The Nuclear Chain of Command

Donald Trump has been musing about nuclear war since the 1980s, and now he’s bringing our fears to life with his tweets against North Korea. Also, playing the role of a decisive and serious executive, he told the military back in July that he wanted to increase the US’s arsenal of nuclear weapons back to the maximum we had during the Cold War. That seems to have been the trigger for Rex Tillerson to call him a moron. Tillerson wasn’t wrong.

As always with Trump, it’s a good idea to have the facts before us. So here are some.

A president launches nuclear missiles via an electronic briefcase (“the football”) that is always at his side, carried by a service member at the O4-O5 level. That’s a major – lieutenant colonel or lieutenant commander – commander. The services rotate, and both male and female service members have been in this role. One of them made the news back in the spring of this year when he allowed Mar-a-Lago patrons to take selfies with him. Their role is to be unobtrusive and to follow orders. Read More

Sillamäe Again

Here’s a light but crabby post for a Saturday. Fits my mood.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Sillamäe, Estonia, and more thinking about it. So when a publication screws up the facts, I feel a need to respond.

This time, it’s Atlas Obscura doing a remarkable job of stuffing errors into a short article. Read More

Undermining The Iran Nuclear Deal

With President Donald Trump’s loud declaration of disdain for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal arrived at with Iran by six nations plus the European Union, the opponents of the deal are newly energized. They have resurrected all their old arguments, plus a few more.

Although the agreement severely limits the amounts of materials needed to make a bomb and places heavy inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the facilities that Iran used to taunt the international community with its nuclear know-how, the opponents of the deal insist that it will be no time at all before Iran surprises us with a bomb. They make this argument without bothering to specify how that might happen. Read More