Interviews with John Noonan, Kennette Benedict and Thomas Karako, broadcast on CBC Radio One’s The Current, August 9, 2016
“I’m going to bomb the s— out of them.” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is not one to mince words. However, between his off-the-cuff remarks and claims from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that Trump asked a foreign policy expert about the use of nuclear weapons multiple times — adding, “if we have them, why can’t we use them” — officials are concerned about whether the Republican candidate can be trusted with the nuclear codes.
While Trump’s campaign denies Scarborough’s claims, doubts linger. On August 8, 2016, 50 Republican officials signed a letter warning Trump would put national security “at risk.”
John Noonan, a former U.S. Air Force launch officer who has acted as a national security adviser to the Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush presidential campaigns, says his biggest worry when it comes to Trump and the nuclear question is temperament. “We American voters expect our presidential candidates to be able to pass what we call a commander-in-chief test,” explains Noonan.
Along with temperament, Noonan also lists judgement, good sense in leadership and in keeping “those weapons in their silos where they belong,” and maintenance of a nuclear deterrent as part of the test.
While he acknowledges the Trump campaign’s denial of Scarborough’s claims, Noonan says it doesn’t detract from the growing narrative around nuclear weapons.
‘There’s a narrative that’s been building here for a couple of months that suggests [the Trump campaign] would be willing to turn their backs on several decades worth of successful and intelligent nuclear policy. And frankly, as someone who is close to these weapons for so many years, I find it appalling.’ – John Noonan, former U.S. Air Force launch officer and national security adviser to the Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush presidential campaigns
Kennette Benedict is the senior advisor to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the organization responsible for setting the ‘Doomsday Clock‘, which measures how close civilization is to worldwide disaster. The clock has been set to three minutes to midnight for over a year, the closest it’s been since the early 1980s. Benedict calls our current global nuclear threat “quite serious.”
“These are weapons of genocide,” Benedict says, going on to question whether the American people want a system in which one individual can commit such acts in their name.
Thomas Karako, a senior fellow with the International Security Program and Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes there needs to be more faith placed in the institutions that play a role in nuclear forces — though he shares concern for Trump’s temperament.
“Our institutions are powerful things, and the offices in our institutions are very durable and larger than any man or woman that occupy them,” Karako says.
Noonan says that if Trump is elected, the military must be empowered in taking on the responsibility of advising the president, instead of “farming the decision out to a committee or placing additional checks” in fear of such an individual having nuclear powers. However, Noonan believes the burden of keeping the “instability” of Trump away from nuclear decisions falls on voters.
‘I think that the onus is on the American people to make sure that [Donald Trump] doesn’t assume power.’ – John Noonan, former U.S. Air Force launch officer and national security adviser to the Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush presidential campaigns
Listen to the full conversation here or at the weblink at the top of this post.
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