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  #51  
Old 11-20-2017, 01:51 PM
SamuelA SamuelA is offline
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Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
By this logic, if the President decided to order a nuclear attack on North Korea, he would probably have the benefit of doubt on his side... unless military leaders were convinced that North Korea was not doing anything at that moment that made them believe that North Korea was planning an imminent strike on the United States. Absent a reasonable belief on an imminent threat, carrying out an order to launch a nuclear attack on a country that is not related to self defense is quite simply carrying out an order to murder millions of people. But if the evidence was ambiguous as to whether North Korea was preparing for an attack on the United States, the President would probably get the benefit of the doubt.
So if North Korea releases propaganda videos showing them mounting what looks like an H-bomb onto a missile, and show's Kim Jong studying a map U.S. with red circles around Los Angelos, Guam, and San Diego, and satellite photos show the actual missile being assembled, is this enough?

Combined with an aformentioned tweet of Kim Jong making fun of Trump?

Because this is very, very, very close to what has actually happened.

To eliminate the threat, the U.S. would realistically have to unleash an ICBM volley or 2 by submarine, at point blank range basically to keep the missile flight times down. So absolutely no warning, with ICBMs targeted at every site suspected to have nuclear arms, at every government headquarters, at various major outposts along the DMZ.

Basically, the deaths of several million North Koreans in response to a possible (maybe 1%) chance of the deaths of a million+ Americans.

In the civilian world, if you're holding a 0.38 revolver and a SWAT team has surrounded you, where every officer has a helmet + body armor and is standing a good distance away, and you don't have the gun raised but are talking about it - the threat you pose is really pretty small. You'd have to get a very low probability shot directly into one of the officer's faces, and you're 100% sure to die if you do it. Yet we pretty much are ok with - even expect - the officers to turn you into chunky sausage in a hail of bullets if you don't put down the gun immediately.

Last edited by SamuelA; 11-20-2017 at 01:56 PM.
  #52  
Old 11-20-2017, 01:52 PM
Velocity Velocity is online now
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Without meaning to threadshit - surely, in most nuclear-launch scenarios (especially if launching against an enemy capable of sizable retaliation in kind, such as Russia) - whatever legal implications or consequences there may be, are utterly trivial compared to the nuclear launch itself?


It sounds akin to people debating over whether or not shooting down one of the hijacked 9/11 airliners en route to Washington, D.C. would have been legal or illegal. (Not the best analogy, but I can't come up with a better one - the idea being that the extreme stakes in the crisis situation would overrule legal considerations.)

Suppose Trump orders an illegal nuclear launch, and millions are killed, and Trump is jailed - isn't Trump being jailed utterly inconsequential? I can't imagine that "legal vs. illegal" will play any consideration whatsoever in the Situation Room - the only debate will be, "Is this nuke launch a wise idea or not?"

In that situation, if nuking is the wise thing to do, then who cares if it's legal or illegal - if it's NOT the wise thing to do, who cares if it is legal or illegal?

Last edited by Velocity; 11-20-2017 at 01:54 PM.
  #53  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:00 PM
SamuelA SamuelA is offline
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
Without meaning to threadshit - surely, in most nuclear-launch scenarios (especially if launching against an enemy capable of sizable retaliation in kind, such as Russia) - whatever legal implications or consequences there may be, are utterly trivial compared to the nuclear launch itself?


It sounds akin to people debating over whether or not shooting down one of the hijacked 9/11 airliners en route to Washington, D.C. would have been legal or illegal. (Not the best analogy, but I can't come up with a better one - the idea being that the extreme stakes in the crisis situation would overrule legal considerations.)

Suppose Trump orders an illegal nuclear launch, and millions are killed, and Trump is jailed - isn't Trump being jailed utterly inconsequential? I can't imagine that "legal vs. illegal" will play any consideration whatsoever in the Situation Room - the only debate will be, "Is this nuke launch a wise idea or not?"

In that situation, if nuking is the wise thing to do, then who cares if it's legal or illegal - if it's NOT the wise thing to do, who cares if it is legal or illegal?
Well following this reasoning, it is perfectly reasonable - even almost morally the only valid path - for everyone in that Situation room - the Sec Defense, all the secret service agents, everybody - to say "fuck our oaths, the real threat to America is right here". What if Trump is trying to call in a nuclear strike on Russia? He's literally calling for the certain death of half of every American man, woman, and child alive at this instant.

If you're a secret service agent, and you don't immediately execute the President if he does this, I'd say that you're a traitor to America in the absolute sense. (as in, some ephemeral "spirit of the law", not whatever the documents say)

Last edited by SamuelA; 11-20-2017 at 02:01 PM.
  #54  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:01 PM
manson1972 manson1972 is offline
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First of all, I completely agree with the minority of posters in this thread who have written things to the effect that the Commander of Strategic Command answered the question in the same way that every other military leader would have, or should have. According to a news report I listened to this morning, General Hyten was directly asked a question to the effect of, "Would you obey an illegal order to launch nuclear weapons?" (I was listening to the radio, so I'm not sure how the question was precisely phrased.) The answer, of course, is No
Of course he would say that. It is instilled in every military member to not obey an illegal order. Notice he did not, however, give an example of what form such an illegal order would take.
  #55  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:10 PM
Velocity Velocity is online now
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Well following this reasoning, it is perfectly reasonable - even almost morally the only valid path - for everyone in that Situation room - the Sec Defense, all the secret service agents, everybody - to say "fuck our oaths, the real threat to America is right here". What if Trump is trying to call in a nuclear strike on Russia? He's literally calling for the certain death of half of every American man, woman, and child alive at this instant.

If you're a secret service agent, and you don't immediately execute the President if he does this, I'd say that you're a traitor to America in the absolute sense. (as in, some ephemeral "spirit of the law", not whatever the documents say)
I don't think that Secret Service would have to shoot a president - merely Tasering or even just ignoring him would do - but yes, I do think that when the stakes are as high as nuclear warfare, it would be totally reasonable, expected, even, for people to say, "Fuck our oaths and job descriptions, we need to do what we decide is best."

What would be unreasonable would be to carry out orders leading to the deaths of many millions, in the name of "just doing one's job description." (If that nuke launch were, in fact, an unnecessary or bad idea.)
  #56  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:14 PM
manson1972 manson1972 is offline
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
What would be unreasonable would be to carry out orders leading to the deaths of many millions, in the name of "just doing one's job description." (If that nuke launch were, in fact, an unnecessary or bad idea.)
And this would have the effect of making our nuclear responses dependent on what a Secret Service agent thought was an unnecessary or bad idea.
  #57  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:18 PM
Velocity Velocity is online now
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And this would have the effect of making our nuclear responses dependent on what a Secret Service agent thought was an unnecessary or bad idea.
Maybe, but then again, if everyone down the chain of command always dutifully followed the nuke launch orders, then it would "have the effect of making our nuclear responses dependent on what a president thought was an unnecessary or bad idea." So it's still much the same problem; one person decides the fate of millions of lives.


At a certain point, when the stakes are high enough, the law, Constitution, and UCMJ simply become nothing more than mere pieces of paper - or, IMHO, ought to.

(Edited for clarification: I'm sure many people would not consider them to just be pieces of paper in that situation, but I think they ought to be seen as just that, mere documents whose power pale in comparison to millions getting killed in an ill-advised nuke war)

Last edited by Velocity; 11-20-2017 at 02:19 PM.
  #58  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:19 PM
manson1972 manson1972 is offline
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Maybe, but then again, if everyone down the chain of command always dutifully followed the nuke launch orders, then it would "have the effect of making our nuclear responses dependent on what a president thought was an unnecessary or bad idea." So it's still much the same problem; one person decides the fate of millions of lives
Yeah. The President. Not a random Secret Service guy.
  #59  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:36 PM
SamuelA SamuelA is offline
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Yeah. The President. Not a random Secret Service guy.
So you are that random secret service guy. You know for a fact, having seen the President's private actions, that your judgement dwarfs his. Still want to end the world on his say-so? Maybe just stand there at your post while he kills you, your whole extended family, everyone you ever knew, and turns the USA into a radioactive wasteland?
  #60  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:42 PM
manson1972 manson1972 is offline
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So you are that random secret service guy. You know for a fact, having seen the President's private actions, that your judgement dwarfs his. Still want to end the world on his say-so? Maybe just stand there at your post while he kills you, your whole extended family, everyone you ever knew, and turns the USA into a radioactive wasteland?
Not really. But if I see Russia invading Europe, and the President ALSO wanting to launch nuclear weapons in order to stop them, knowing that Russia will retaliate, do I similarly stop the President from authorizing nuclear weapons?

Any authorization of nuclear weapons makes it quite likely that my family will die in a nuclear blast. So, any Secret Service agent should stop any authorization of any nuclear weapons, right?

NK has leveled Seoul with a snuck in nuclear weapon. The President wants to launch nuclear weapons at NK. My family is sight-seeing in Pyongyang. Should I stop the President because I don't want my family to be vaporized?

If we didn't want the authorizer of nuclear weapons to be THIS President, then we should have done more to prevent his election.
  #61  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:49 PM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
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So if North Korea releases propaganda videos showing them mounting what looks like an H-bomb onto a missile, and show's Kim Jong studying a map U.S. with red circles around Los Angelos, Guam, and San Diego, and satellite photos show the actual missile being assembled, is this enough?

Combined with an aformentioned tweet of Kim Jong making fun of Trump?

Because this is very, very, very close to what has actually happened.
I have to divide the question into two responses:

1. As a thought exercise, if the only information available was a tweet and the pictures you mentioned, I would have a hard time personally concluding that those actions amounted to an imminent threat.

2. Injecting some reality into your question, in addition to what North Korea made publicly known, the US Government would very likely have access to intelligence gathered by satellites, signals intelligence, human sources, and similar means that would give policy makers a better judgment of how serious the threat was at that time. For example, it is not outside the realm of the possible that North Korean diplomats may make certain signals through back channels to message that they are simply planning a test, perhaps with indications to bolster confidence in that message. I have no clue at all whether this is happening or not, but if we are going to deal with reality -- "very, very close to what has actually happened" in your words, then you have to acknowledge that you may not have all of the story just because you read a tweet and saw some pictures of the North Korean war room.

And I must say that the premise of the question -- "is this enough?" -- is asking me for my opinion. There's no computer for military leaders, or members of the general public, to punch in a scenario and determine whether it meets certain legal criteria.

The more relevant question is whether that scenario is enough for Secretary Mattis and the chain of military command, and I confess I have no insight as to their opinions.

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Of course he would say that. It is instilled in every military member to not obey an illegal order. Notice he did not, however, give an example of what form such an illegal order would take.
You are correct. He was asked if he would obey an illegal order. He was not asked what an illegal order constitutes. I don't think it is particularly fair to criticize General Hyten for not, during a Q&A session at a policy conference, to settle all doubts on all aspects of a very difficult question.

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In that situation, if nuking is the wise thing to do, then who cares if it's legal or illegal - if it's NOT the wise thing to do, who cares if it is legal or illegal?
There's a lot of logic in this statement, but the military chain of command may also pause to consider whether by obeying an illegal order, they may end up spending the rest of their lives in prison, in addition to murdering millions of people for no reason.

I think it is very wise to have them consider their own personal stake in the answer to that question.
  #62  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:58 PM
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Yeah. Effective deterrence relies on an adversary being certain that retaliation will come forthwith. Not "after rounds of litigation, all the way up to the Supreme Court".

I recall reading in a book about SAC, how they drilled hard to remove seconds from the launch time. Just how fast a response is needed in nuclear war is not something many appreciate,
That point is well-taken; however, a commander who's involved in the nuclear launch sequence can be criminally liable for illegally launching missiles that kill millions of people. The whole point of the Nuremberg trials was to say that "I was just following orders" isn't enough to excuse abhorrent behavior.
  #63  
Old 11-20-2017, 02:59 PM
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So, does the SecDef have to confirm the order? Or can the SecDef only veto the order, or both?

What if the SecDef is dead?
It's on the wiki I linked too. He can confirm the order or veto it...not sure how he'd do both. I assume the succession for this is whoever is next in line wrt the secretaries. My WAG (no time to look stuff up atm) is it would be SecState, and if they are dead then the next all the way to Secretary of Agriculture, which I'd presume last on this tier of list.
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  #64  
Old 11-20-2017, 03:09 PM
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That point is well-taken; however, a commander who's involved in the nuclear launch sequence can be criminally liable for illegally launching missiles that kill millions of people. The whole point of the Nuremberg trials was to say that "I was just following orders" isn't enough to excuse abhorrent behavior.
Sure, and it's to be hoped that the folks who are in positions to check the president should he give an order that is illegal will do so. I'm fairly confident they would, in fact. To use the example of a previous poster, if Trump orders a nuclear attack on France, that's clearly an illegal order that shouldn't (and I'm confident wouldn't) be followed. However, an attack order against North Korea? I'm unsure that this would be seen as illegal. I guess it would depend on the circumstances. If Trump, wild-eyed from a night of binge-watching Fox and Friends and InfoWars came raving into the WH command post ordering an immediate attack on that little fat fuck in Pyongyang, it probably would be perceived as illegal and the SecDef would probably veto it. But if he did this during one of the numerous brinksmanship stunts by that same fat fuck? Say we get the word of another nuclear test, or another missile test flying towards Japan? I think that's a really gray area, and I think that it would fall within the powers of the president to order a nuclear strike and almost certainly it would be confirmed by the SecDef at that point.

Whether it will be followed down the chain of command I couldn't say. Probably though.
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  #65  
Old 11-20-2017, 06:58 PM
No Time For Fishing No Time For Fishing is offline
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So the most probable scenario I keep imagining is it's 4:30 am. Kim Jong Un Tweets a picture of himself holding his daughter's hands next to a life sized cutout of Trumps' hands. Trump tweets back that enough is enough, one more insult and he'll show North Korea the full "fire and fury" the United States is capable of. Kim Jong tweets back that Trump is all bluster and calls him a bad name.

Trump asks the marine standing outside his bedroom door for the bag. He digs around in his pants pockets in his laundry hamper and finds the credit card code card with his codes. There's a phone in the bag and a binder of strike options, he flips it open to North Korea's section and goes down the list of mega-tonnage options.

He then picks up that phone, calls Norad, and asks for the #2 special, delivered immediately. A multiple ICBM strike on Pyongyang and an ICBM allocated for every possible government command center Kim Jong is known to use.

So would this order be illegal or not? It's a request for the immediate incineration of several million civilians.
Your scenario is ludicrous, that President Trump would react so callously is ludicrous. Threats of full "fire and fury" were not necessarily a nuclear threat. Any military action resulting in the deaths of millions or even thousands of civilians that would not conform to current international standards and treaties would be illegal. Strategic Command is well aware of all imminent and active threats and well trained in US and International Law to understand a legal and lawful response.

It is beyond preposterous to claim or insinuate that President Trump is somehow less civil, less human, of less self control than previous President's that a heightened threat of such a gross inhuman illegal action exist. You are being ridiculous if you believe that to be the case.
  #66  
Old 11-20-2017, 07:22 PM
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It is beyond preposterous to claim or insinuate that President Trump is somehow less civil, less human, of less self control than previous President's that a heightened threat of such a gross inhuman illegal action exist. You are being ridiculous if you believe that to be the case.
I don't think so. It's pretty obvious that this president IS less in control, and certainly far, far less civil, at least wrt any modern president (some of the early ones were pretty out there and would probably nod at some of Trump's quips). The thing is, it's hard to judge how stable the man really is. He SEEMS to be loose cannon, generally on the verge of being out of control of his temper and basically the worst sort of manager...one who thinks they know what they are doing, yet demonstrably is just winging it with no idea of what to do or where he's going. That's a bad combination in a manager....it's worse in a leader. Not only does the enemy (say, North Korea) not know what he's going to do at any given time, but his allies and a large percentage of his citizens don't either.
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  #67  
Old 11-20-2017, 07:35 PM
HurricaneDitka HurricaneDitka is online now
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I don't think so. It's pretty obvious that this president IS less in control, and certainly far, far less civil, at least wrt any modern president (some of the early ones were pretty out there and would probably nod at some of Trump's quips). The thing is, it's hard to judge how stable the man really is. He SEEMS to be loose cannon, generally on the verge of being out of control of his temper and basically the worst sort of manager...one who thinks they know what they are doing, yet demonstrably is just winging it with no idea of what to do or where he's going. That's a bad combination in a manager....it's worse in a leader. Not only does the enemy (say, North Korea) not know what he's going to do at any given time, but his allies and a large percentage of his citizens don't either.
I could sort of understand these concerns a year ago. But now? The man has had "his finger on the button" for 10 months now, and has somehow managed to not nuke anybody. His uses of military force have been rather modest and measured so far. Now, perhaps that's because he's largely deferring to SecDef Mattis and other leaders, but ... at what point will this not be a significant concern for you guys? If he hasn't nuked anyone by, let's say, July 2024, will you feel comfortable relaxing and thinking "ok, he's probably not quite the loose cannon people said he was"? Sometime before that? Not until he's out of office?

Last edited by HurricaneDitka; 11-20-2017 at 07:36 PM.
  #68  
Old 11-20-2017, 07:44 PM
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I could sort of understand these concerns a year ago. But now? The man has had "his finger on the button" for 10 months now, and has somehow managed to not nuke anybody. His uses of military force have been rather modest and measured so far. Now, perhaps that's because he's largely deferring to SecDef Mattis and other leaders, but ... at what point will this not be a significant concern for you guys? If he hasn't nuked anyone by, let's say, July 2024, will you feel comfortable relaxing and thinking "ok, he's probably not quite the loose cannon people said he was"? Sometime before that? Not until he's out of office?
He's actually made me more anxious, not less, since assuming the presidency. Just because he hasn't nuked anyone to date doesn't, to me, offer a good prediction of the future. I really, honestly don't know what this guy will do next. At times, he is fighting with the Democrats, with the Republicans, with his own administration, with our allies, with countries that are clearly enemy, with countries that are somewhere in-between, and even with himself on occasions. He seemingly spouts whatever pops into his head at any given time, or what he's seeing on cable news or wonderful places like InfoWars, which is scary just in itself wrt where he's getting his information from (the thought that Alex Jones has influence over him alone gives me chills).

Basically, this guys is scary, to me at least. I really don't know what he's going to do, and while I don't THINK he'd nuke a country out of pique, the situation in North Korea especially (but not just there) is one close to spinning out of control, IMHO. Not only do we have Trump to worry about in this situation, but that unstable fuck in charge of North Korea...and we have all of the other regional players. Any of which could spark a war on the peninsula that goes nuclear, or at the least causes massive loss of life.
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  #69  
Old 11-20-2017, 07:49 PM
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Yes, once he's been out of office for three and a half years, I'll be a lot more sanguine about what he will or won't do.
  #70  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:05 PM
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I could sort of understand these concerns a year ago. But now? The man has had "his finger on the button" for 10 months now, and has somehow managed to not nuke anybody.
This is particularly bad reasoning.

Every chicken and cow on every farm wakes up thinking: “This cannot possibly be the day I go to the slaughter house, because I have never been to the slaughter house before!”
  #71  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:16 PM
HurricaneDitka HurricaneDitka is online now
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This is particularly bad reasoning.

Every chicken and cow on every farm wakes up thinking: “This cannot possibly be the day I go to the slaughter house, because I have never been to the slaughter house before!”
I did not say "cannot possibly". I think the odds are minuscule that Trump will one day decide to nuke a country over a petty insult. There are some people across the aisle from me for whom this represents a substantial concern. I wonder if the passage of time has done / will do anything to lessen that concern for them. XT seemed to say that no, if anything, it has increased. I wonder if SamuelA thought it a more likely occurrence on January 20th or today. Will he think it more likely or less likely on the day before Trump leaves office?
  #72  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:16 PM
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...
Whether it will be followed down the chain of command I couldn't say. Probably though.
Ref just this snip.

Having been at the pointy end of this spear, my personal opinion is that once the order leaves the top level command center heading out towards the field, performance will be very, very close to 100%. Net of malfunctions and miscommunication.

Intermediate HQs or operators at the periphery choosing to sit out is real, real close to unthinkable.

My first-hand knowledge is now 30 years old. Certainly some stuff has changed. My bet is not much has changed in this area.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 11-20-2017 at 08:17 PM.
  #73  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:20 PM
HurricaneDitka HurricaneDitka is online now
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Aren't those operators largely cruising beneath the waves or sitting around in a buried bunker? It's not like they're spending their days pouring over the latest NYT articles or CNN, right? They're pretty dependent on the chain-of-command to tell them if it's go-time or not. They're not really in a position to be sufficiently-informed to make an independent determination. I always thought that was - at least in part - by design.
  #74  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:21 PM
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Ref just this snip.

Having been at the pointy end of this spear, my personal opinion is that once the order leaves the top level command center heading out towards the field, performance will be very, very close to 100%. Net of malfunctions and miscommunication.

Intermediate HQs or operators at the periphery choosing to sit out is real, real close to unthinkable.

My first-hand knowledge is now 30 years old. Certainly some stuff has changed. My bet is not much has changed in this area.
My own military experience is equally long ago and far away, but this jibs pretty well with my own take. Basically, if higher command authority says we should do X then we will probably do X. It's assumed they know what they are doing..at least as much as they ever do.
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  #75  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:21 PM
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...If you're a secret service agent, and you don't immediately execute the President if he does this, I'd say that you're a traitor to America in the absolute sense. (as in, some ephemeral "spirit of the law", not whatever the documents say)
In that scenario it would be sufficient to restrain (& possibly sedate) POTUS in that case, then VPOTUS and the Cabinet and invoke the 25th Amendment; no need to kill POTUS.

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It's on the wiki I linked too. He can confirm the order or veto it...not sure how he'd do both. I assume the succession for this is whoever is next in line wrt the secretaries. My WAG (no time to look stuff up atm) is it would be SecState, and if they are dead then the next all the way to Secretary of Agriculture, which I'd presume last on this tier of list.
If SecDef refused to confirm a launch order POTUS could fire him on the spot, but then POTUS would have to work his way threw the DoD's line of succession; it wouldn't go to another Cabinet secretary.
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  #76  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:22 PM
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I did not say "cannot possibly". I think the odds are minuscule that Trump will one day decide to nuke a country over a petty insult. There are some people across the aisle from me for whom this represents a substantial concern. I wonder if the passage of time has done / will do anything to lessen that concern for them. XT seemed to say that no, if anything, it has increased. I wonder if SamuelA thought it a more likely occurrence on January 20th or today. Will he think it more likely or less likely on the day before Trump leaves office?
It’s a good thing we have brave people on this board to take on opinions that are just this side of conspiracy theories, and refute them with logical fallacies!
  #77  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:25 PM
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I did not say "cannot possibly". I think the odds are minuscule that Trump will one day decide to nuke a country over a petty insult. There are some people across the aisle from me for whom this represents a substantial concern. I wonder if the passage of time has done / will do anything to lessen that concern for them. XT seemed to say that no, if anything, it has increased. I wonder if SamuelA thought it a more likely occurrence on January 20th or today. Will he think it more likely or less likely on the day before Trump leaves office?
That's my take. YMMV, but I really don't know what Trump will do at any given time or in any given situation. My powers of prediction are zero wrt this guy. I also don't think he will just nuke someone over a petty insult, but what I could see happening is he (or someone on the other side trying to figure out what the fuck he is thinking) will misjudge a situation or give a bad or faulty signal and all hell will break loose. I could easily see that happening with North Korea, but it could happen with Russia, China, Iran or myriad other places.

I will feel it's less likely to happen once Trump leaves office, depending on who the next president is.
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  #78  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:26 PM
HurricaneDitka HurricaneDitka is online now
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It’s a good thing we have brave people on this board to take on opinions that are just this side of conspiracy theories, and refute them with logical fallacies!
I'm still not clear on the logical fallacy here. Something to do with "past performance is no guarantee of future results"?
  #79  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:30 PM
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If SecDef refused to confirm a launch order POTUS could fire him on the spot, but then POTUS would have to work his way threw the DoD's line of succession; it wouldn't go to another Cabinet secretary.
Not sure to be honest. It would be unprecedented, so we'd be in uncharted waters at that point. It could be that Trump or whoever is president would have to appoint a new SecDef that would have to be ratified. Could be that he could go to the next person in the chain. At some point, if enough people refuse, the VP and cabinet could step in and invoke the 4th article of the 25th, which would have to be responded to by the President to Congress (s/he has to write a letter, IIRC, saying they are fully able to do their duties, and Congress has to decide if that's the case or not). Most of these would delay things long enough for legal actions to be taken to ensure an 'illegal' launch order was not invoked. I think it would hinge on what is actually being required and who in the administration is supporting the President on it, so I could see it going either way.
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  #80  
Old 11-20-2017, 08:49 PM
HurricaneDitka HurricaneDitka is online now
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Not sure to be honest. It would be unprecedented, so we'd be in uncharted waters at that point. It could be that Trump or whoever is president would have to appoint a new SecDef that would have to be ratified. Could be that he could go to the next person in the chain. At some point, if enough people refuse, the VP and cabinet could step in and invoke the 4th article of the 25th, which would have to be responded to by the President to Congress (s/he has to write a letter, IIRC, saying they are fully able to do their duties, and Congress has to decide if that's the case or not). Most of these would delay things long enough for legal actions to be taken to ensure an 'illegal' launch order was not invoked. I think it would hinge on what is actually being required and who in the administration is supporting the President on it, so I could see it going either way.
I'm not sure either, but there almost has to be some way for a person to step in and fill the vacancy in a hurry in cases of a deceased / incapacitated / retiring SecDef. Imagine a scenario where the SecDef dies and the Russians launch an all-out attack because they know we're vulnerable. I can't picture the entire DoD sitting around saying, 'well, that sucks, we can't retaliate because we've got no SecDef' while missiles are streaking across the North Pole. That's just too big of a loophole to leave open.

Last edited by HurricaneDitka; 11-20-2017 at 08:50 PM.
  #81  
Old 11-20-2017, 09:09 PM
XT XT is online now
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I'm not sure either, but there almost has to be some way for a person to step in and fill the vacancy in a hurry in cases of a deceased / incapacitated / retiring SecDef. Imagine a scenario where the SecDef dies and the Russians launch an all-out attack because they know we're vulnerable. I can't picture the entire DoD sitting around saying, 'well, that sucks, we can't retaliate because we've got no SecDef' while missiles are streaking across the North Pole. That's just too big of a loophole to leave open.
If the SecDef is incapacitated or dead then the regular succession happens just as in the wiki I linked too. However, if one is dismissed? And in this particular chain of events? I don't know. I doubt there is anything specific for this very narrow, vertical circumstance, so whoever the president was (and those around him or her) they would be charting new ground and setting precedence for the future.
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Last edited by XT; 11-20-2017 at 09:10 PM.
  #82  
Old 11-20-2017, 09:10 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Aren't those operators largely cruising beneath the waves or sitting around in a buried bunker? It's not like they're spending their days pouring over the latest NYT articles or CNN, right? They're pretty dependent on the chain-of-command to tell them if it's go-time or not. They're not really in a position to be sufficiently-informed to make an independent determination. I always thought that was - at least in part - by design.
The strategic forces are either on subs, underground ICBM control bunkers, or drive B-52s & B-2s from airfields stateside or overseas.

The tactical forces (which I was) who will deliver a lot of the megatonnage in NK & similar places, are sitting on aircraft carriers or tactical fighter bases in theater.

SLBM commanders are pretty isolated from CNN. OTOH, they may well receive a pretty good intel feed every day. Not my area of expertise. I am confident that if the Captain and Missile Launch Officer say to launch, launch they will.

The guys in ICBM bunkers sit alert for less than 2 days at a time. A lot can happen in the day-ish since they left home and hearth, but they're not that far in the dark. I have no idea how much connection to CNN, etc., they have down in the hole but it's probably close to zero.

The bomber & fighter/attack crews are a whole different situation. At least in peacetime they're fully connected to the internet & TV until the horn goes off and they man the aircraft.

In times of extreme tension short of war there were/are(?) plans to have crews sitting in airplanes ready to go at any moment. They'd be out of touch. But they'd also be replaced by another crew every few hours. Which crew had plenty of opportunity to get up to date on both the official intel feed and CNN and TwitFace's version of events.


Overall, the folks with their fingers on the real no-shit triggers aren't as isolated as a civilian might expect.

Nonetheless, when the "go" code arrives, go they will. The time for second thoughts as a crewman is far, far upstream in the training and certification process.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 11-20-2017 at 09:11 PM.
  #83  
Old 11-20-2017, 10:04 PM
Tripler Tripler is offline
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Contrary to your assumptions, the actual power the President has to order a nuclear strike is not from the Constitution, but a law passed by Congress.
Contrary to my initial assumptions, you haven't read your own citation. And your other posts in this thread hold about as much water as a sun-baked cow skull in Death Valley.

In any case, I wouldn't expect for a moment, that the Field Grade Officers and below would not do their job. The wrangling would be at the Flag Grade-level and higher, which delves into Congressional territory.

Tripler
No, SECDEF is not a General.

Last edited by Tripler; 11-20-2017 at 10:05 PM.
  #84  
Old 11-20-2017, 10:18 PM
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Ref just this snip.

Having been at the pointy end of this spear, my personal opinion is that once the order leaves the top level command center heading out towards the field, performance will be very, very close to 100%. Net of malfunctions and miscommunication.

Intermediate HQs or operators at the periphery choosing to sit out is real, real close to unthinkable.

My first-hand knowledge is now 30 years old. Certainly some stuff has changed. My bet is not much has changed in this area.
“Hey LSLGuy, take your shiny F16 and drop a B61 on Belfast. Yes, Belfast”. Won’t you be at least skeptical of such an order if it came out if the blue.
  #85  
Old 11-20-2017, 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Tripler View Post
...
Tripler
No, SECDEF is not a General.
Agree completely with your overall point.

But it true that the current SecDef is a former General. Which gives him a somewhat different perspective than prior purely civilian SecDefs may have had.
  #86  
Old 11-20-2017, 10:29 PM
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. . . the current SecDef is a former General. Which gives him a somewhat different perspective than prior purely civilian SecDefs may have had.
Current SECDEF. . . you're right. I hadn't been up on my Chain of Command since I retired. You're absolutely right. I stand corrected. I remembered that traditionally, SECDEF was the first civilian rung on the ladder to POTUS. My point was that SECDEF is not active military.

Tripler
We need more senior politicians with military experience.

Last edited by Tripler; 11-20-2017 at 10:30 PM.
  #87  
Old 11-20-2017, 10:45 PM
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Current SECDEF. . . you're right. I hadn't been up on my Chain of Command since I retired. You're absolutely right. I stand corrected. I remembered that traditionally, SECDEF was the first civilian rung on the ladder to POTUS. My point was that SECDEF is not active military.

Tripler
We need more senior politicians with military experience.
Trump went to a military school as a kid. He seems to think that counts.

Take your pick-->
  #88  
Old 11-20-2017, 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Tripler View Post
Contrary to my initial assumptions, you haven't read your own citation. And your other posts in this thread hold about as much water as a sun-baked cow skull in Death Valley.

In any case, I wouldn't expect for a moment, that the Field Grade Officers and below would not do their job. The wrangling would be at the Flag Grade-level and higher, which delves into Congressional territory.

Tripler
No, SECDEF is not a General.
Tripler, you may have been there and done that...but the links I gave are from a credible source and specifically outline where the power for a nuclear strike comes from. Who are you to say any different? You weren't even an officer in your military career, so your direct experiences are worthless.

Skulls in death valley..at least I have a source. And the SecDef is a (retired) general.
  #89  
Old 11-21-2017, 08:07 AM
Tripler Tripler is offline
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Tripler, you may have been there and done that...but the links I gave are from a credible source and specifically outline where the power for a nuclear strike comes from. Who are you to say any different? You weren't even an officer in your military career, so your direct experiences are worthless.
It's readily apparent you don't read things.

1) Paragraph #2 of your link in Post #22: "The authority to order the use of nuclear weapons rests with the president, based on the U.S. Constitution." Hem and haw about the Atomic Energy Act of '46, but even that law is based on Constitutional principles. Your link is of questionable credibility, at that.
2) I retired as a Major (O-4)--an officer--from the Explosives Ordnance Disposal career field. I have been stationed in Minot and Great Falls. I know a thing or two about nuclear weapons.
3) I live and work in a little town up in the foothills of Northern New Mexico, called Los Alamos. I work at a Laboratory up here. I know a thing or two about nuclear weapons.

Your one post indicated SECDEF is a General. I see you mean that the incumbent is a retired General. My point is that SECDEF is not an active military position, but a civilian one, regardless of who fills the position. And I posted that earlier.

So I think that by my military career, and my direct experiences around and with nuclear weapons, your ranting and raving is worthless.

Tripler
I'd tell you to get your facts straight, but I think they would continue to elude you.
  #90  
Old 11-21-2017, 11:24 AM
SamuelA SamuelA is offline
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Originally Posted by Tripler View Post
It's readily apparent you don't read things.

1) Paragraph #2 of your link in Post #22: "The authority to order the use of nuclear weapons rests with the president, based on the U.S. Constitution." Hem and haw about the Atomic Energy Act of '46, but even that law is based on Constitutional principles. Your link is of questionable credibility, at that.
2) I retired as a Major (O-4)--an officer--from the Explosives Ordnance Disposal career field. I have been stationed in Minot and Great Falls. I know a thing or two about nuclear weapons.
3) I live and work in a little town up in the foothills of Northern New Mexico, called Los Alamos. I work at a Laboratory up here. I know a thing or two about nuclear weapons.
You mention specifically practicing hand jamming actual devices in past posts. That sounded an awful lot like a job that officers don't do.

I stand by my post, though. You're arguing from authority that does sound pretty solid...still wrong. The 1946 act blocks officers like yourself in an active war from deciding when to use the nuclear munitions you might be entrusted with without a Presidential order.

A 2017 Act could hypothetically explicitly make the first use of nuclear weapons a war crime, subject to the UCMJ, and would explicitly give all officers in the nuclear chain of command a legitimate reason to resist that illegal order. You know, the thing those JAG guys told you about. Even if the order came from the President.

Right now, the President can't order you to use VX on hippie protesters outside the post, right? Even though he's the CinC. Everyone involved would either refuse or face a court martial where they would be certain to be convicted, right? So the same principle applies for the nukes.

Last edited by SamuelA; 11-21-2017 at 11:26 AM.
  #91  
Old 11-21-2017, 11:59 AM
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It's on the wiki I linked too. He can confirm the order or veto it...not sure how he'd do both. I assume the succession for this is whoever is next in line wrt the secretaries. My WAG (no time to look stuff up atm) is it would be SecState, and if they are dead then the next all the way to Secretary of Agriculture, which I'd presume last on this tier of list.
And you think this process would be fast enough to complete it before missiles are raining down upon the US?
  #92  
Old 11-21-2017, 12:13 PM
XT XT is online now
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And you think this process would be fast enough to complete it before missiles are raining down upon the US?
I assume they would go with the next available for contact, and, yeah, I'd think there would be time. That said, if there were a large group of missiles headed towards the US and doomsday was upon us, my WAG is they would just say screw it and forget the two-man rule and simply go with the Presidents authorization. Not like many will be around after to split legal hairs.
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  #93  
Old 11-21-2017, 12:13 PM
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And you think this process would be fast enough to complete it before missiles are raining down upon the US?
As a side note, it's possible to have a Russian submarine fire a cruise missile aimed at the white house with a nuke onboard. Flying low, without a big flare of light from the launch, it's possible there would be no warning whatsoever. (seconds before initiation there might be systems that pick up the missile, but no time for the news that it's coming to reach the President or even time for him to put down his coffee)

This danger has always been there - apparently, if you fire an ICBM from a submarine in the Atlantic, from some firing zones the flight time is under 5 minutes. Not enough time to react before the President is no longer able to issue any orders.

So there are alternate processes. The military leadership is already empowered to respond to a nuclear strike like this. There are obviously officers with the needed authority and codes, and so on. I just propose making sure these officers have their orders amended to say "no first use even if the guy in the oval office tells you too".
  #94  
Old 11-21-2017, 01:17 PM
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Not enough time to react before the President is no longer able to issue any orders.

So there are alternate processes. The military leadership is already empowered to respond to a nuclear strike like this.
Cite?
  #95  
Old 11-21-2017, 01:18 PM
manson1972 manson1972 is offline
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I assume they would go with the next available for contact, and, yeah, I'd think there would be time. That said, if there were a large group of missiles headed towards the US and doomsday was upon us, my WAG is they would just say screw it and forget the two-man rule and simply go with the Presidents authorization. Not like many will be around after to split legal hairs.
If there is a rule that can just be disregarded, then it's not really a rule then.
  #96  
Old 11-21-2017, 02:25 PM
XT XT is online now
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If there is a rule that can just be disregarded, then it's not really a rule then.
If the world is basically ending in 30 minutes I don't think rules lawyering is going to be a thing folks worry about. And I seriously doubt that in the event of a massive attack on the US and the SecDef being dead or incapacitated and everyone else on the list being out of touch they are going to just say 'well, guess we can't launch anything because we can't properly comply with the two-man rule. Anyone have a deck of cards?'
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  #97  
Old 11-21-2017, 02:47 PM
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Your scenario is ludicrous, that President Trump would react so callously is ludicrous. Threats of full "fire and fury" were not necessarily a nuclear threat. Any military action resulting in the deaths of millions or even thousands of civilians that would not conform to current international standards and treaties would be illegal. Strategic Command is well aware of all imminent and active threats and well trained in US and International Law to understand a legal and lawful response.

It is beyond preposterous to claim or insinuate that President Trump is somehow less civil, less human, of less self control than previous President's that a heightened threat of such a gross inhuman illegal action exist. You are being ridiculous if you believe that to be the case.
Have you been paying attention to news for the last couple of years? The commander of U.S. Strategic Command (along with pretty much every human being that hasn't been living in a cave for the last 2 year) suspects that the current POTUS IS less civil, less human, of less self control than previous Presidents and indeed that a heightened threat of such a gross inhuman illegal action exist. Hence why he made this statement.
  #98  
Old 11-21-2017, 03:12 PM
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Nitpick: A missile launched at the White House from a sub in the Atlantic wouldn't be an ICBM. Those are the really long-ranged ones, that can be launched from (say) mainland Russia to mainland US (hence the "intercontinental" in the acronym). Sub-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are generally much shorter range, and a cruise missile isn't a ballistic missile at all.

I suppose that it's possible to launch a ballistic missile from a sub (after all, Russian subs have been used to launch payloads into orbit), but I'm not sure why you would bother. Part of the point of a sub is that it can get close enough to the target that you don't need to.
  #99  
Old 11-21-2017, 03:17 PM
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Nitpick: A missile launched at the White House from a sub in the Atlantic wouldn't be an ICBM. Those are the really long-ranged ones, that can be launched from (say) mainland Russia to mainland US (hence the "intercontinental" in the acronym). Sub-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are generally much shorter range, and a cruise missile isn't a ballistic missile at all.

I suppose that it's possible to launch a ballistic missile from a sub (after all, Russian subs have been used to launch payloads into orbit), but I'm not sure why you would bother. Part of the point of a sub is that it can get close enough to the target that you don't need to.
A lot of the old Soviet era boomers were kept fairly close to Russia for their protection against US attack boats during the cold war. I doubt that's still an issue today for Putin, but it would be a reason why it was done in the past.
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  #100  
Old 11-21-2017, 03:32 PM
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Nitpick: A missile launched at the White House from a sub in the Atlantic wouldn't be an ICBM. Those are the really long-ranged ones, that can be launched from (say) mainland Russia to mainland US (hence the "intercontinental" in the acronym). Sub-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are generally much shorter range, and a cruise missile isn't a ballistic missile at all.
Well, SLBMs generally have a range that substantially exceed those of medium- and intermediate-range land-based missiles; but yeah, SLBMs also tend to have about 2/3rds of the range of a land-based ICBM. I don't really consider that to be "much shorter range."
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