A nuclear blast causes massive damage. First, the blast causes a huge shock wave that causes most of the destruction. Most buildings in the area are reduced to rubble. The shock waves themselves cause extreme pressure that destroys tissues. Thermal radiation leads to severe burns and eye injuries. Aside from that, an electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear explosion will destroy electronics, radars will blackout, and produce ionizing radiation (same thing as a CT scan) that has the capacity to kill and maim.
Nuclear war is a haunting thought and one that has been brought up repeatedly over the last few months. Nobody wants nuclear war, but Democrats have argued that Donald Trump is not “fit” to hold the power of the US nuclear arsenal. How much power does the US President truly have when it comes to nukes? And what would it take to launch a nuclear war?
First of all, the nuclear weapons themselves. The US nuclear arsenal is aging and declining. Only 15,350 nukes exist in the whole world. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the US has “1,750 deployed ‘strategic’ nuclear weapons,’ and 180 ‘tactical,’ sometimes called ‘non-strategic’ nuclear warheads ready to fire — a total of 1,930 nuclear weapons.”
The only two nuclear weapons used in warfare in the history of the United States were “Little Boy” and “Fat Man.” “Little Boy” was detonated by the US, under the order of President Truman, at the end of World War II in Hiroshima in 1945. Just three days after that, “Fat Man” was detonated in Nagasaki. 120,000 people were killed.
Once Trump is inaugurated, a security official will hand him a code card named, “the biscuit.” This card has secret codes that identify the President and will allow him to give the ok for a nuclear attack. All he has to do is give those codes to military commanders. He also has a book in a briefcase called “The Presidential Emergency Satchel” or “the football.” This book has options for targeting a strike. According to Pete Metzger, who carried “the football” for President Reagan, “You have to be ready anytime for any moment. It has to happen quickly because the time on a missile is very fast.” Any aide who carries “the football” has severe background checks and psychological tests conducted.
In a real-world situation, the President might consider a nuclear strike but will consult with the military and advisors in Washington to consider options. He’ll likely consult the Pentagon’s Deputy Director of Operations who controls the “war room.” The President could talk to them for a few seconds, days, or weeks before deciding to launch. Once the President is verified by a senior officer in the “war room,” the President will give him the code on the “biscuit.” The order then goes out, submarine and ICBM crews receive the message and open locked safes to find SAS codes from the National Security Agency. They put those codes in the order necessary, and those codes are fed through a system on-board to unlock a “fire-control” key which is used to deploy the missiles. The missiles will fire 15 minutes after receiving the final order. If the missiles are launched from land, they follow a similar procedure, but it only takes about five minutes to launch from land. It takes two “votes” to launch missiles, so even if most of the crew refuses, it’s likely that the launch won’t stop.
While the 1973 War Powers Act requires a President to get the approval of Congress before using the force of nuclear war 60 days before launching, according to a Brookings Institute report, the rule doesn’t matter. The report stated, “A nuclear war could easily devastate the planet within just days or hours—long before the 60-day stipulation would be binding. Even if a President had obtained congressional approval for a war that began using only conventional weapons, no provisions of the War Powers Act would require subsequent congressional action prior to nuclear escalation.”
Also, since the 1940s, the US has had a “first strike” policy where they don’t need to wait for an attack to launch a nuclear strike. Since the last strike, US military strategists have worked diligently on plans to start a nuclear war in response to attacks from countries like Western Europe and Russia. President Barack Obama hasn’t altered the policy. Donald Trump has expressed a desire to expand US nuclear force, tweeting on December 22, 2016, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability, until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” Additionally, he has said that, while he would “never, ever” rule out using the weapons, they would be “the absolute last step.”
In an interview with GQ, Trump stated “I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not [going to] have to nuke anybody…it is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them.”
In the New York Times, Trump expresses concern, saying, “It’s a very scary nuclear world…[The] power of weaponry today is beyond anything ever thought of, or even, you know, it’s unthinkable, the power. You look at Hiroshima and you can multiply that times many, many times, is what you have today. And to me, it’s the single biggest, it’s the single biggest problem.”