Presidential First Use Excerpts

Harvard University    Published on Feb 7, 2018
11/4/17 | Harvard University, Science Center Hall C

Nuclear weapons strategy in the United States is designed around “presidential first use,” an arrangement that enables one man, the president, to kill and maim many millions of people in a single afternoon. What legal or philosophical principle differentiates the moral harm or moral wrong that would be attributed to a terrorist, non-state actor or hacker who delivered a nuclear weapon from a presidential launch of a nuclear weapon?

The conference brought together international and constitutional scholars and statesmen to examine the nature of presidential first use in the United States, as well as parallel arrangements in the other eight nuclear states. Senator Markey and Congressman McGovern described H.R.669/S.200 “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017.”

Co-chairs: Elaine Scarry. Jonathan King.

Speakers: Bruce Ackerman. Kennette Benedict. Bruce Blair. Sissela Bok. Rosa Brooks. John Burroughs. Hugh Gusterson. Ed Markey. Jim McGovern. Zia Mian. William Perry.

Cosponsors: Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center. Harvard’s Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities. Mass Peace Action. Institute for People’s Engagement. Union of Concerned Scientists.



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