Can a Nuclear War Really Be Launched in Haste? And By Who?
Journalist Eric Schlosser reports that the president isn’t actually the only American who can launch a nuclear attack all by himself or with one other person.
With the transition from the exceptionally restrained Barack Obama to the mercurial Donald Trump, a lot of people have been thinking about the big red button at a president’s disposal. Is launching a nuclear war is as easy to do on impulse as sending out a 3 am tweet? No. And there is no big red button. It’s a matter of entering codes identifying the Commander in Chief — hey, that is kinda the 140 characters of a tweet — found in the nuclear “football,” a briefcase kept near the president at all times. But a president absolutely can make the decision all by himself, with no checks and balances, to launch a nuclear attack. And so—we think—can a handful of other people in the U.S. government.
The details are understandably a matter of tremendous secrecy, so it’s impossible to know with certainty if the system described by Eric Schlosser is still in place. But it may well be: It’s been reported that the main reason David Petraeus had to resign his position as CIA director after the discovery of his extramarital affair was because he’d violated rules of conduct he’d sworn to uphold when he was pre-delegated with the power to launch a nuclear attack.
About the football, and where its odd name comes from. Smithsonian Magazine explains that, according to 1960s Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, an early nuclear war plan had the code name “Dropkick,” and you can’t have a dropkick without a football.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.
- Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
- The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
- Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.
- Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
- Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
- The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.
- Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
- A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
- The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.