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World Affairs Council of Charlotte | The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump

August 6

The President has the power to turn the world to ash in minutes with a single “push of a button” without permission from Congress or any other defense authority in the United States.

Since the Truman administration, America has been one “push of a button” away from nuclear war—a decision that rests solely in the hands of the President. Without waiting for approval from Congress or even the Secretary of Defense, the President can unleash America’s entire nuclear arsenal.

Almost every governmental process is subject to institutional checks and balances. Why is potential nuclear annihilation the exception to the rule? For decades, glitches and slip-ups have threatened to trigger nuclear winter: misinformation, false alarms, hacked warning systems, or even an unstable President. And a new nuclear arms race has begun, threatening us all. At the height of the Cold War, Russia and the United States each built up arsenals exceeding 30,000 nuclear weapons, armed and ready to destroy each other—despite the fact that just a few hundred are necessary to end life on earth. 

Join WAC Charlotte on Thursday, August 6th at 2 p.m. EDT for a conversation with William Perry,  Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration and Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the Carter administration, and Tom Z. Collina, the Director of Policy at Ploughshares Fund as they share historical insight into the nuclear launch authority and the threat of nuclear war in the world today through interviews with former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and others.

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