Nuclear Warfare and the American Presidency
The invention of the nuclear bomb was a scientific triumph, but it also marked the beginning of an increasingly imperial American presidency that has subverted the Constitution and kept secrets from citizens.
It has worked not to protect national security but to retain power. So argues Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Garry Wills recently spoke with U.S. News about the legacy of the
You argue that the bomb dramatically increased presidential power. How so?
Normally, after a war there's a rush to demobilize and reconvert industries, bring the boys home, end it all, and that didn't happen after World War II because now we had this great big secret that we had to not only protect but to develop and to deploy. The people at Los Alamos instantly went to work creating better bombs. Of course, then they were put in bombers and kept the bombs flying in the air for 24 hours to drop anywhere in the world where we felt endangered. And we started developing bases and friendly governments that would receive us when we had to land and be refueled and be repaired. This air of crisis took over. And this initial grant to the president -- which went against everything in the Constitution -- that he alone would have the power to initiate nuclear war with no oversight from
How has the model for the
The model of the
What are the implications of this?
Well, uncontrollable power. No one knows -- not even the president, not the
What was the progression of this increasingly imperial presidency?
First of all, the president can initiate war according to the Atomic Energy Act. Then he can initiate regular war according to [Truman Secretary of State
How can Yoo make this argument?
He says, "True, the Constitution says that
You write that the current state of affairs means that it is not America's enemies but American people who are left in the dark.
A good example of that is
You make the point that Khrushchev, rather than Kennedy, was actually the responsible actor in the Cuban missile crisis.
Kennedy wanted to look tough, so he said, "I'll take out the Turkish missiles if you don't say it was a quid pro quo." Khrushchev agreed. So Khrushchev was acting responsibly, and of course throughout it all, he and Fidel knew Kennedy was lying; the American people didn't. That's the result of this secrecy -- that we're kept out.
Why do you think the Obama administration, which criticized the secrecy of the Bush administration during the election, has continued its practices?
When a president comes in -- say, President Obama -- [the CIA goes] to him and says, "You've got to protect us. You've got to uphold our morale, our loyalty. It took us years to build up this apparatus, and you're probably going to need it down the road -- so don't try to dismantle it."
Available at Amazon.com:
Read the latest political news.
- Nuclear Warfare and the American Presidency
- Leaders Must Deal With National Debt or Future Generations Will Pay
- Obama's Real Problem: Many American's don't Think he's Governed Effectively
- Bipartisanship Broken Despite Obama's Efforts, but There's Hope
- Democrats Threaten Reconciliation After Healthcare Summit
- Democrats Use GOP to Build Case for Reconciliation
- Why Senate Filibuster Rules Must be Changed
- Defending the Filibuster: It Helps Save Us From Bad Ideas
- Obama's Partisan Problem
- Alan Simpson on Bipartisanship and the Deficit Commission
- Obama's First Year in Perspective
- Some Democrats Hope for Republican Filibusters
- Republicans Closer to Winning House-Senate Majority
- Sarah Palin's Mixed Messages On Being a GOP Leader
- Sarah Palin's Road Show
- Tea Party Wants Palin in 2012
- Obama Creates Commission to Shrink Deficit
- Obama: Too Little, Too Late, Too Cynical
- Bipartisanship at Last?
- Reconciliation, Partisanship, and Health Reform
- It Happens Every Six Years
- Go West, Industry Hunters
- We the People Take Backseat to Corporate Money
- All the free speech big money can buy
- The Republican Second Coming
- Better Here Than There
- Obama's Hesitant Embrace of Human Rights
Nuclear Warfare and the American Presidency | Anna Mulrine
(c) 2010 U.S. News & World Report