Aug 10th 2017

Congress Should Curb Trump’s Ability to Launch First Nuclear Strike

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on

Donald Trump actually threatened North Korea with a nuclear attack if their egomaniacal leader continued to “threaten” the United States.

The idea that the United States of America would seriously consider launching a nuclear war over a verbal taunt is simply unthinkable.

But remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last year is reported to have asked why, if we have nuclear weapons, we shouldn’t use them.

Last January, Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu introduced legislation that would forbid the president to launch a nuclear first strike without a Congressional declaration of war.

It’s time for Congress to enact that legislation.

No one questions that to give deterrence credibility, the President should have authority to retaliate immediately if our country is attacked by nuclear weapons.  But a first strike is a different matter altogether.

The Constitution gives the Congress the ability to declare war.  A nuclear attack is the most extreme attack on another country imaginable.  If the Congress does not have the authority to declare war in those circumstances, the Constitution is meaningless.

The President’s comments implying that he is willing to launch a nuclear attack on North Korea underlines the urgency of Congressional action.

Donald Trump appears to have the emotional stability of an emotionally unstable teenager.  Everyday we hear stories of teenagers who learn that someone they know has been “fooling around” with their girlfriend and shoots them, because they have access to a gun.  If they didn’t have access to a gun they would challenge the offending party to a fist-fight, but having access to a gun allows the level of violence to escalate to a point that it ruins the lives of both the victim and the shooter.

Donald Trump has control of the nuclear launch codes. He didn't threaten North Korea, as some pundits say, to “call their bluff” – or for some strategic reason.  He was responding to a reporter’s question about Korean leader Kim Jung-Un’s threat.  His instinct was that of an emotionally unstable teenager – to say “oh yea – if he keeps talking like that I’ll blow the son-of-a-bitch away.”

We have no reason to believe that one of these days he won’t just try to do it.  We have no reason to believe that one of these days he won’t just try to do it.

Over the last six months Donald Trump has demonstrated that he does not carefully consider his policy options with military and diplomatic experts.  He responds to circumstances impulsively, erratically and emotionally – without consulting anyone.

We cannot allow one person who has a pattern of erratic, impulsive behavior – or anyone else for that matter -- the ability to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike on a country that has not attacked the United States with nuclear weapons.

And the last thing our country, or the world, needs is a situation where two egomaniacal, impulsive leaders – each of them armed with nuclear weapons – have a macho contest over who’s tougher.

Let’s be clear.  Intelligence estimates put total deaths in a new Korean War at about a million dead – and that’s if the war does not go nuclear.  The city of Seoul is 40 miles from the North Korean border.  Shells delivered by North Korean artillery would rain down on Seoul in 45 seconds.

A nuclear exchange would be catastrophic – and could very well engage the Chinese and Russians and launch World War III.

What is needed in Korea is the same approach that curtailed the Iranian nuclear program – strong sanctions and then negotiations that provide security for both parties.

War – and especially nuclear war – is the worst of all options.

That, of course, may be news for Trump, who despite his bluster managed to escape the draft with a series of deferments and avoid becoming personally involved in a real war in Vietnam.

Trump avoided service in Vietnam, but an old interview surfaced in which he explained his personal sacrifices to Howard Stern. Avoiding STDs during his bachelor rampages in the 1970s, he said, was "my personal Vietnam — I feel like a great and very brave soldier." (Reuters)

I remember watching the film “13 Days” – the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In  1962, America and the world came very close to nuclear Armageddon. We avoided nuclear war mainly because the self-confidence and moral compass of President John Kennedy, who rejected the recommendations of some of his top Generals and chose a course that led to resolution and peace.

Had Donald Trump been President, there is little doubt in my mind that the unthinkable catastrophe of a nuclear war would likely have become a reality.

We must act before it is too late.  Democrats and Republicans should strip Trump of his power to unilaterally do a nuclear first strike against a foe that has not attacked the United States.

And to Republicans who refuse to act because they say, “Well, a nuclear winter would be tough, but if we lay off Trump he might at least cut our taxes” – time to think again.

I guarantee that nuclear war is not a politically popular policy option.

And there is much more at stake than the next election.

A few years ago a planetary scientist named David Grinspoon wrote a book called Lonely Planets. It explores the question of extraterrestrial life. 

Toward the end of his book, Grinspoon speculates on the chances of survival for intelligent life in the universe.  He argues that every civilization of intelligent creatures must pass through a gauntlet that tests whether the values and political structures of the society are capable of keeping pace with the exponentially increasing power of the society’s technology.  If its values and political structures can keep pace with technological change, the society may pass into a phase of enormous freedom and possibility.  If it does not, the power of its own technology will destroy it.  Perhaps, he postulates, civilizations are like seahorses.  Many are born, but only a few survive.

For the first time, sixty-five years ago, human society entered that gauntlet.  Our technological growth reached a point of takeoff that for the first time gave us the power to destroy ourselves and all life on our tiny, fragile planet.  From that moment on, the race began.

The next several generations of humans will decide how that race turns out.  We won’t simply observe it, or describe it; We will decide it.  Whatever the future holds will be a result of human decision for which we are all responsible. 

We will decide if we pass through that gauntlet or – like our cousins the Neanderthals – become evolutionary dead ends.  We will decide if humanity passes into a new era of possibility and freedom, or the human story simply ends.


Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book:  Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on He is a partner in Democracy Partners. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.

To subscribe to Facts and Arts' weekly newsletter, please click here.

To follow Facts & Arts' Editor, Olli Raade, on Twitter, please click here.

If you have something to say that you want to say on Facts & Arts, please

Write to the Editor, or write a comment in the comments section.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: " Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "