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更新时间:2018-1-4 19:04:14 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The ‘Nuclear Button’ Explained: For Starters, There’s No Button

HONG KONG — President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, traded threats this week about the size, location and potency of their “nuclear buttons.”

香港——唐纳德·特朗普总统和朝鲜领导人金正恩(Kim Jong-un)本周在各自“核按钮”的大小、位置和威力上相互威胁。

The image of a leader with a finger on a button — a trigger capable of launching a world-ending strike — has for decades symbolized the speed with which a nuclear weapon could be launched, and the unchecked power of the person doing the pushing.


There is only one problem: There is no button.


William Safire, the former New York Times columnist and presidential speechwriter, tracked the origin of the phrase “finger on the button” to panic buttons found in World War II-era bombers. A pilot could ring a bell to signal that other crew members should jump from the plane because it had been damaged extensively. But the buttons were often triggered prematurely or unnecessarily by jittery pilots.

前《纽约时报》专栏作家、总统演讲稿撰稿人威廉·萨菲尔(William Safire)追踪发现,“手指放在按钮上”这个说法起源于“二战”时期的轰炸机上的紧急按钮。飞行员可以按下这个按钮,示意其他机组人员跳下飞机,因为飞机受损严重。但紧张的飞行员常常过早或在非必要情况下按下按钮。

The expression is commonly used to mean “ready to launch an atomic war,” but the writer added in “Safire’s Political Dictionary” that it is also a “scare phrase used in attacking candidates” during presidential elections.

这个表达通常被用来表示“做好了发动一场核战争的准备”,但萨菲尔在《萨菲尔的政治词典》(Safire’s Political Dictionary)中补充说,在总统选举期间,这也是一个“用来攻击候选人的恐吓用语”。

President Lyndon B. Johnson told Barry M. Goldwater, his Republican opponent in 1964, that a leader must “do anything that is honorable to avoid pulling that trigger, mashing that button that will blow up the world.”

林登·B·约翰逊(Lyndon B. Johnson)总统在1964年对他的共和党对手巴里·M·戈德华特(Barry M. Goldwater)说,一个领导人必须“采取一切得体的举措,避免扣动扳机,按下那个会炸掉全世界的按钮”。

Richard M. Nixon told advisers during the Vietnam War that he wanted the North Vietnamese to believe he was an unpredictable “madman” who could not be restrained “when he’s angry, and he has his hand on the nuclear button.”

理查德·M·尼克松(Richard M. Nixon)在越南战争期间对顾问表示,他想让北越的人认为他是一个不可预测的“疯子”,“当他生气并把手放在核按钮上时”,没人能阻止他。

During the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton said of her opponent, “Trump shouldn’t have his finger on the button, or his hands on our economy.”

在2016年大选期间,希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton)谈到对手时说,“特朗普不该把手指放在那个按钮上,也不该把手放在我们的经济上。”

Each nuclear-capable country has its own system for launching a strike, but most rely on the head of government first confirming his or her identity and then authorizing an attack.


Despite Mr. Trump’s tweet that he has a “much bigger & more powerful” button that Mr. Kim, the fact is, there is no button.


There is, however, a football. Except the football is actually a briefcase.


The 45-pound briefcase, known as the nuclear football, accompanies the president wherever he goes. It is carried at all times by one of five military aides, representing each branch of the United States armed forces.


Inside the case is an instructional guide to carrying out a strike, including a list of locations that can be targeted by the 900 nuclear weapons that make up the American arsenal. The case also includes a radio transceiver and code authenticators.


To authorize the attack, the president must first verify his identity by providing a code he is supposed to carry on him at all times. The code, often described as a card, is nicknamed “the biscuit.”


In his 2010 autobiography, Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the final years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, wrote that Mr. Clinton had lost the biscuit for several months without informing anyone.

在比尔·克林顿(Bill Clinton)总统任期的最后几年,担任参谋长联席会议(Joint Chiefs of Staff)主席的亨利·H·谢尔顿(Henry H. Shelton)上将在2010年出版的自传中写道,克林顿把“饼干”弄丢了几个月,没有告诉任何人。

“That’s a big deal,” General Shelton wrote, “a gargantuan deal.”


The president does not need approval from anyone else, including Congress or the military, to authorize a strike — a decision that might have to be made at a moment’s notice.


Nevertheless, some politicians have called for more layers of approval.


“The longer I’m in the Senate, the more I fear for a major error that somebody makes,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in 2016. “One man, the president, is responsible. He makes an error and, who knows, it’s Armageddon.”

“在参议院待的时间越长,越担心有人犯重大错误,”加利福尼亚州民主党参议员黛安·费恩斯坦(Dianne Feinstein)在2016年说。“总统一个人全权负责。如果他出错了,天晓得,就是大决战了。”

Much of North Korea’s nuclear program is shrouded in mystery.


Mr. Kim, however, is the undisputed ruler of his isolated country. Any decision to initiate an attack would most likely be his alone. In recent months, Mr. Kim has threatened to ignite an “enveloping fire” of missiles near the Pacific island of Guam, an American territory, and has warned that North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles are capable of reaching the mainland United States.


“It’s not a mere threat but a reality that I have a nuclear button on the desk in my office,” Mr. Kim said in a speech on Monday. “All of the mainland United States is within the range of our nuclear strike.”


It is doubtful that there really is a button on his desk. Furthermore, an intercontinental attack from the North probably could not happen in seconds, let alone minutes.


The North’s longest-range missiles are believed to be powered by liquid rocket fuel. That means the missiles cannot be stored and ready-to-fire at a moment’s notice. They must be loaded with fuel before launch, a process than can take hours.


Newer, shorter-range missiles, are loaded with solid fuel, however, making them easier to launch before the North’s enemies detect an attack.