On Thursday, the commander of the United States Pacific Fleet made a point of stressing the importance of civilian control over the military by indulging a hypothetical question posed by a probing academic.
Speaking at a security conference sponsored by the Australian National University, Admiral Scott Swift answered in the affirmative when asked if he would launch a nuclear strike against China in the event he was ordered to do so by President Trump.
“The answer would be: yes,” Admiral Swift said succinctly.
“Every member of the U.S. 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,” he explained.
Alluding to historical precedent dating back to the founding days of the United States, the naval commander added that abandoning the current system would reap unimaginable chaos.
“This is core to the American democracy and 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,” he emphasized.
The security conference took place after joint U.S.-Australian naval exercises off the coast of Australia. According to the South China Morning Post, “The drills were monitored by a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off northeast Australia.” Specifically, “It was monitored by a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel from within Australia’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone,” the English-language Asia-based publication reported.
Given the precarious nature of U.S.-China relations, a spokesman from the Pacific Fleet was forced to clarify and add context to Admiral Swift’s remarks following his talk at the security conference.
“The admiral was not addressing the premise of the question, he was addressing the principle of civilian authority of the military,” stated Captain Charlie Brown. “The premise of the question was ridiculous.”