'Illegal nuclear launch order can be refused'

Top U.S. general says he would reject ‘illegal’ nuclear strike order from President Trump

The comments come as the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea remains a serious concern and Trump's critics question his temperament. While Hyten is correct that he and other senior defense officials would have the opportunity to consult on any launch if the president followed protocol, per Slate, the actual formal chain of command for nuclear launches is direct from the president to a one-star general at the National Military Command Center. "And if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen?"

He explained that he would tell the president if something which he ordered was illegal, and they would then come up with options to respond to he situation legally. "This is a very serious subject", said Hyten, "And the world is a very unsafe place right now".

In the wake of recent Senate debates on the US President's supposedly unquestionable authority to start a nuclear war, a top general says it's not as easy as pushing a red button. "When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?" he said.

At the Senate hearing this week, experts testified that the use of nuclear weapons must be proportional to a threat, and the Pentagon has extensive options for use of conventional weapons against North Korea. "Only the President of the United States can order the employment of USA nuclear weapons", Kehler said. And from there the news outlet reports, the order "would go to the men and women who would turn the launch keys". Ottinger said he wanted to "eliminate the prospect that human ignorance and potential human failure in the use of nuclear materials, especially nuclear weapons, will lead to the destruction of civilization".

"US nuclear forces operate under strict civilian control".

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During testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, retired Gen. Robert Kehler who served as the head of Strategic Command from January 2011 to November 2013, also said the USA armed forces are obligated to follow legal orders, not illegal ones. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he was not targeting Trump.

Waxman and Richard Betts, director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, have a proposal: To order a nuclear first strike, the president would first have to get "certification" from the secretary of defence that the order is valid and authentic, and from the attorney general that it is legal.

Brian McKeon, who served as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration, told the committee: "I think hard cases make bad law, and I think if we were to change the decision-making process in some way because of a distrust of this President, I think that would be an unfortunate precedent".

These added safeguards wouldn't risk delaying a response to an enemy attack in progress, Betts said.

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