The Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, has just gone on record saying he’d be willing to launch a nuclear strike against China if President Trump issued the order.
Now – on its face – this might seem like a simple answer, every person in the military is “sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States” including obeying the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, which so happens to be Trump in this case. And, that’s precisely the answer Admiral Swift gave while speaking at the Australian National University security conference in Canberra.
“At risk of being blunt … If, when you return to your command next week, you were to receive an order from the commander in chief, the president of the United States, to make a nuclear attack on China, would you do it?”
“The answer would be yes,” said Adm. Swift. “Every member of the U.S. military has sworn an oath to defendConstitutionution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as the commander in chief appointed over us.”
“This is core to American democracy and any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have significant problems,” Swift added.
However – we’ve all seen movies like Crimson Tide – where Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter (played by Denzel Washington) stood up to Capt. Frank Ramsey when he tried to launch a nuclear strike from a submarine. Ramsey thought he was doing the right thing by following orders but the calm and collected Denzel Washington thought it was imperative to ‘think this over’ and verify its full repercussions first.
It turns out, merely following orders, in this case, would have been wrong, and Denzel prevented a nuclear attack. Admiral Swift is suggesting ‘thinking over’ Trump’s orders would be the wrong move. We disagree. Every member of the armed forces has a duty to uphold the constitution including unlawful commands. Swift doesn’t leave room for the possibility that Trump’s orders would be against the best interests of the United States.