Here’s the story of a person, former US Air Force major Harold Hering, who dared to ask a simple question: if your hand rests on the launch key of a nuclear missile, and you receive a launch order, how do you know that the order is truly lawful? He had no answer, and he was discharged from the military for asking a Forbidden Question that went beyond his “need to know” in the reading of a US Air Force panel. But the question is as valid today as it was in the times of Nixon.
Of course the fundamental conundrum is this: a sane society facing a nuclear opponent may rely on a nuclear deterrent to prevent attack, even though (being sane) it has no desire to respond to genocide with genocide if the unthinkable actually happens. So… how do you convince your enemies that you would launch a retaliatory strike even when in reality, you would prefer not to do so because killing millions of innocents on the opposing side will not bring your countrymen back to life?