The Case for Restricting First Use With a Nuclear Weapon in the Age of Trump

There has been a dangerous war of words flying back and forth between Trump and Kim Jong Un in recent months that have taken the planet closer to nuclear war than we have been in decades. For the first time in my 34 years on planet earth, I’m feeling a legitimate fear of nuclear war and speaking to my friends about stocking up on iodine tablets. How did we get here?

Nuclear threats coming from Trump’s White House seem to be lobbed casually these days and are in the form of “fire and fury” comments at press conferences, off the cuff 3am tweets, and unscripted insults from a lectern in front the UN. It seems as if Trump’s top advisors are consistently caught off guard and are often forced to smooth over his undisciplined approach to foreign policy. This display of bellicose from Trump is a very dangerous game of chicken without consideration of the millions of lives could be lost if there were a nuclear or a military conflict in the region. In the midst of the millions that would be affected are 200,000 US citizens in South Korea and Japan alone. South Korea’s densely populated capitol of Seoul would surely be the first casualty of any preemptive US aggression to North Korea.

The law of the land since the dawn of the nuclear weapons age has been that the President has unilateral authority to do a first strike with a nuclear weapon. Right now there is a person in that role who shows very little understanding and respect for nuclear deterrence strategy with the authority to end life on the planet, as we know it with a push of a button.

In response to the growing national security threat that is our current commander in chief, there are bipartisan bills pending in the House and Senate that could prevent a worst-case scenario by requiring an official declaration of war from Congress to do a first strike with a nuclear weapon. S.200 or H.R.669 — The Restricting First Use with a Nuclear Weapon Act of 2017 — would make us more secure and help calm other leaders around the world by reassuring them that our nuclear stockpile is only for deterrence and not aggression. In this harrowing period of a potential nuclear first strike, it is imperative that Congress pass legislation to restrict the president’s authority to unilaterally start a nuclear war.

Hassan El-Tayyab

Chicago Area Peace Action

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