A Critique of Guardianship
THE CONTROL OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS offers a way of testing out the claims for guardianship.For one thing, the opportunities for exercising control over some of the most crucial decisions seem to be inherently limited to so few persons that controlling them democratically is simply out of the question.
To take one of the most horrifying of all possibilities, the decision whether or not to launch nuclear weapons rests solely with the president. It is surely not an exaggeration to say that no single person has ever before been given such an incredible concentration of authority over such a consequential matter. In actuality, the situation is rather more complicated. There are grounds for thinking that presidents may secretly delegate to military commanders their authority to launch in the event that the president himself is incapacitated — incinerated might be the proper word — in an enemy attack. Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson seem to have done so, and one supposes that their successors followed the same practice. 1 In addition, the commander-in-chief of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) is authorized to launch the nuclear bomber force in order to protect it from what is judged to be an incoming missile attack.The bomber force then proceeds to holding positions for further orders, presumably from the president or in some circumstances the SAC commander.All these arrangements depend, of course, on the preservation of command systems.