29 November 2017

Nuclear Weapons and Proliferation

Congress has the power to declare war under the United States Constitution. But since World War II, the authority to order a nuclear strike has rested with the President. The President’s sole command of the nation’s nuclear arsenal is controversial, and the Senate recently held a hearing on the matter. This week, a look at nuclear weapon policies and the current conflicts in Iran and North Korea.

Guest: Mark Bell, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota


  • Part 1 – 12:40

    In mid-November, the Senate held a hearing on the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. “The use of nuclear weapons is one of relatively few policy areas in which the President’s powers are close to absolute,” says Bell. Congress has not looked into this issue since the 1970s and revisiting the President’s authority today reflects a discomfort of Trump’s ability to use nuclear weapons—by both Democrats and Republicans.

  • Part 2 – 13:56

    The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action from 2015 was a “quid pro quo deal” says Bell. The Iranians agreed to constrain their nuclear program and the US agreed to lift economic sanctions. The deal remains in place but President Trump has signaled he does not think it is in the best interest of the US. If the US does back out of the deal, Bell says, it raises the probability that Iran will pursue nuclear weapons and increases the chances of a war between Iran and the US. While Bell does not think North Korea will carry out a nuclear strike, as many fear, he does think the country will continue to develop nuclear weapons. “They conclude, if you are a country that the United States has in its crosshairs, if you want to survive, nuclear weapons may be the only thing you can use to deter the United States.”