Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

NOWHERE IS TRUMP’s RETROGRADE MASCULINITY MORE DANGEROUS THAN IN HIS CONTROL OF THE NUCLEAR BUTTON.

There Is No Check on Trump’s Rage Going Nuclear  An angry, entitled man has total control over devastating weapons. Foreign Policy, BY ANNE HARRINGTON, CHERYL ROFER,  MAY 22, 2019, DONALD TRUMP IS TAKING THE UNITED STATES BACK TO AN EARLIER TIME – ONE MOST PEOPLE THOUGHT HAD BEEN LEFT BEHIND. HIS AGGRESSIVE BOORISHNESS, ENTITLEMENT, AND BELIEF THAT HE CAN DO WHATEVER HE WANTS ARE QUALITIES FROM AN AGE WHEN MEN’S CONTROL WAS ASSUMED, AND OTHERS STAYED SILENT. AND NOWHERE IS HIS RETROGRADE MASCULINITY MORE DANGEROUS THAN IN HIS CONTROL OF THE NUCLEAR BUTTON.

As president of the United States, Trump has absolute authority to launch nuclear weapons – without anyone else’s consent.  In the past, it was taken for granted that the president would follow an established protocol that included consultation with the military, his cabinet, and others before taking such a grave step, but Trump is not legally bound to these procedures. Presidential launch authority is a matter of directive and precedent rather than specific law.

Trump’s bravado, penchant for inflated rhetoric, and impulsive decision-making style—including catching his leadership off guard by informing them of policy directives via tweet—have stoked old fears about placing the authority to launch in the wrong hands. So has his constant violation of once cherished presidential norms, including refusing to make public his tax returns and failing to read his daily intelligence brief.

Debates about launch authority have always been intimately bound up with whether we consider nukes’ function to be primarily military or political. Nuclear weapons are so destructive that, since the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even the explicit threat of their use has been sparing. They have been used as political deterrents and levers, instead of direct weapons of war.

Reserving launch authority for the president was a key way to emphasize the political nature of the nuclear mission.

Historians trace the precedent of presidential launch authority to President Harry Truman’s decision to check his generals’ use of nuclear weapons.

After destroying  Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they planned to bomb a third Japanese city, but Truman forbade them to carry out the attack without his express consent and ultimately decided against it. According to Truman’s commerce secretary, Henry Wallace, the president thought killing “another 100,000 people was too horrible.” By assuming personal responsibility for the launch order, Truman started a tradition of differentiating this new technology from conventional weapons.

Reserving launch authority for the president not only underscored the special status of nuclear weapons as a political asset, but it also took them out of the hands of the generals—men like Gen. Curtis LeMay. LeMay was a laconic man’s man, known for his ruthlessness and impolitic statements. During World War II, he directed the firebombing of 63 Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It was LeMay who relayed the orders for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and later, as the head of Strategic Air Command (SAC), oversaw the war plans for an all-out nuclear attack against the Soviet Union. LeMay had no patience for subordinating operational effectiveness to moral concerns, or what he referred to as an American “phobia” against the use of nuclear weapons.

LeMay resented the fact that SAC was subject to presidential launch authority. According to the historian Richard Rhodes, he had his own launch plans, ignoring national policy. While LeMay continued to believe that the United States could obliterate the Soviet Union while minimizing its own losses, in the civilian world ideas about the use of nuclear weapons were evolving. A new breed of defense intellectual was pushing the idea that the primary purpose of nuclear weapons was not to decimate U.S. adversaries but to prevent such weapons being used at all. Anchored in a game theoretic approach, these intellectuals assumed that the holders of nuclear weapons would be rational and that what each side believed about the other—credibility—was central to deterring nuclear use.

Robert McNamara, who served as President John F. Kennedy’s defense secretary, was emblematic of this new approach and responsible for introducing this new breed of defense intellectual into the Pentagon. …….

Where LeMay’s approach openly celebrated slaughter, McNamara’s bloodlessness could lead to just as much destruction. The fact that teams of scientists provided mathematical justifications for the Cold War buildup in nuclear arms did not make the possibility of their use any less brutal……….

McNamara’s approach prevailed—not only politically but culturally. The 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove rejected LeMay’s approach to nuclear weapons. The cigar-chomping Gen. Jack D. Ripper is portrayed as insane, his paranoia leading him to release an airborne nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Maj. T.J. “King” Kong rides the bomb down, brandishing his cowboy hat.

LeMay and McNamara not only represent two different approaches to nuclear strategy but two different ideals of masculinity.  The election of Trump has reversed the usual stereotypes of generals and civilians. In the Trump White House, generals like H.R. McMaster and James Mattis inspired confidence in their respect for social norms and display of restraint, while Trump represents the rejected LeMay model of masculinity—without the virtues of actual service and endurance that LeMay also exemplified.

Trump’s personal manner is like LeMay’s—belligerent, inarticulate, refusing meaningful discussion, and deflecting criticism. And, like LeMay, his statements about nuclear weapons prioritize use over doctrine………

Trump’s focus on the individual, the leader is not just narcissistic but also deeply patriarchal. For Trump’s supporters, it is precisely the hope that Trump might “make America great again” by restoring their social world to its “natural” order, one in which the (white) man’s home is once again his castle. His masculine bravado and willingness to eschew social norms in favor of social aggression and emotional combativeness are his attractive qualities, but it is precisely these characteristics that lead to senseless and irrational conflicts—conflicts that could quickly become global catastrophes in the nuclear era. These days Trump not only brags about grabbing women by the pussy but also boasts about how his nuclear button is bigger than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s………..

Would Trump be willing to use nuclear weapons? That’s unknowable—but he certainly doesn’t need your, or anyone else’s, consent to do it.

Anne Harrington is a Lecturer in International Relations at Cardiff University.
Cheryl Rofer writes scientific and political commentary. She was a chemist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for 35 years. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/22/theres-no-check-on-trumps-rage-going-nuclear/
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May 23, 2019 - Posted by | General News

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