Senate Foreign Relations Committee To Discuss US Nuclear Arsenal Procedures

Anti-nuclear war protesters sit in a hearing of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee about presidential authority to use nuclear weapons on Capitol Hill in Washington

Anti-nuclear war protesters sit in a hearing of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee about presidential authority to use nuclear weapons on Capitol Hill in Washington

Retired Gen Robert Kehler, commander of US Strategic Command (StratCom) from 2011 to 2013, told the Senate committee that he would have refused to have carried out a nuclear first strike on presidential orders, if he believed it did not meet the requirements of proportionality and necessity under the law of armed conflict. That's because speed is seen as essential in a crisis with a nuclear peer like Russia.

Much of the Senate committee hearing was taken up by discussion of what constituted an imminent threat and who could make that determination.

"We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear-weapons strike that is wildly out of step with US national security interests", Murphy explained.

Another senator on the panel has drafted legislation proposing to curb the president's power to launch a nuclear attack.

Democratic Senators argued that Trump's decision, without any further approval in the checks and balances system, could be catastrophic.

"I would have said: I'm not ready to proceed", Kehler said.

"I don't think that the assurances that I've received today will be satisfying to the American people", Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey said. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker will hold a hearing Tuesday on the authority of the President to maintain sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.

The military continues to argue that with the advent of precision weapons such as cruise missiles and heavy bombers, there is less reason to use nuclear weapons.

"The answer would be: Yes", Adm. Scott Swift said, responding to a hypothetical question at a security conference at the Australian National University, according to ABC News.

Kehler said that an order to launch nuclear weapons has to meet the same legal threshold as any other military order, meaning it has to be proportional, necessary and distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Corker says numerous lawmakers have raised questions about legislative and presidential war-making authorities and the use of America's nuclear arsenal. Military officers are duty-bound to execute the order.

And that, said Sen. "But in this scenario that you're painting, I would also argue that there's time for that".

"It wouldn't be the president alone persuading a single military officer alone on the other side of the telephone", he said.

"Particularly ... people that are isolated from the world, don't get a lot of information, and have never had anyone tell them they're wrong or no", said Florida's Marco Rubio (R). And days after calling on Kim to enter peaceful negotiations, he spoke before South Korea's parliament and listed a litany of alleged human rights abuses against the North Korean leader, calling him a "deranged tyrant" presiding over a "cult".

"I would be very worried about a miscalculation based on continuing use of his Twitter account with regard to North Korea", Mr McKeon said.

The president would communicate his decision and transmit his authorization through a device called the nuclear football, a suitcase carried by a military aide.

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