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Former Launch Officer on Trump’s Potential for Nuclear First Strike

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Written by Basil on 08/3/2016 11:58 AM. Filed under:


John Noonan is a defense analyst and former United States Air Force officer who performed duties as a Minuteman III launch officer. In a nuclear war, he would have been one of the people turning the keys to end civilization as we know it. As a result, his series of tweets analyzing Donald Trump’s potential attitude toward using nuclear weapons carry a certain moral weight not available to most discussions on the matter.

Noonan writes in response to anonymous allegations reported by Joe Scarborough that Trump asked a foreign policy expert “three times,” “if we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?” The Trump campaign has denied Scarborough’s statement, saying, “There is no truth to this [story].”

Enter Noonan’s series of tweets, which analyze the consequences of such a shift in nuclear weapons use philosophy, if true.

Noonan tells those who are just tuning in (like myself) that he has significant experience with nuclear weapons.

They do sound at odds, but the idea is:

  1. You cannot be unstable. There must be no possibility that you will go rogue and conspire to use these weapons without authorization.
  2. You must be willing to follow the order to use them, when given, without hesitation.

The nuclear triad is the combination of land, air, and sea based nuclear weapons. Briefly, if any two of these elements are eliminated, based solely on the strength of the remaining leg, a nuclear response could destroy the attacker. Recall that this strategy was developed during the Cold War against a primarily Soviet opponent. In the submarine force, we said that even if one ballistic missile submarine was left, it would carry enough nuclear warheads (288) to wipe out the USSR.

I’ll conclude by returning to Scarborough’s initial claim.

Scarborough made the Trump comments 52 seconds into an interview with former Director of Central Intelligence and ex-National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden.

Scarborough then asked a hypothetical question to Hayden about how quickly nuclear weapons could be deployed if a president were to give approval.

“It’s scenario dependent, but the system is designed for speed and decisiveness. It’s not designed to debate the decision,” Hayden said.


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