A former senior U.S. military officer says an order from the president to launch nuclear weapons can be refused if that command is determined to be illegal.
Retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday the U.S. armed forces are obligated to follow legal orders, not illegal ones.
Kehler served as commander of Strategic Command from January 2011 to November 2013.
He says the legal principles of military necessity, distinction, and proportionality also apply to decisions about the use of nuclear weapons.
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland asked Kehler if that means the top officer at Strategic Command can deny the president’s order if it fails those tests.
Kehler says, “Yes.” But he says that would lead to a “very difficult conversation