How One Question About Nuclear War Cost This Man His Career, But Maybe Saved the World

Ron Rosenbaum shares the fascinating story of Major Harold Hering, who was undergoing missile training at the Vandenburg Air Force base when he decided to ask how he could know if the order to launch was actually “lawful.” Hering’s question led to his being taken out of missile training, and after two years of litigation, the loss of his military career. But Rosenbaum says it also forced the military to wrestle with the possibility that a launch order could be mistaken. He asks:

Should you question the order to launch such an attack, not knowing for sure it doesn’t come from a president off his meds? Or a cyberworm disguised as a president?

Do you have the right to question? Do you have the duty, under the Nuremberg precedent in international law, which denies a “just-following-orders” defense for genocide?

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