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kottke.org posts about Roger Fisher

Presidential murder as a deterrent to nuclear war

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2018

In an article titled “Preventing nuclear war” published in the March 1981 issue of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Roger Fisher suggested that before the President could launch nuclear weapons against another nation, they would first have to kill a person with their bare hands, as a prelude to killing perhaps tens of millions.

An early arms control proposal dealt with the problem of distancing that the President would have in the circumstances facing a decision about nuclear war. There is a young man, probably a Navy officer, who accompanies the President. This young man has a black attache case which contains the codes that are needed to fire nuclear weapons. I could see the President at a staff meeting considering nuclear war as an abstract question. He might conclude: “On SIOP Plan One, the decision is affirmative. Communicate the Alpha line XYZ.” Such jargon holds what is involved at a distance.

My suggestion was quite simple: Put that needed code number in a little capsule, and then implant that capsule right next to the heart of a volunteer. The volunteer would carry with him a big, heavy butcher knife as he accompanied the President. If the President ever wanted to fire nuclear weapons, the only way he could do so would be for him first, with his own hands, to kill one human being. The President says, “George, I’m sorry but tens of millions must die.” He has to look at someone and realize what death is — what innocent death is. Blood on the White House carpet. It’s reality brought home.

As it stands, the President can choose to use nuclear weapons pretty much on a personal whim. It would seem that the 80s are back, both in movies/TV and also in the daily existential dread of the Cold War. Yay. (via clive thompson)