It is terrifying to think of Donald Trump with the codes to launch the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Ironically, Trump himself may be the single best argument anyone could make for why the world should abolish nuclear weapons. The mix of Trump and nuclear weapons is a formula for making his term in office the most dangerous period in human history.
Trump tweets from the hip, like a crazy man. When he tweets or speaks, he often muddies the waters. His aides spend much of their time trying to calm the fears he raises in his compulsive tweeting.
He has tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” It is not likely that he will be the person to lead the world in coming to its senses.
He sought to clarify this tweet by telling MSNBC television host Mika Brzezinski, “Let it be an arms race…we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
The world does not need another nuclear arms race, triggered by macho threats from Trump. Imagine him in John F. Kennedy’s place during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Such a crisis under Trump could result in a civilization-ending nuclear war.
Trump is erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, thin-skinned, and generally ignorant on nuclear and foreign policy issues. He needs restraints on his personality pathologies, if the world is to survive his presidency.
What can be done to keep Trump’s fingers away from the nuclear button?
Before leaving office, President Obama could order that all weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal be taken off high alert status, so that it would take hours or days to launch rather than only a few minutes. This would decrease the possibility of an impulsive or accidental launch of U.S. nuclear weapons, while still maintaining an invulnerable submarine-launched nuclear deterrent force.
Further, President Obama could order that the U.S. adopt a “No First Use” policy related to its nuclear arsenal. Such a policy would be in line with U.S. values, and most Americans believe that this is already U.S. policy.
These acts by President Obama would show people in the U.S. that there is another way forward that is safer and more secure than threatening nuclear strikes. Many people of the world outside the U.S. already know there is a better way forward that does not require preparing for massive nuclear retaliation and spending $1 trillion over the next three decades to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. That better way forward is to negotiate for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.
The American people must add their voices, calling for such policies, as well as U.S. leadership in fulfilling the obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.
The American people must make it clear to Mr. Trump that they will support him in taking steps to abolish nuclear weapons and to bring peace to the planet, but will oppose efforts on his part to strengthen and expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal and pursue a new nuclear arms race.
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David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the author and editor of many books on peace and nuclear weapons abolition, including “Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action.”