While there may be fears about Donald Trump leading the United States into nuclear war, at least one important person is standing in the way.
In an interview on Saturday, the top nuclear official in the United States said he was prepared to refuse any illegal nuclear strike order from Donald Trump. Air Force General John Hyten, who serves as the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said that he has already considered what would happen if the president were to ask for a nuclear strike that would be against international law.
“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ ” Hyten said (via CBS News).
“And we’ll come [with] up options, with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”
Hyten added that the idea of Donald Trump — or any other president — ordering a nuclear strike has already been considered.
“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Hyten said. “We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”
There has been some worry about Donald Trump using America’s overwhelming nuclear weapon arsenal as a solution for the escalating situation in North Korea. Trump previously promised “fire and fury” in response to North Korea, a cryptic remarks that many believe referenced the potential of nuclear war.
Trump has also escalated a number of other conflicts, getting into spats with enemies and allies alike.
This week, Senators held a hearing on the president’s authority to call a nuclear strike, which Vox noted was the first time in more than four decades that the issue was directly addressed by Congress. At the time, many expressed concern that Donald Trump’s dangerous rhetoric and unpredictability could lead to nuclear war. Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said Trump’s recklessness may have the United States on the “path to World War III.”
There are also reports that a key NATO ally has sought assurances that Trump would not carry out a nuclear strike.
A key NATO ally sought assurances Trump could not launch a rash nuclear strike, CNN has learned. Lawmakers looking to limit his authority. https://t.co/XSofWkywkh— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 14, 2017
Peter Feaver, a former special adviser on the National Security Council and expert on nuclear strikes, told Vox that Trump would not be able to carry out a nuclear strike on his own, but there would be little to stop him if that was his course of action.
“He requires other people to carry out an order, so he can’t just lean on a button and automatically the missiles fly,” Feaver said. “But he has the legal and political authority on his own to give an order that would cause other people to take steps which would result in a nuclear strike. That’s the system we currently have.”
But that goes only for a legal nuclear order. As the top officials already said, if Donald Trump issued what amounted to an illegal nuclear strike, it would not be followed through.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]