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So after a long and rewarding time in Ohio, I bid adieu to the Columbus countryside and headed on my way up to Boston yesterday! After a brief stay with a friend of mine in the area, and some amazingly delicious made-to-order pizza for dinner, I then went to bed as I had an early morning.

I awoke at 4:00am to catch a bus to head up to Lewiston, Maine where I had a day of canvassing  and promoting for our screening that night at Bates College ahead of me. Once I got to Lewiston, I met up with our student contact Umar on the campus, who made the day seem like a breeze for me! He got a table for me right at the entrance that I was able to canvass and promote from and I got some great exposure and talked to a great amount of students who were mostly willing to sign our postcards to Senators Collins and Snowe demanding they support a world without nuclear weapons!

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By Michael Miner, GPS Issue Analyst

With the signing of the strategic arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia, both nation-states have agreed to reduce the size of their nuclear arsenal to a mutually agreed upon figure. It would limit the cap of warheads to 1,550 and also put stipulations on the number and types of delivery vehicles. The goal remains the same as the initial START treaty between the US and the Soviet Union: reduce the number of nuclear warheads in existence in the interest of global nuclear security. This represents the most complex and significant arms control agreement in the history of the world and an area where both Russia and the United States have a mutual interest.

There remains a significant hurdle for the United States if they are to actively pursue this course of action. President Obama did sign the treaty and indicate the United States willingness to adopt these security measures. Yet for any international treaty of this stature the United States Senate must first ratify the language if the nation is to formally adopt this stance into security policy and defense planning.

The Foreign Relations committee is tasked with this responsibility. Chairman Senator John Kerry made a significant concession in a contentious year by withholding a Senate wide vote until after the election, but now there are concerns the treaty may not have enough votes for ratification despite its view by the President as a security imperative. It has the support of significant Republicans including the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee Senator Richard Lugar and wide backing outside the Senate. Former secretaries of state James Baker, Henry Kissinger, and Madeleine Albright have voiced support. Former defense secretaries William Cohen and William Perry are on board as well as former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and former Senator Sam Nunn.

The opposition? Senator Jon Kyl and other Republicans have suggested concerns about the ability for the United States to modernize a nuclear arsenal for twenty-first century conflicts. While there may be some legitimacy in these points depending on the context of the argument, it would not appear this treaty would in any way shape or form hamper US ability to reduce or replace aging warheads within outlined parameters. A combination of district interests and political gamesmanship are driving these efforts as failing to ratify this treaty would be a huge embarrassment to the President and potentially score cheap political points in the run up to 2012.

Unfortunately what those in opposition fail to realize is that it would be a huge embarrassment to the nation. Hampering future international negotiations for both Democratic and Republican administrations would be a gross disservice. Playing politics with national security is not in the best interest of the nation nor our security partners worldwide. It sets a poor example in a world yearning for an America returned to its place as the shining city upon the hill.

There is a rare chance to demonstrate to the world the United States is committed to reducing the number of nuclear warheads and increasing global security for all. An opportunity like this comes along once a decade, and leadership must secure ratification on such an important issue. Statesmanship is at a crossroads, and if we cannot take the avenue of pragmatic consensus there will be will be precarious fallout in a dramatically changing security environment.

O-H… I-O! Patrick and I rolled into Ohio State on Saturday morning, just in time for the Ohio State – Penn State game. Our objective: talk to students about the need for nuclear disarmament. Our tactics: well, talk to students. And invite them to a screening of the powerful new documentary ‘Countdown to Zero’. And maybe give them a snappy button or sticker to keep the cause in mind.

Over the next two days we spoke to over 500 students, and collected over 100 postcards to send to Ohio Senators Voinovich and Brown. Phew. Our tongues are indeed tired. We also made some great new friends who helped promote the screening (hi Tara!), including students in the American Nuclear Society Student Chapter at OSU (shout out to Al! Thanks for all of your help!).

Word to the wise: Talking to people about anything other than Terrelle Pryor on their way to “the Shoe” on a Saturday afternoon maybe isn’t the best approach. This town is addicted to their Buckeyes! Thankfully we didn’t decide to dress Pat in the nuke suit. Might have been dangerous. 😉

Well after what seemed like months in the making, we have finally launched the Road to Zero Tour! We are very excited to begin this tour and are anxious to hit the campus streets in Ohio, Massachusetts and Maine delivering our message and building support for a world without nuclear weapons.

We believe that this tour is essential to bring youth into the effort to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, because once the power of youth is tapped and behind this cause, extraordinary things will happen. And to help us garner that support, we are enlisting the help of a brand new documentary film that was released in theaters and will be released on DVD very soon called Countdown to Zero. It is a fantastic film that clearly and convincingly makes the case for a world without nuclear weapons. It is from the same makers of the Academy-Award winning An Inconvenient Truth and we will be screening it at campuses in the three states we will be visiting.

Here is the info. for the screenings we have booked thus far:

Ohio State – Monday, Nov. 15th @7:00pm at the Ohio Union Cartoon Room 2

Kenyon College – Tuesday, Nov. 16th @8:00pm (Location: TBD)

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By Brandon Fischer, Global Peace & Security Issue Analyst

As beneficiaries of the American system of government, the chance periodically arises for us to forge our voices into its framework during election season. On November 2, 2010, residents who are of 18 years or above will be granted this opportunity. Through this act, American youth will be able to imprint their mark upon the political climate which will affect them and their families for decades to come.

Muslim-American youth, in particular, have much to benefit from contributing in this way. Many sources have found the Muslim-American culture to produce some of the most ambitious and engaged youth in the country. Muslim youth should take hold of the knowledge, access to resources and networks that they possess and put it to use during a process of enormous impact.

The importance of this event becomes evident when considering how critical November’s election period is for the informed voter. Local, state and federal offices will be up for new blood, allowing for an overhaul of policy perspective. By engaging in this act of voting, it provides each the ability to suggest office holders who will represent their unique concerns and desires.

With the rising protectionist and conservative rhetoric that is observed in public and private circles, there exists a huge need for this type of civic engagement in order to provide a bold counternarrative. Apart from voting for office holders who will counter stereotypes and misperceptions of Muslimhood, this voting should also carry the intention of producing a nation that reflects the self-determination of each of its citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim, etc.

Additionally, several reporters have indicated the steep consequences that will become of the results of November’s election, given the state of Congressional seating. With Tea Partiers gaining some footing and Conservatives facing the prospect of taking over Congress, all party members, Democratic, Republican or otherwise, should be conscious of these divisions and their ability to hugely affect the efficiency of our government.

Works Consulted:

If you have not, then you’re in luck because AIDemocracy has made it very easy to contact your Senator and urge them to ratify New START without delay!

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is the first treaty in more than a decade that calls for significant reductions in the strategic nuclear arsenals of both the United States and Russia, the two nations that possess over 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons. And it also provides for intrusive inspections and verification that each party to the treaty is holding up their end of the bargain. The treaty has received overwhelming support by both Democrats and Republicans, and it is a key first step towards achieving a world without nuclear weapons, a goal that President Obama has explicitly set for the United States.

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In addition to holding a briefing on the dangers of nuclear weapons with our Issue Analysts, we also wanted the whole AIDemocracy network to be “in the loop” when it comes to one of the greatest threats we face today.

The network briefing took place on Wednesday, October 6th. I facilitated the discussion and provided an introduction to the development of, use and dangers of nuclear weapons. Specifically, I spoke about the three major threats that nuclear weapons pose for the world today: nuclear terrorism, nuclear accidents and miscalculated nuclear launches. I also spoke about nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, including the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) and others.

Feedback for this session was also very positive and I look forward to organizing more of these briefings for the entire AIDemocracy network!

On Wednesday, October 13th, our Issue Analysts were afforded the opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest threats we face as nation and as a planet, nuclear weapons. Alex Toma, the Executive Director of the Connect US Fund was on-hand as our speaker and she gave a terrific, brief overview of nuclear weapons. She covered their origins and development, their use during World War II and the Cold War, the theory of deterrence and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) and how these weapons pose a threat today through either the potential for nuclear terrorism and/or accidental or miscalculated nuclear launches.

Feedback from our Issue Analysts has been overwhelmingly positive! We had Issue Analysts specifically writing for the Global Peace and Security Program in attendance, but we also had some who were not writing specifically for GPS, but other AID programs, which was fantastic!

We are anxiously looking forward to offering more of these briefings for our Issue Analysts, so stay tuned for more details!

The present NATO strategy in Afghanistan is referred to as COIN (counterinsurgency strategy). The main objective of this strategy is gaining the trust of Afghan civilians by winning their “hearts and minds,” a strategy that decreased violence and possibly prevented an all out civil war in Iraq in 2007. In Afghanistan however, violence has increased dramatically the past two years, and although it is still early to say whether the COIN strategy is working or not, the statistics show a dark image of the future of the country. Lorenzo Zambernardi, a University of Bologna-Forli lecturer and doctoral candidate of Ohio State University’s Political Science department has written an interesting article on the “impossible trilemma of counterinsurgency.”

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By Jenn Piatt, Global Peace and Security Issue Analyst on US-Muslim world relations

The ban on the face veil in a few European countries, has received wide spread attention. Justifications for the legal bans vary; yet, seem to be centered on three key concepts: national security, the oppression/liberation of women, and the promotion of secularism.

Setting aside the legal and secularist arguments that each of these countries face within the context of their domestic laws, is banning the veil really accomplishing what they set out to? Does removing a face covering achieve national security, liberate women, or enhance the secularist perspective? I’ m unpersuaded by the arguments.

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