America’s top nuclear commander said that if given the order for a nuclear strike by President Trump, he would “push back,” saying it was “illegal.”
Speaking at an international security forum in Nova Scotia Canada, Gen. John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command, described what would happen if President Donald Trump ordered a nuclear strike.
“I provide advice to the President,” Hyten said. “He’ll tell me what to do, and if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m gonna say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ Guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”
The US Strategic Command oversees all of America’s nuclear and missile defense capabilities.
His remarks came after a hearing on the President’s authority to launch nuclear weapons, CNN reports. It’s the first hearing of its kind in more than 40 years.
Under our chain of command, the president has the sole authority to order a launch. But Hyten told the audience that the military always has the obligation to follow “legal” orders and said that an “illegal” order does not have to be followed.
During the senate hearing, Retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler – who used to head the Strategic Command – said there are layers of safeguards within the current system designed to ensure any order is both legal and proportionally appropriate.
“US nuclear forces operate under strict civilian control. Only the President of the United States can order the employment of US nuclear weapons,” Kehler said.
“This is a system controlled by human beings … nothing happens automatically,” he said, adding that the US military does not blindly follow orders and a presidential order to employ nuclear weapons must be legal.
While President Trump retains constitutional authority to order a nuclear strike, Kehler said that decision process “includes assessment, review and consultation between the President and key civilian and military leaders, followed by transmission and implementation of any Presidential decision by the forces themselves.”
“If there is an illegal order presented to the military, the military is obligated to refuse to follow it,” he said.
This has made some Democrats feel a little better. Those on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said they don’t like the idea of Trump with his finger on the trigger.
“We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with US national security interests,” said US Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut.
Even President Trump’s opponents were wary of changing the authority framework.
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.”
What do you think? Can the generals refuse an order from the President if they feel it is “illegal”? Sound off below!