A few political blogs have noted John Yoo, the guy who made torture legal for the Bush administration, also has some thoughts about nuclear weapons.
Look at the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. … Could Congress tell President Truman that he couldn’t use a nuclear bomb in Japan, even though Truman thought in good faith he was saving millions of Americans and Japanese lives? … My only point is that the government places those decisions in the President, and if the Congress doesn’t like it they can cut off funds for it or they can impeach him.
Any sane review of Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb in 1945 will show that Truman recognized that plans to use the device were already in motion, and he in fact was very deliberate about consulting with scientists, the military, State Dept, and Congress before making the heavy decision to drop the bomb. Yes, this is a controversial topic, but let's not suggest that Truman made a unilateral decision based on his executive authority to conduct this action. And in fact, one of the first things Truman did after dropping the bomb was to tell Congress that it was up to them to create an Atomic Energy Commission and to take over responsibility for nuclear weapons.
Although the idea of the president hitting the red button to launch a nuclear strike is popular for movies, the significant impact that such a decision would
entail ensures make one hope that this is not a unilateral decision, unless Russian nukes are inbound and our government leadership has only minutes to decide whether to retaliate in kind. So I wonder what Professor Yoo thinks about President Ronald Reagan's view on nuclear weapons?
“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”
President Reagan in his 1984 State of the Union address.
UPDATE: Good point by bloglogger, Yoo couldn't even get the numbers right. The proposed US invasion force was numbered in the low hundreds of thousands, not to mention the Japanese who would have resisted the landings on Japan. Certainly it was not millions of Americans and Japanese lives at stake.
UPDATE 2: Commenter John Purdue and others are convincing me that the president does in fact have the power to unilaterally pop a nuke. Let me suggest that the ethical thing that the president would do is to consult with his staff and Congressional leaders before unilaterally causing a pre-emptive strike. And I still wonder as to his interpretation of Truman's actions... Thanks commenters for the discussion.