Captain Queeg and His Nuclear Arsenal

The conservative National Review was one of the first to notice the striking resemblance of Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart in the movie) to a certain New York real estate man. How would our president-elect fare in a nuclear crisis?

In The Caine Mutiny, Queeg takes command of a ship for the first time and begins focusing on trivialities. When the ship heads into combat he panics, hides in his cabin, and metes out severe punishment. During a hurricane, he is immobilized with fear, and the executive officer has to relieve him of command. A doctor later describes Queeg’s symptoms—feelings of persecution, unreasonable suspicion, a neurotic certainty that he is always in the right.

When he was nervous, Queeg rolled metal balls in his hand. When Trump was cornered in the debates, he began sucking air through his nose. Trump has objected to peaceful protest, complained about a TV parody, twice asked the cast of a Broadway musical to apologize for reading a short, polite letter, and characterized a chaotic transition effort as going “so smoothly.”

In June, Politico magazine examined the nuclear issue in detail ( On the plus side, Trump does not drink and he has great stamina. He also seems to recognize nuclear arms as the greatest risk to U.S. security. What’s more uncertain is whether he has the steely nerves and the judgment to handle a crisis. This crisis would likely take one of two forms. In the first, a false alarm lights up consoles in our missile detection system. Trump and his team would have just a few minutes to assess the threat and respond. This happened during Carter’s watch. In the second scenario, a standoff between nations builds into a crisis. Our president would need to keep a lid on his emotions and not overplay his hand, or the situation could escalate badly. Our president has the authority to order a nuclear strike without approval from anybody. In an all-out nuclear war, hundreds of millions of people would die in a few hours, ending modern civilization.

In business, Trump has often resorted to threats of lawsuits. But, the article stresses, “One cannot litigate a solution to a nuclear crisis.” The article concludes: “Trump certainly has not yet made a convincing case that we could sleep soundly with him at the helm.”

Does Trump have the restraint required to keep us and the world safe? Or is he, in fact, on the road to mental instability? If so, will those who surround him recognize it in time? The fact that the president-elect has tapped a few good men, like Mitt Romney, in no way validates Trump the man. They are treating him with kid gloves because they love their children and don’t want the world to go up in smoke. Amendment 25 of the Constitution allows the VP to assume the presidency if the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. This would be decided by the VP and a majority of the Cabinet.

I wake up mornings hoping we haven’t put a delusional paranoiac at the helm of the most destructive military arsenal in the history of mankind. I don’t like having to think about this stuff. I’d rather think about novel writing, or a good hike, or what’s for dinner. I long for the days of “Has It Been 4 Years Yet?” bumper stickers, when “the end is near” was just a joke. I almost wish I hadn’t read the letter from 50 former security officials. Their assessment was that Trump “lacks self-control and acts impetuously” and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” It feels like we’re in a thriller, where there’s a race against time to stop a maniac from destroying the world.