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The Progressive

The Dangers of Obama’s Cyber War Power Grab

When our founders were drafting the Constitution, they went out of their way to give warmaking powers to Congress, not the President.

They understood that if the President could make war on his own, he’d be no different than a king.

And they also understood, as James Madison said, that such power “would be too much temptation” for one man.

And so they vested that power in Congress.

But since World War II, one President after another has usurped that power.

The latest usurper is President Obama, who did so in Libya, and with drones, and now is prepared to do so in cyberspace.

According to The New York Times, the Obama Administration has concluded that the President has the authority to launch preemptive cyberattacks.


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This is a very dangerous, and very undemocratic power grab.

There are no checks or balances when the President, alone, decides when to engage in an act of war.

And this new aggressive stance will lead to a cyber arms race. The United States has evidently already used cyber weapons against Iran, and so many other countries will assume that cyber warfare is an acceptable tool and will try to use it themselves.

Most troubling, U.S. cybersupremacy—and that is Pentagon doctrine—will also raise fears among nuclear powers like Russia, China, and North Korea that the United States may use a cyberattack as the opening move in a nuclear attack.

For if the United States can knock out the command and control structure of an enemy’s nuclear arsenal, it can then launch an all-out nuclear attack on that enemy with impunity. This would make such nuclear powers more ready to launch their nuclear weapons preemptively for fear that they would be rendered useless. So we’ve just moved a little closer to midnight.

Now, I don’t think Obama would use cyberwafare as a first strike in a nuclear war. But our adversaries may not be so sure, either about Obama or his successors.

They, too, worry about the temptations of a President.

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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