Magazine Article - Slate

The Real Nuclear Option

  • Fred Kaplan
| Aug. 14, 2017

As President Trump rails against North Korea, threatening to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it so much as tests another long-range missile, the world can’t help but wonder: Would he really do this? Would he order a nuclear strike, the ultimate fire and fury, against a country that hadn’t attacked us first?

Many are doubtful. His top security advisers would oppose such a move. So would the American people who, though they have no formal say in the matter, would impose constraints on a president’s actions—or so goes the conventional wisdom. Some scholars have written of a “nuclear taboo” ingrained in our sensibilities since the bombing of Hiroshima. Others detect a growing revulsion against the killing of noncombatants even with conventional weapons.

However, a new study suggests that these comforting notions are mistaken.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kaplan, Fred. “The Real Nuclear Option.” Slate, August 14, 2017.

The Author


Scott Sagan