Three good reasons to worry about Trump having the nuclear codes

Richard Slade @CatchNews | First published: 17 November 2016, 18:23 IST
Donald Trump AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan
AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan

Among the more alarming aspects of Donald Trump's election is that he will soon have command of thousands of nuclear weapons. This poses a new and unknown threat to global peace and security, but it also provides an urgent incentive for all states to join the humanitarian initiative to ban nuclear weapons.

The humanitarian initiative is a group of states and civil society organisations working towards a ban on nuclear weapons. For the last five years, the group has made steady progress towards this goal. Unfortunately, states that have nuclear weapons, or states that seek protection under a so-called nuclear umbrella, have largely opposed a treaty banning nuclear weapons. This includes nearly all NATO members, as well as Australia.

Trump's access to nuclear weapons raises three major concerns.


Firstly, and not to be taken lightly: Trump is highly unpredictable.

Western-allied states seek to frame the issue of the nuclear weapons as a threat from an unpredictable "other". In this telling of the story, only "unhinged leaders" such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, North Korea's Kim Jong-un, Russia's Vladimir Putin, or terrorists would be willing to use nuclear weapons. By contrast, the US casts itself as worthy of nuclear weapons due to its stable, law-abiding and trustworthy leadership.

But throughout the election campaign, Trump came across as irrational, hypersensitive and prone to threatening those with whom he disagrees or disapproves. He revealed his inconsistent beliefs and false claims about basic truths, and willingness to change these beliefs for votes on a whim.

Of course, whether it is under President Obama or President Trump, the US is capable of launching, within minutes, a nuclear attack that could threaten the extinction of human life on Earth.

But with Trump, it is nearly impossible to separate empty braggadocio from genuine intention. That means we must take special precautions; Trump has done nothing so far to dispel fears he will apply his reckless brand of decision-making to nuclear weapons.

Inevitable proliferation?

The second problem posed by Trump's access to nuclear weapons is that he sees their spread as inevitable. Trump has said that he doesn't want more nuclear weapons in the world, but added that:

Can I be honest with you? It's going to happen, anyway. It's going to happen anyway.