Are we on the brink of WW3?

Question inspired by the OP’s question… Are there any safeguards in the US government to protect us from the President doing something truly batshit? I really want to believe there are people waiting to wrestle Trump to the ground before he can press the red button. Would we (the White House administration) have any recourse to stop him if he decided that’s what he wanted to do?

I do not think we are on brink of ww3.

As I understand it, we notified the Russians that we were going to bomb the airfield and they went, “Okie dokie!” And proceeded to remove their troops (and everyone else) from that site.

I feel reasonably confident that this is not how things would have played out if the Russians had really cared all that much.

Putin is playing it up either to make himself look like he didn’t, tacitly, allow the US to do it - and so preserve his favor with Assad - or he’s doing so in order to help Trump distance himself from the election interference allegations.

Though, it’s also possible that Putin is thinking farther than that and laying the groundwork for US/Russian aggression of sufficient caliber to make it feasible for Trump to cut a deal with them, ceding a bunch of land of Russia, in return for peace.

If North Korea acts up too much, like actually hitting South Korea or Japan with missiles, China is not likely to thoroughly screw up their economy by going to war with the west over that crazy little shit of a dictator.

A few. He can’t launch nuclear missiles by himself; it requires agreement from (I don’t remember whom: SoD?) Anyway, there are checks and balances.

Well, that’s a relief. Kinda.

It requires confirmation from one cabinet official. So, Betsey DeVos or Ben Carson? Still feeling relieved?

It does not require “agreement” by the Secretary of Defense; the issuance of a nuclear launch/attack order has to be verified by an official whose appointment was confirmed by the Senate. This is generally assumed to be the Secretary of Defense for obvious reasons, but in absence it could be Secretary of State, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, et cetera, or even one of their deputy secretaries or undersecretaries. Verification does not require agreement or assessment of lawfulness; it merely assures (in the opionion of the verifier) that the order comes from the President who is of sound mind and not under duress.

Previous threads on the topic:

[THREAD=392599]Presidential power with regard to a nuclear first strike[/THREAD]

[THREAD=667980]When does the POTUS get to nuke somebody?[/THREAD]

[THREAD=719309]Nuclear attack question[/THREAD]

[THREAD=759807]Can the President by himself order a preemptive nuclear strike?[/THREAD]

And most appropriately:

[THREAD=785806]How much damage could a crazy POTUS do?[/THREAD]

There is little in the way of “checks and balances” against a nuclear launch order. This is by design because the expectation is that a launch order would be given only in the case of a suspected attack (“launch on warning”) or to preempt an imminent attack (“counterforce disarming first strike”), in which there is, as Jack Bauer would say, “No time!” for protracted discussion. Yes, the most devasting weapons ever constructed by humankind, specifically designed for rapid global deployment, are expected and even intended to be used with minimial formal restrictions. There is no requirement to verify an attack order with Congress, and orders even bypass the Joint Chiefs of Staff going directly to the combatant commanders thanks to the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

Trump, of course, seems to have little trust in normal government and military advisors, instead accepting advice and “alternative facts” from conspiracy nutters, alt-right white nationalists, and a son-in-law with zero public policy, international diplomacy, or military experience. He insists on repeating unsubstantiated conspriracies about voter fraud, claims and forces underlings to repeat evidentially false statements about the number of people at his inauguration, and has made wildly inaccurate and slanderous statements about the prior administration specifically targeting him with illegal surveillance for political purposes. He’s pretty much the definition of delusionally insane notwithstanding the absolutely unqualified advisors he has chosen to surround himself with and insulate him from public scruitiny. Some people use to hyperbolically fear that Reagan would start a nuclear war to back up his largely hollow rhetoric (even though Reagan privately hated nuclear weapons and feared a strategic confrontation with the Soviet Union) but Trump is so radically dissociated with reality that it is entirely plausible that he could order a nuclear strike on North Korea or Syria without any reflection on the political and strategic outcome whatsoever, and military commanders would be legally obliged to carry out the orders.

I never sleep well, but I have not slept so poorly as I have in the past few months, and little of what I read about our military preparedness or strategic accumen of the unstable and mercurial policy decisions of this administration gives any reason to abate anxiety.


Stranger, one of the things that is being discussed here is that the current military leadership of both the US and Russia consist of peoples for whom most of their service is posts Cold War and they don’t appreciate just how quickly things could go to hell as superpower confrontation has been away from the forefront.

Hence the willingness to escalate further? DO you think that a fair assessment.

We’ve been on the brink of WWIII since the day after VJ Day. We’ve never been far from the brink in that time but sometimes we act like a drunken bumpkin who says “Hey watch this” or “Hold my beer”. And sometimes we get all full of ourselves and forget that the brink is that close, and sometimes through inattention we wander dangerously close, but we’ve been there all along. So are we or anyone else likely to go over the edge right now? Nope. I hope anyway.

Today, North Korean and American leadership has about the same credibility. Pathetic interference by the US. Unexpectedly, very bad decision by Trump.

There is an excellent Errol Morris documentary called The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. The documentary is essentially a first person interview with McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1968 when he resigned or was fired (even he doesn’t seem certain), and is largely based on McNamara’s book, Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century. McNamara, a systems analyst responsible for providing critical statistical analysis for planning the fireboming raids on Japan in WWII, executive at Ford Motor Company and eventually becoming its youngest president and first outside of the Ford family, is essentially the architect of the nuclear deterrence system that we have today and in particular the LGM-30 A/B/F/G Minuteman family of solid propellant silo launched ICBMs that we still have on ready alert today (upgraded version of the LGM-30G ‘Minuteman III’). At his time in role of SecDef he believed that a strong strategic deterrence system (our nuclear triad) would be the most reliable and cost effective system of controlling Soviet expansionism and protecting the interests of the United States against national security threats.

However, in his post-SecDef life as president of the World Bank and after, his views on the validity and reliability of strategic deterrence, and the use of military force to project political will upon other nations changed radically, especially after a conference in Havana, Cuba in 1993 where he found out that Cuban leader Fidel Castro had actually recommended the use of nuclear weapons against the United States if the US military had invaded Cuba even with the awareness that Cuba would have been completely destroyed. From the film:

Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he is speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He’s killed people - unnecessarily. His own troops or other troops. Through mistakes, through errors of judgement. A hundred, or a thousand, or ten thousand, maybe even a hundred thousand. But he hasn’t destroyed nations…And the conventional wisdom is: don’t make the same mistake twice. Learn from your mistakes. And we all do. Maybe we make the mistake three times, but hopefully not four or five…They’ll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. Make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.

To answer the question of AK84, I think it is very, very easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time to make careful, reasoned responses to a threat, or look critically at evidence that supports a purported threat. And the people currently in charge of both the United States and Russian command authority are not noted for critical evaluation of factual evidence or calmly evaluating the consequences of provocative actions. For fuck’s sake, Donald Trump clearly doesn’t even know who Frecdrick Douglass was; we can hardly expect him to have any appreciation for the more-than-half-a-dozen incidents where the United States was on the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union or recognize parallels in the current situation, nor has he populated his Cabinet and stable of advisors with people likely to soothe his readily-bruised ego or counsel him to a course of restraint. And in the case of an imminent strategic threat, it often seems like there is no time for restraint or discussion; action must be taken NOW to protect the nation, which mirror’s Trump’s approach to everything from health care reform to a North Korean missile test, regardless of the consequences or appearance to the public about the chaos within the administration.

One of the essential roles of the President is to appear calm and collected even when the temple is falling around him, and the role of his advisors should be hashing out the options so that the President has a clear notion of the available options and best guess of the consequences of each. In this case we essentially have a man-child president advised by conspiracy theoriests and nepotism appointees so busy with political infighting that they can’t even support essentially aspects of the president’s legislative agenda, and from appearances no one involved seems to have any conception of the gravity of their actions. Even Buddha would stop smiling about this if he were here. I think our only hope is if John Oliver and Seth Meyers can goad Trump into being so obsessed with his Twitter feed that he forgets about China, Russia, Syria, and North Korea, and goes on a rant about their weak ratings and the “failing HBO”.


I’m not super impressed in general with most of the US punditocracy and their ability to interpret Russia, but Yuval Weber has some interesting things to say here. Short version is he doesn’t think Russia cares much one way or the other about Syria, Assad or ISIS. They’ve projected power into Syria to show that they can, and that they’re still a power that the US needs to negotiate with: what they really want is to trade influence in Syria for influence in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe (which they actually do care about), and to quote Mr. Weber, “if a US president comes along who’s willing to make that trade, within a week Assad will be living in the Moscow suburbs ruing the day he was ever fool enough to trust the Russians.”

Wasn’t it more Che Guevara than Castro who really wanted to use the nukes in the event of an invasion? Che was always the more hard-line and ideological of the two.

You may be the only person on this board for whom this was an “Unexpectedly, very bad decision by Trump”.

I remember how you cheered him on in past discussions and how big of a fan you were. Others told you that it was a mistake and precisely why it was a mistake. Now, here we are: WE TOLD YOU SO!

Any regrets?

Castro specifically stated that he encouraged Khrushchev to retaliate with nuclear weapons if Cuba was invaded. I don’t know of Castro was exaggerating or misremembering three decades after the crisis, but that was his own recollection.

How fucked up is it that the nation primarily responsible for starting the first two world wars and committing acts of genocide and persecution is now headed by the leader most feverently trying to avert conflict and protect refugees from Syria? Someone should really send Angela Merkel a nice flower arrangement and a heartfelt “Thank You” note for being the adult in the midst of infantile leaders encouraging destructive nationalism and xenophobia for personal and political gain.


Have been since the end of WW2.

And there have been many occasions when it’s been worse.

No we are not in danger of WW3, Russia and Iran will make the usual tiresome noises. It’s neither of their interests( or capabilities) to start a fight with the United States military.

We should not have notified anyone except Congress, but this was a good move. Assad has been having it easy for far too long, expecting to do whatever and having the Russians back them at the Security Council.

We destroyed 20 planes, that’s all. It was purely symbolic. I laugh at those like far right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who called this a “horrible” strike on Syria. Of yes it was horrible to destroy and slap the wrist of a scumbag like Assad at the bare minimum. Never mind and pluck all those who were killed in the chemical weapons attack, that’s not horrible. What is horrible is attacking Assad.

Jaw jaw has not worked with Syria.

The Russians who lied repeatedly about having a presence in eastern Ukraine, the ones who came up with B.S explanation for the chemical weapons attacks which was soundly ridiculed and debunked? The same Russians who held a vote in one week stating that Crimeans want to join Russia? The same ones who said they are attacking ISIS when really they attacking Assad’s opponents fawn away from any ISIS stronghold? Russians who are against investigations into the downing of the Malaysia airline over Ukraine? The ones who are knee deep into mass cheating by their athletes?

Those Russians OP? Please, they lie and suck at it. What kind they say is garbage, pure and simple.

Stop looking up to Russia and it’s government as this deity whose words are second to God.

I think this is most likely collusion, both between Russia and Syria and Trump and Russian. Trump was anti Syria intervention until a week ago, suddenly he launches a strike and Russia really plays up how much it strains our relationship.

Trump’s controversies are everpresent and his ratings are in the dump. Military action drums up support from a lot of people. “Fall in line behind our president during war!” type shit. The media coverage has mostly tried to make it appear that Trump is presidential because of the strikes. They love this shit. This is a successful distraction from his other scandals.

Russia, in collusion with Trump, plays up just how destabilizing this is, and how much Russia is considering retaliating against the US and starting a war. Global tensions increase, everyone is nervous because you can’t simply dismiss tensions between the two great nuclear powers, especially with someone as unstable as Trump at the helm.

After a long build up of tensions and prolonged international crisis, we finally come to a grand peace deal that involves recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and a relaxing or elimination of the sanctions. Russia gives up some token concession in response. Trump portrays himself as a statesman and peacemaker. His supporters want him nominated for a Nobel peace prize.

End result: Dog successfully wagged, Trump’s support goes up in time of artificially manufactured crisis, investigations into his scandals take a back burner, and ultimately Russia gets their sanctions lifted.