(Associated Press) Beyond the Air Force’s embarrassing suspension of 17 nuclear missile launch officers lie two broader questions.

Do those entrusted with the world’s most destructive weapons feel stuck in a dead-end career field, given the momentum toward more nuclear arms reductions? And is there a morale crisis among these officers?

This matters because the missiles — 450 of them standing in below-ground silos, ready for launch at a moment’s notice — form a critical part of America’s nuclear defenses. There is little room for error. Although none has ever been fired in anger, the risk of accidental launch or unauthorized intrusion is real.

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