It’s reassuring to know the top US nuclear commander said at an international security forum that he will resist Donald Trump if the US President ordered an “illegal” nuclear weapons launch. The greatest fear recently was the standoff between Mr Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, which could easily go wrong with one man losing his cool. While both fought largely verbal battles, there was a chilling foreboding of a nuclear winter. A pre-emptive Trump strike without congressional consent was the worst fear. It’s here that the words of USAF Gen. John Hyten, head of Strategic Command, which oversees the nuclear arsenal and carries the nuclear “football” for the US President, comes as a balm for the world, that hasn’t seen a nuclear strike since 1945.
The debate may be hypothetical as there’s no reason to suspect that Mr Trump, for all his bravado, and Mr Kim, for all his braggadocio, will ever launch loaded missiles at each other. But we all know it’s not only Democrats in the US who feel Mr Trump may be “quixotic enough” to order a nuclear strike. There may have been many times when nuclear adversaries have come close to disaster, but each time it was precluded by cold logic as the men with the button knew this wasn’t a step the world could afford to take. Further, a retired US general told a congressional committee that “a presidential order to employ US nuclear weapons must be legal”. The same constraint may not apply to Mr Kim’s men. He may resort to one-upmanship in the belief he could force to US to withdraw troops from South Korea. We keep our fingers crossed.