The head of the largest fleet in the US Navy, Admiral Scott Swift, told attendees at an Australian National University security conference yesterday he would nuke China next week if US president Donald Trump asked him to.
“The answer would be yes,” he replied to the hypothetical question posed by an Australian academic in Canberra.
“Every member of the US military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us,” Swift said.
Swift’s comment came just days after Australia and the US took part in the Talisman Sabre exercises off the northeast coast of Australia.
Part-way through the exercise, a Chinese spy ship hovered just outside Australian territorial waters, outfitted with advanced communications gear designed for electronic eavesdropping.
But a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, Charlie Brown, was quick to dismiss the premise of the question as “ridiculous”.
Swift, he said, answered it as positively as protocol allowed him to, saying that loyalty to the US president was core to any notions of civilian control over the military.
“Any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have a significant problem,” Swift said.
The host of the talk and head of the National Security College, Rory Medcalf, weighed in with another excellent reason why nobody should be alarmed at Swift’s statement.
“It would have been a lot more controversial if he had said no, he would not obey the commander-in-chief.”
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