Gen. John Hyten, commander of STRATCOM, explained at a conference Saturday how he would react to an unlawful request from President Trump to launch a nuclear warhead.
Brian McKeon, who served as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration, told the committee: "I think hard cases make bad law, and I think if we were to change the decision-making process in some way because of a distrust of this President, I think that would be an unfortunate precedent". All the USA top brass, himself included, are trained to disobey "illegal" orders. We think about these things a lot.
"If it's illegal. I'm gonna say, 'Mr President, that's illegal.' And guess what he's gonna do?" When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?,' he said.
In his capacity as STRATCOM commander, Hyten oversees the United States strategic nuclear triad, consisting of long-range bombers, land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, who previously served as the commander of US Strategic Command under President Barack Obama, explained at the hearing that there are layers of safeguards within the current system created to ensure any order is both legal and proportionally appropriate. "He's going to say, 'What would be legal?'" Gen Hyten said.
I'm going to say, 'Mr President, that's illegal.' And guess what he's going to do?
"If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail, you could go to jail for the rest of your life".
As the Washington Post emphasized, once it gets to that one-star general, determining what is or is not an illegal order is not really a launch officers' prerogative. Even if his military advisors and the entire cabinet are against him, the president could still legally order our nuclear forces to attack, so the concept of an "illegal" order to launch is nearly unfathomable.
Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and threatened in his maiden United Nations address to "totally destroy" the country of 26 million people if it threatened the United States.
In a hearing earlier this week, Sen.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hyten's remarks. At the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, the first one of this kind in over 40 years, some senators raised the alarm about Trump, who has threatened to unleash "fire and fury" against North Korea, pulling the nuclear trigger.
'We are ready every minute of every day to respond to any event that comes out of North Korea, ' he said on Saturday. "That's the element of deterrence that has to be clear, and it is clear", Hyten said.
He also explained that handling such a delicate and unpredictable situation - like Kim Jong Un's leadership - needs to be an worldwide effort. Mr. Trump has continued to put pressure on China to help manage its tempestuous neighbor. "But President Trump can create the conditions that the worldwide community can reach out in different ways where we can work with the Republic of Korea, where we can work with our neighbors in the region".