Politics No idle threat: After Trump, U.S. must reform nuclear procedures
Australia resisted using nuclear power for decades. Here's why the AUKUS deal is making people there angry
The US and UK will be sharing technology and expertise with Australia to help it build nuclear-powered submarines as part of a newly-announced defense pact between the three countries. The move has sparked fury in France, which has lost a long-standing agreement to supply Australia with diesel-powered subs. © Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto/Getty Images The USS Indiana, a nuclear-powered US Navy attack submarine, is escorted as it departs Port Canaveral in Florida on September 29, 2018. But it's not only the French who are furious.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark A. Milley (R) listens while US President Donald Trump speaks before a meeting with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC on October 7, 2019. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images
FromDonald Trump won the presidency, about the possibility of a foreign adversary making a tragic miscalculation or seeing an opportunity to challenge the U.S. or one of its allies on the basis of Trump's ignorance of America's unique position in global security. It wasn't that I necessarily thought that he would launch a war willy-nilly, although that was certainly within his power, I instead worried that other countries could misunderstand his bluster and erratic personality. Now a soon-to-be-released book by veteran D.C. reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, appropriately called "Peril", suggests that was no idle worry.
China's nuclear build-up: The great distraction
China may be a rising nuclear power, but its bigger agenda is building up its science and technology prowess. And this is where we need to focus as a competitor. We should ask ourselves: What is in the long-term U.S. national security interest? Where can we best spend our national treasure to ensure our future defense? Our defense budget funds are finite; we have to balance how best to spend them.The focus should be not on nuclear weapons but on the new and emerging technologies that are rapidly maturing into military assets.
According toby various news organizations, in the waning days of his presidency, Trump's unstable behavior caused serious alarm in the Chinese government. The Washington Post that after reviewing intelligence reports, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A Milley called his counterpart in the Chinese military, Gen. Li Zuocheng, to assure him "that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay. We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you." Milley reportedly stressed the long-standing relationship he had with his counterpart and even told him that he would alert him in advance if the U.S. decided to attack. That phone call reportedly went on for an hour and a half.
U.S. ‘Naive’ About Kim Talks, Leading South Korea Candidate Says
One of the top-ranked conservatives seeking to be South Korea’s next president said the U.S. was “reckless” in its diplomacy with North Korea and questioned if the American ally’s nuclear shield offered real protection. “America is approaching North Korea in a naive way,” Hong Joon-pyo, a leading candidate from the People Power Party said in an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday, where he criticized the Biden administration for trying to prod Pyongyang back to stalled nuclear talks.“If you look at the way the U.S.
After the January 6th insurrection, Milley once more got on the phone to reassure a very rattled Li that the U.S. wasn't coming apart. "We are 100 percent steady. Everything's fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes." Sloppy indeed.
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The New York Times' Peter Baker and the New Yorker's Susan Glasser alsothat General Milley had been gravely concerned that Trump seemed intent upon taking military action against Iran in the final days of 2020. Woodward and Costa likewise report that after a November meeting, CIA director Gina Haspel was equally troubled, telling Milley, "this is a highly dangerous situation. We are going to lash out for his ego?"
We also knew that Milley had become convinced that Trump was becoming more and more unstable and was looking for a "Reichstag Moment" as a rationale to go forward with overturning the election. Glasser reported that "Milley had, since late in 2020, been having morning phone meetings, at 8 a.m. on most days, with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the hopes of getting the country safely through to's Inauguration."
France is furious after Australia scrapped a submarine deal to partner with the US and UK. Here's how American, British, and French subs stack up
Experts told Insider that it makes sense for Australia to go with nuclear-powered subs over conventional diesel-electric submarinesAustralia wants to replace its Collins-class attack submarines. The plan was initially to purchase a dozen diesel-electric Shortfin Barracuda submarines from France, but Australia has since abandoned that plan and partnered with the US and UK to acquire nuclear submarine technology.
Now "Peril" reveals that after January 6th and a phone call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — in which she demanded to know whether or not there were any precautions being taken to prevent Trump, whom she called "crazy," from unilaterally launching a nuclear strike — Milley convened a meeting of senior officers and told them that in the event of an order to launch nuclear weapons. "No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I'm part of that procedure!"
That "I'm part of that procedure" has caused an uproar as well as his contacts with China's General Li. According toon the nuclear procedures, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has no role aside from advising the president in such decisions, so if Milley meant that they could not proceed without his order, he was flat wrong. But Glasser's earlier reporting has it a little bit different saying that Milley "told them to make sure there were no unlawful orders from Trump and not to carry out any such orders without calling him first." say he never said to violate procedure. It will likely take some more investigating to determine exactly if or how much Milley defied the normal line of authority.
Congress could stop Milley's nuclear weapons quandary from happening again
Congress should, by statute, make it unlawful for the United States to exercise first use of nuclear weapons. This would make the kind of order that Milley reportedly feared not merely immoral and unwise, but illegal. And again, illegal orders must be disobeyed.During the Cold War, a first use of nuclear weapons by the United States was anticipated as a possibility for good reasons: upon incontrovertible intelligence that the Soviets planned a surprise first strike, to respond to the use of chemical or biological weapons against the U.S.
The calls to Li may not have been quite as unusual, contrary to claims by outraged Republicans.
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, flag officers in these positions do have conversations with one another although the fact that the president wasn't informed and he promised to give a heads up if the U.S. decided to attack are unusual, to say the least. But I have to say that I'm grateful someone got on the horn to reassure the Chinese government that the U.S. was not on the verge of attacking them. Obviously, none of Trump's inner circle were willing even though they had the same intelligence reports. Nonetheless, this erosion of the constitutional requirement for civilian control of the military is almost as frightening as Trump's volatile behavior.
Milley became convinced that Trump was dangerously mentally unstable and he took it upon himself to, as "Peril's" authors put it, "pull a Schlesinger" which refers to the last time a Republican president started to buckle under the pressure of his own mistakes and left office in disgrace. That was in August of 1974 during the final days of the Nixon administration when Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger reportedly ordered certain presidential orders — especially those related to nuclear arms — to be cleared by himself personally or National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. (How comforting.) This was supposedly after"I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead." This was the kind of comment Trump made on a regular basis:
Satellite images reveal North Korea expanding facility used to produce weapons-grade uranium
New satellite images obtained by CNN reveal North Korea is expanding a key facility capable of enriching uranium for nuclear weapons, renovations that likely indicate the country plans to significantly ramp-up production at this once-dormant site in the near future, according to experts who analyzed the photos. © Maxar/Middlebury Institute of International Studies A satellite image taken on September 14, 2021 shows construction underway at a North Korean uranium enrichment plant.
Pres. Trump claims he could win Afghan war "in a week. I just don't want to kill 10 million people."
"I have plans on Afghanistan, that, if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth...I don't want to go that route."— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics)
And keep in mind thatTrump had abruptly fired Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and installed a loyalist in his place along with a handful of other henchmen in strategic posts in the Pentagon. He'd pushed out others at and and attempted to replace them with cronies. Nobody knew exactly what they were up to but it was very weird for a president to do that in the last two months of his presidency. Even former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quoted in "Peril" saying, "he's in a very dark place right now." You can't blame Milley or anyone else for fearing the worst.
The Daily Beastthat Trump called around to allies on Tuesday telling them to go on TV and say that Milley should be arrested for treason. are also calling for his head. I'll leave it to the experts to say whether or not he violated the chain of command so egregiously that he has to go.
But I will say this: It's a miracle that we have managed to survive the nuclear age so far with the biggest nuclear arsenal on earth in the hands of irrational leaders like Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. We've been lucky so far but I doubt that luck will hold out forever. If we cannot rid the world of these terrifying weapons as we should, or always elect sane, competent people to the presidency as we apparently cannot, the least we could do is find some way to ensure that one unstable person doesn't have the sole power to unleash them. This system must be reformed before something unthinkable happens.
Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Dems demand accounting from Big Oil .
Today is Friday. Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. Two Democratic leaders called upon the CEOs of major oil companies to testify before Congress about whether they "suppressed information about their roles in climate change," Zack Budryk reported for The Hill."We need an accounting," House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told The Hill, stressing that companies are making public statements about the importance of sustainability while telling their boards that oil production will continue.