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From “Congress must declare war” to “Can Trump launch a preemptive nuclear strike?”

by Greg Krehbiel on 11 August 2017

We’ve come a long way.

To set the record straight, I don’t think Trump’s erratic, sometimes crazy rhetoric means that he’s crazy enough to launch a large-scale nuclear attack on N. Korea, so please consider this post as a theoretical matter, not something I’m worried about. (I specifically said “large-scale nuclear attack” because one thing Trump might possibly do is use tactical nukes — aka “battlefield nukes” — against specific military targets in the DPRK. But even that is pretty unlikely. I hope.)

With rising tensions, people are asking the question whether Trump can launch a preemptive nuclear strike..

Constitutionally, Congress has to declare war. But since the War Powers Resolution, presidents have been pushing what they can do without Congressional approval. We’ve gotten to the point that we don’t even blink when the president tosses a couple missiles into a country we’re not at war with.

That’s not good, and the situation with N. Korea brings that into sharp focus.

Nobody disputes the president’s authority to act in defense of the country if we are attacked. But preemptive strikes are another matter.

However … as I recall it has been long-standing US policy that, for strategic reasons, we will not rule out the possibility of a preemptive nuclear strike.

Will the war of words between Trump and Kim Jong-un change that? Are people so nervous about Trump having the nuclear launch codes that they’d be willing to change that policy?

Another complicating factor is that some people say we are technically still at war with North Korea.

2017-08-11  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 3

  1. William
    11 August 2017 @ 4:26 pm

    I wish I were as confident as you in Trump’s temperment. To date the only thing that’s been predictable is his unpredictability. I feel like I’m living an episode of House of Cards.

    If N. Korea attacks first, it’s clear what MUST happen. Yet, anything short of that raises lots of questions. It’s true that 30 years of diplomacy hasn’t been effective. But, is a preemptive nuclear strike what’s best…given the potential carnage of nuclear war? Is there any other way to resolve this other than to allow two mad men slug it out on the world stage with their war toys while innocent people die? It’s surely not an easy situation and no pat answers. Hopefully, reason and cooler heads will prevail before we get to a point of no return.

  2. Dave Krehbiel Dave Krehbiel
    14 August 2017 @ 7:37 am

    Personally, I like Trump’s unpredictability.

    I don’t have much hope in negotiations. I am not an expert on international politics. But my personal understanding of our history with Libya is:

    – Muammar Gaddafi pursued terrorism and tried to obtain “weapons of mass destruction” of some sort
    – our country negotiated, promising that if he would renounce terrorism, we would protect them
    – He renounced terrorism
    – we took him out.

    If I were a foreign leader, I wouldn’t put much trust in a country which acted that way.

    I would prefer that the Senate be involved One possible. We respect (fear) North Korea because they have nuclear weapons, apparently not because we believe they have a right to run their country the way they want to run it.

    If our country shows the world that we only respect those countries who have nuclear weapons, then I predict that more countries will pursue them.

  3. Dave Krehbiel Dave Krehbiel
    14 August 2017 @ 7:38 am

    Sorry, I meant to say, I would run for the Senate be involved if possible.