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What differentiates the crimes of a terrorist, hacker, or non-state actor from those of a president who launches a nuclear weapon?
Nuclear weapons strategy in the United States is designed around “presidential first use,” an arrangement that enables one man, the president, to kill and maim many millions of people in a single afternoon. What legal or philosophical principle differentiates the moral wrong that would be attributed to a terrorist, non-state actor, or hacker who delivered a nuclear weapon from the presidential launch of a nuclear weapon?
A conference held at Harvard University in November 2017 brought together international scholars and political leaders to examine the nature of presidential first use in the United States. Watch highlights from the conference below.
Co-chairs: Elaine Scarry and Jonathan King
Speakers: Bruce Ackerman, Kennette Benedict, Bruce Blair, Sissela Bok, Rosa Brooks, John Burroughs, Hugh Gusterson, Ed Markey, Jim McGovern, Zia Mian, and William Perry
Co-sponsors: Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard’s Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, Mass Peace Action, Institute for People’s Engagement and Union of Concerned Scientists
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