few minutes with John Noonan, an expert on American policy on the use of nuclear weapons. In this interview, Noonan relates why he believes Donald Trump cannot be trusted with the launch codes for America's nuclear arsenal.


I've been consistent in my opposition to handing over nuclear authenticators to a petty thug like Trump. Here's a guy who consistently ties up our judicial system with stupid lawsuits designed to punish or bully his enemies. He sued everyone from small businesses in Georgia to Native American tribes out West.

Imagine handing over the U.S. Armed Forces to a man who uses the legal system as a giant club to whack his enemies? Think of the damage he could do. And think of the young men and women who would have to decide which of his orders are legal and which are illegal. Trump doesn't just flunk the Commander-in-Chief test. He gets held back a year.

And, this:

The era of tens of thousands of missiles and bombs on alert went out with parachute pants and the Sugar Hill Gang. Nuclear forces are much smaller these days.

That said, a nuclear exchange between two major powers would reshape the world in a drastic and nightmarish way, take the lives of millions, and have catastrophic environmental effects that would last generations. So we're not playing with Lincoln Logs here either.

And yes, it's a hell of a responsibility. Consider this: The president gives an order. But a missileer, or a submarine or bomber crew, all have to choose whether or not to follow that order. In a sense, the decision to release nuclear weapons isn't the president's alone. It's shared by everyone in that chain of command. Don't get me wrong, I would have done my duty and I can damn near guarantee everyone on alert right now wouldn't blink either. But think of that as an added responsibility of the presidency: You aren't just ordering nuclear release—you are asking everyone in that chain of command to own it, too, and to live with it for the rest of their lives.

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