The Council is proud to co-sponsor the event, “Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons: Is It Legal? Is It Constitutional? Is It Just?” held Nov. 4 in Cambridge, Mass.
Nuclear weapons strategy in the United States is designed around “presidential first use,” an arrangement that enables one man, the president, to kill and maim many millions of people in a single afternoon. Is this arrangement just? Is it legal? Is it constitutional? Since the start of the atomic age, how many times have presidents come close to launching a nuclear weapon? What responsibilities does a president have – while in office or once out of office – to inform his own citizenry and the world citizenry of any such contemplated actions? Does Congress, the press, or the citizenry have any record of asking the president to report on his record of contemplated launches?
What acts might a foreign population (as opposed to a foreign leader) commit that would warrant or justify delivering such weapons to them? What legal or philosophical principle differentiates the moral harm or moral wrong that would be attributed to a terrorist, non-state actor or hacker who delivered a nuclear weapon from a presidential launch of a nuclear weapon?
The conference will bring together international and constitutional scholars and statesmen to examine the nature of presidential first use in the United States, as well as parallel arrangements in the other nuclear states.