This week, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing focused congressional and public attention on the president’s authority to launch a nuclear attack. The widest concern is not about procedure for launching forces on warning or retaliating against an enemy attack, but about a potential decision to initiate use of nuclear weapons without good cause. Right now, the president can launch a nuclear first-strike on his authority alone.
Richard K. Betts is the Arnold A. Saltzman Professor of War and Peace Studies in the political science department, Director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and Director of the International Security Policy program in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He was Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations for four years and is now an adjunct Senior Fellow there.
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