US nuclear general discusses illegal order to strike

This seems to be hypothetical musing but it is seen as significant that a US General involved in nuclear strike decisions openly discussed what he would do if given an illegal order to launch nukes.

Reuters: U.S. nuclear general says would resist ‘illegal’ Trump strike order

The top U.S. nuclear commander said on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons.

Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada that he had given a lot of thought to what he would say if he received such an order.

“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. “We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”

Hyten, who is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, explained the process that would follow such a command.

As head of STRATCOM “I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” he said in his remarks, retransmitted in a video posted on the forum’s Facebook page.

“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I‘m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”

Hyten said running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order was standard practice, and added: “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”

His job requires him to resist any president who might give illegal orders. This is one of the checks and balances on presidential power.

But why is the General being asked about this now?

They came after questions by U.S. senators, including Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans, about Trump’s authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end international agreements, amid concern that tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs could lead to hostilities.

Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and threatened in his maiden United Nations address to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if it threatened the United States.

Some senators want legislation to alter the nuclear authority of the U.S. president and a Senate committee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearing in more than four decades on the president’s authority to launch a nuclear strike.

Trump’s unpredictability and impetuousness seems to be raising concerns, as they should.

The world has raised concerns about the nuclear risk. As long as we can be assured a nuclear strike can’t be ordered via Twitter it may not be as bad as it seems.

Leave a comment


  1. This won’t help:

  2. Gerrit

     /  20th November 2017

    Basically means the USA president (not just Trump but any other) is not in charge, the military is. Raises the question, could the generals unleash a nuclear war (or any war) without the president’s approval?

    Also raises the question what legalese is there in sending nuclear missiles on their way?

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  20th November 2017

    Funny how Trump who has implemented a policy of giving more authority to his generals on the ground to make strategic and tactical decisions is being accused by his opponents of acting unilaterally. The evidence is the opposite is true and an objective reading of the above post confirms that.

    • Gezza

       /  20th November 2017

      Yeah – it’s actually quite reassuring. The top nuclear military brass will have a far better appreciation of the potential for unforeseen adverse adverse consequences, & short & long term outcomes of a hasty & unnecessary nuclear launch. Also they will know that Trump, having the attention span of a housefly, & the memory of a gnat, would have absolutely no idea at all. So that General’s remarks are actually very reassuring.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  20th November 2017

        Insult to flies and gnats.

        He has a long memory for any slight, real or imaginary-or so it seems. But not for anything that he doesn’t want to remember or be reminded of.

        I like the old rhyme

        Somebody hadn’t very much to do
        The day they put the g in gnat and gnu.


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