Given the title of this post, you may be understandably asking yourself, “what’s New START?” Well, let me explain. New START is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and Russia to reduce the numbers of strategic nuclear weapons that each of us have in our nuclear arsenals down to 1,550 each, a reduction of about a third of the current stockpiles. The reason the treaty is preceded by the word “New” is because there was a previous START, which was negotiated and ratified back when President George H. W. Bush was in office in 1991. That treaty expired on December 5th, 2009. Therefore, we have not had a treaty in place to replace the first START in almost a year. New START attempts to fill this gap.

I provide all of this background to you for several reasons. One, because I feel it is critically important to simply be aware of current events, especially with regard to nuclear weapons. However, more importantly, it is crucial you understand the issues surrounding arms control and nonproliferation if you are to work towards the goal of the elimination of all nuclear weapons, of which ratifying New START is an integral step.  Now you may be asking yourself, but why do I want to work towards the elimination of nuclear weapons? Don’t they assure that another country who also has nuclear weapons won’t launch an attack against us because they know we would do the same to them? Again, allow me to explain briefly.

The idea of deterrence, which is what the scenario above described, indeed did work for much of the Cold War when the threats of nuclear annihilation were ever-present from the Soviet Union and China. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.), as terrifying and as cold as it is, managed to keep our nuclear forces at bay. However, the threat of purposeful nuclear war between nuclear armed nations, especially between the United States and Russia today is so low that it is almost non-existent. The threat the world is faced with today is violent extremism, with 9/11 the foremost example for the United States as to what extremists are willing to do to enact their agenda. However, the most terrifying thing is that flying planes into buildings is not by any means the farthest they are willing to go. It has become abundantly clear that extremist organizations have, are and will continue to pursue gaining possession of a nuclear weapon (or building their own) and have every intention of using it. In other words, given terrorist’s propensity to not care if they themselves die in their act of violence, deterrence no longer works in the context of the threats we face today. Therefore, what’s the best solution for addressing this threat? Given how easy it can be to acquire the material used to make a bomb (highly enriched uranium or plutonium), especially amongst the territories of the former Soviet Union; or the potential of a completed weapon being either bought or stolen, the only sensible solution that will provide the greatest amount of security for the global population is the complete and verified elimination of all nuclear weapons.

President Obama has already expressed his commitment to this solution, which he eloquently delivered in his now famous 2009 speech in Prague when he said, “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” He has already taken several steps towards this aim, more so than the previous administration took in 8 years. And one of these key steps was the successful negotiation of a New START. However, the treaty, like all others in the United States, must be ratified by the Senate. And this is where the plot thickens…

Senate Republicans have obstructed the treaty’s ratification, by raising doubts about various aspects of the treaty, including verification measures, missile defense, and modernization plans to make sure that the nuclear weapons we will be keeping will stay functional and state-of-the-art. However, the objections they raise here have already been thoroughly debunked and are not to mention inconsistent with any objections they raised when the Bush administration put forward any arms control treaties. And the consensus seems to be across the board that New START is a modest step, not nearly as extreme as some Republicans might have feared. What all of this basically boils down to is Senate Republicans are playing politics, plain and simple. And they are playing this game with our security hanging in the balance.

A nuclear attack is a clear and present danger, no question about it, and if we as young people want to ensure that a tomorrow will even exist for us to be able to enjoy the riches of, we must act now for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. We have to realize though that this will take time, but as the old saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Let us make New START that first step!

*Be on the lookout for more postings about this in the days and weeks to come, and be sure to take a look at AIDemocracy’s August newsletter when it is released next week, there will be a description of some things you can do right now to urge your Senators to ratify New START.*

And if you want to learn more about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the necessity to get to zero, I recommend two fantastic resources:

1. Global Zero – www.globalzero.org

2. Go see Countdown to Zero in theaters today! A new documentary about our nuclear threat from the same makers of An Inconvenient Truth!

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