Loose cannons: The president and US nuclear posture

By Bruce G. Blair, January 13, 2020

Bruce Blair Bruce Blair

The US president’s unfettered authority to order the use of nuclear weapons and an unstable US nuclear posture create a compound existential risk. Reducing the risk requires eliminating the dangerously unstable warfighting contingencies of first use of nuclear weapons and launch on warning of nuclear attack from the repertoire of presidential options; re-configuring the nuclear chain of command; and building a robust and enduring nuclear command system to stabilize the contingency of second-strike retaliation on which true deterrence depends.

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bob slentz
bob slentz

As former USAF, I am somewhat worried about how a false alert could cause a launch but as long as cool heads prevail (like Stanislov Petrov), I never really expected an all-out exchange. However, with Trump in the White House, fear and uncertainty about his unpredictable, unstable and rash decisions could erupt into a conflict, which could quickly get out of control and result in an all-out exchange.

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