Trump's puts his mental fitness into question with nukes talk

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 04:30:37 AM. Robert Torricelli: His senior advisers and cabinet members need to be prepared, if necessary, to refuse an order for a pre-emptive strike and remove him as an unfit president by invoking the 25th amendment.

By Robert Torricelli

Within months, the current national debate over taxes, health care and Russian meddling may be remembered as luxuries of a distant and simpler time. The United States and North Korea are on a nuclear collision course.

Three U.S. Navy carrier battle groups are headed for the Korean Peninsula. The North Koreans may have as many as 15,000 rocket launchers and artillery pieces within range of Seoul. With over 1.5 million men, 6,000 tanks and over 1,000 combat aircraft facing each other, the Korean Peninsula might be the most militarized real estate in history.

President Donald Trump's threats, along with his lack of experience, raise the chilling possibility that he could order a pre-emptive nuclear strike against military assets in North Korea, a move that would set off a holocaust, and raise serious questions about the president's state of mind, his motives and his fitness to remain in office.

His senior advisers and cabinet members need to be prepared, if necessary, to refuse that order and remove him as an unfit president by invoking the 25th amendment. That job would fall to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Both nations have the wrong leaders at the wrong time.

Military conflict might be inevitable because of irreconcilable national ambitions, but the tragic addition of Kim Jong Un and Trump may alter the coming conflict into a transformative event. The North Korean dictator is a 34-year-old neophyte, unknown until the death of his father in 2011, with a record for ruthless and unpredictable behavior. Trump compounds the problem by offering no experience, little historic context and questionable judgment.

Kim Jong Un is uncompromising in his nuclear ambitions. With an arsenal of 20 warheads and a demonstrable capacity to reach North America, he is a clear and formidable threat. North Korean military leaders have recently theorized that Pyongyang can survive and prevail in a nuclear exchange. Trump compounds the threat by inquiring as to the wisdom of possessing nuclear weapons if we don't use them. Neither appears to grasp the full consequences of the first-use of nuclear weapons.

In a flash of light, millions of lives could be lost and the consequences will reach far beyond the devastated cities of Korea. Generations of nuclear doctrine will be altered and the bar permanently lowered on the use of all weapons of mass destruction. Military planners in Tehran might reconsider their options with Israel. Pakistan and India could escalate their continuing border dispute. The Russians, Ukrainians and Chinese will recalibrate the means to achieve territorial ambitions. A door that was closed in 1945 and has remained closed through the Korea, Vietnam, Arab-Israeli, Iraq and Afghan wars would now be open. Nuclear weapons, once regarded as the last vestige of national survival, would be reassigned to the available arsenal of military planners.

It took longer to construct the current doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction than was required to actually build the first nuclear weapons. A generation of military and civilian leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union refrained from first-use specifically because they were educated to understand the consequences. That isn't clear with either Kim Jong Un or Trump.

It required a century of sacrifice and leadership to transform the United States into the most respected and influential of nations. If Trump introduces nuclear weapons, without an imminent threat to the United States, that leadership will be squandered. International legal forums will most assuredly raise the question of first use as a war crime.

Vesting vaulting power in the hands of inexperienced, reckless, and narcissistic leaders has created enormous risk. The people of North Korea had neither the opportunity to avoid it nor the benefit to learn from it. Our country assumed the risk willingly and must now trust that those with the opportunity to save us from our collective irresponsibility may do so.

The American people and history will be watching.

Robert Torricelli, a Democrat, was a U.S. senator from 1997 to 2003 and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey's 9th district from 1983 to 1997. 

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