The president of the United States has unilateral authority to order the launch of nuclear weapons. It is a paradox of the modern age that the most fearsome power the nation’s chief executive possesses is the one power not subject to checks and balances. So when a president’s capacity to function is constrained by medical or psychological issues, there is cause for concern. President Trump’s hospitalization following a positive test for Covid-19, and the administering of powerful drugs to fight his infection, both potentially impinge on his capacity to operate effectively in a nuclear crisis. Similar situations have arisen with past presidents. If the president responds too slowly, the retaliation required by U.S. nuclear strategy might not be authorized in time for an effective response. If the president responds too quickly, missiles may launch before it becomes apparent an attack warning was wrong. The timelines are very compressed, and one thing national security does not need is a chief executive impaired by medical or psychological disability. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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