In the wake of the latest and most serious misdeed by President Trump, I re-read this op-ed by a former Minuteman III nuclear launch officer about why it is imperative that Trump not become President:
During my years in the Air Force, I worked over 300 nuclear “alerts”—24-hour shifts 100 feet below the Wyoming tundra. I sat at my post believing, through both the Bush and Obama administrations, that the president was fundamentally rational and would never ask me to do my terrible duty. Not unless the country was in the direst of national emergencies.
With Trump as president, the young men and women who are assigned to our nuclear forces will have no such assurances.
I am a Republican and I have long worked in Republican politics. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but I believe my party’s nominee for president is mentally unfit to assume this heavy responsibility.
But he does have that formal responsibility. And the individuals directly below him in the chain of command have had ample time to accumulate the evidence that he is not capable of assuming it.
I have been inclined for some time to assume that they have made their own contingency plans for insubordination, just in case the worst proves true. Indeed, I assumed that when General James Mattis took the job as Secretary of Defense, he did so substantially in order to interpose his body and his mind between the president and the country’s fate, and thereby remove the need for a more fateful decision down the road.
In the wake of the most recent revelations, though, I wonder whether they are thinking about how to put those plans into action in a more thorough if less dramatic fashion.
That’s the theme of my latest column at The Week:
From here on, if it was not already the case, at every level of the chain of command, individuals will question whether communicating information up the chain in the normal manner could fatally compromise a mission. Since such intelligence is frequently the basis for military action, the same is true of military communications with the commander in chief.
One should assume that foreign governments are making the same assessment, and taking action to curtail their cooperation with American intelligence so as to protect their own national security. The mutual trust that is necessary for intelligence cooperation will have been compromised very severely. . . .
America’s military and intelligence services are therefore faced with a difficult dilemma. The only way to preserve America’s assets will be to routinize the violation of the chain of command by cordoning off the president from information that he properly needs to make informed decisions. Moreover, in order to reassure foreign allies, military and intelligence services will need to show their willingness to violate the chain of command in this fashion. It will need to become an open secret that the president of the United States is, in effect, no longer the president.
The threat this poses to America’s democratic and constitutional system should not be minimized.
The headline refers to a “coup,” which sounds alarmist, but we might not even notice a smooth glide into a world in which the military and intelligence services make policy and give the president a “recommendation” to “approve” rather than being given options to choose between based on the president’s own policy directives. After all, we barely notice anymore that Congress has no role in war-making, or that the president is no longer bound by treaty or international law.
If the men in uniform quietly moved to protect us from our chosen leader, we might find the knowledge that there are grownups in charge to be comforting, at least in contrast to the alternative. Indeed, if America were a foreign country, our intelligence services would probably already be sounding out their military about options.
Anyway, read the whole thing there, and weep.