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Q: Nuclear War ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Nuclear War
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: jeraboo-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 28 Oct 2006 10:05 PDT
Expires: 27 Nov 2006 09:05 PST
Question ID: 777793
If, for whatever reason, the president of the US woke up one morning
and without provocation wanted to launch a full scale nuclear attack
on Russia, would he (as a practical matter) be able to do so and how
would this work?

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 28 Oct 2006 19:44 PDT
MUCH more is needed besides "two keys" as the commenter suggested, but
he/she wasn't very far off on the basic idea of how it all actually
takes place:

While at remote locations the President has at his immediate disposal
a ?briefcase? (usually carried by a military aide) that is presumed to
carry authentication codes and perhaps a SATCOM radio and satellite
laptop that enables him to ?authorize? the use of nuclear weapons in
an emergency. This briefcase is often referred to by its codename:
?the football?. While others refer to it as ?the button? there is no
actual button in the briefcase that, when simply pushed, activates the
US arsenal of nuclear weapons. To entrust such a responsibility to one
man is simply preposterous and there are many failsafe systems in
place to confirm the President?s authority, reason, necessity, etc. of
such an order.

While at the White House the President does not have ?the football? in
his bedroom closet or at his bedside. Such an order can only be given
from one of the primary command centers, the node of which is located
in the White House Situation Room. Needless to say this location is
most certainly guarded and constantly manned 24/7 by military, DOD and
armed personnel. The President cannot simply walk into the room by
himself (expecting to be alone in there), close the door behind him
and start pushing buttons at will. It just doesn?t work this way. The
security measures are indeed intended to prevent unauthorized
intrusion but they are also clearly in place to prevent such madness
of happening should a President simply go bonkers.

Even if he could go in unaccompanied, he would have to have the
authentication codes (which are changed daily) and would have to match
them up with the authentication codes of one or more other authorities
who have the other necessary portions of the code to authenticate the
order. For example, the President might have the code ABCD and he
would call the next authority that would have DEFG, who would call the
next authority who would have GHIJ, and so on. The actually ?trigger?
is located at the launch site where the crew would be given the
assembled authentication code ABCDEFGHIJ. Two parties at the site
would then open a sealed code container (mind you it is changed daily)
using a two party key system, and attempt to confirm that the card
inside the seal says ABCDEFGHIJ. If it doesn?t there is no valid
order. This scenario of course is not exact (since the ?who?s who? and
?how many?s? in such a scenario is kept secret) but I?m sure this
conveys a fundamental idea of why the President cannot, as an
independent individual, launch an impromptu nuclear strike against
ANYONE on his own. He has no magic ?red button? on his desk; at least
not one that launches any missiles.

Does this explain the situation well enough?


Clarification of Question by jeraboo-ga on 29 Oct 2006 00:45 PDT
Excellent answer. Is it your contention that the president would
likely be prevented from actually launching an unprovoked attack by
generals who would prefer to be insubordinate than complicit?

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 29 Oct 2006 08:55 PST
Well, that's one way to describe it. I prefer to think that the
President would be unable to initiate an unprovoked nuclear attack
upon another nation because reasonable men have implemented necessary
safeguards. In "my" opinion men and women who have sworn to protect
and defend the Constitution of the United States would not be
considered insubordinate in their refusal to act upon the orders of a
rogue President who resorted to such insanity, rather it would be
their DUTY in that situation to restrain HIM, as an enemy of the State
(or at the very least a clear and present danger to the State), from
carrying out the most idiotic endeavor in human history.

Shall I post this as an answer then?


Clarification of Question by jeraboo-ga on 29 Oct 2006 10:12 PST
please do.
Subject: Re: Nuclear War
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 29 Oct 2006 10:51 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear jeraboo-ga

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question. Rather
than go through the ever-boring and frankly quite unnecessary motions
of re-posting my comments as an answer as we usually do, I will merely
refer you to them from here in an effort to close your question.

Here are some articles that address some of the topics I?ve discussed
in my earlier post:

Military aides still carry the president's nuclear 'football'



Photos of one of the previous Nuclear Footballs on display at the
Smithsonian Institute

I?ve noticed that you?ve presented some other very interesting legal
and political conundrums to ponder and I?ve enjoyed researching some
of them very much. I look forward to seeing what you will post next.
Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;

Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher
jeraboo-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Nuclear War
From: usrhlp-ga on 28 Oct 2006 12:49 PDT
You need the two keys at the two locations, without the second party you cant fire!
Subject: Re: Nuclear War
From: hedgie-ga on 29 Oct 2006 08:18 PST
Really jeraboo-ga,

  where are your manners?

If you really think RFC contained an excellent answer,
 you should invite the researcher
to post RFC as an answer, and give a nice tip.

If you say
" Is it your contention that .."  it looks like you know the answer and you just
want to argue with someone. You can do that for free on a usenet group.

Why trying that here on GA? 

I wonder if you live in the US? If you do, you know that US president
is a servant of the people; he cannot just destroy the world because
some dream or commands chanelled from Heaven or Casiopea.  He would
have to consult congress to start the war for no reason - as you
scenario prescribes.

You can see in real time that this is true: President is trying very hard to
restart a cold war with Russia, which could lead to such an extreme measures,
such as you describe.
So far, he is still frustrated since large percentage of voters are resisting.

You can observe the process at:,_2006

Subject: Re: Nuclear War
From: jeraboo-ga on 29 Oct 2006 11:00 PST
What is RFC?
Subject: Re: Nuclear War
From: hedgie-ga on 29 Oct 2006 12:13 PST
RFC = Request For Clarification 

either pre-answer  (to clarify the question, made by GAR,  
post-answer, or made by customer to clarify the answer 

GAR = Google Answer Researcher 


  However my critical commet is moot; Sorry if I acted in too hasty manner


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