Thursday, August 17, 2017

Time to Call the Question: Is Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons Constitutional?

"CNN BREAKING NEWS . . . .
Trump: If N Korea keeps threatening, will be met with 'fire'."


Adam Liptak wrote in the New York Times several days ago that law schools are preparing to delve into numerous Constitutional questions that have been brought to a head by the Trump presidency, not the least of which is:

"Must Congress authorize a nuclear strike against North Korea?"

(See "New on This Fall’s Law School Syllabus: Trump.")

Case in point: a conference taking place in Cambridge on November 4 will address the question, "Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons:  Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?"  The affiliations of the speakers -- including Yale Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT -- tend to affirm Liptak's suggestion that this is a question that is being taken up in law schools and on campuses nationwide.

Also speaking at the Cambridge conference will be Massachusetts member of Congress Jim McGovern, a co-sponsor of HR669 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017." Central to HR669 are the principles that . . .

"The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war";

"By any definition of war, a first-use nuclear strike from the United States would constitute a major act of war"; and

"A first-use nuclear strike conducted absent a declaration of war by Congress would violate the Constitution."

Of course, breathing life into HR669's steely logic requires the participation of actual members of Congress, and in turn by the life-and-blood people they represent. It is worth noting that HR 669 now has forty-seven (47) co-sponsors in the House, including representatives from . . .

Arizona
California
Connecticut
Hawaii
Illinois
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Texas
Vermont
Washington
Wisconsin

Food for thought: how many law schools and universities will avail themselves of the opportunity to invite their member of Congress to participate in a discussion of this vital question? As the list above indicates, "Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons:  Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?" has now become the question people are asking everywhere.


Related posts:

Nuclear Weapons: People Power Over Trump Power

"Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry


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