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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.

We have an exciting announcement! AIDemocracy is going out on tour in about a week to campuses in Ohio, Massachusetts and Maine to build the grassroots student movement for a world without nuclear weapons!

We’re gonna be screening the film Countdown to Zero, a film from the same Academy-Award winning makers of “An Inconvenient Truth” that does a fantastic job explaining the nuclear threat and why it is so critical that we eliminate nuclear weapons everywhere. You can check out the trailer and find out more about the film at its website.

We’re also going to be encouraging students to speak out about nuclear weapons – either by signing a declaration, taking their photo with a sign saying they don’t want nuclear weapons, write and/or call their Senators, etc. Basically we’re looking for a commitment to a world without nuclear weapons.

However, to pull all of this off, we need some help. We need to find spaces for us to screen the film on the campuses we want to visit in these states, like Ohio State, Boston University, Harvard, University of New England, etc. If you can help us book a space on a campus in any or all of these states, let Patrick, our Global Peace and Security Fellow know ASAP. The tour will take place between Saturday, Nov. 13th to Tuesday, Nov. 23rd, so time is of the essence!

And as an added bonus, we’re able to offer a $100 incentive to any student who can help us organize the event and do some canvassing on campus the day of the screening (5-7 hours work).

Remember, all we need at the moment is help finding a space on campus. We will take care of the rest. Contact us to help get this tour on the road so we can put nuclear weapons where they belong!

By Michael Miner
Michael is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Michael below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Nuclear non-proliferation is an issue spanning generations. From policy makers of the Cold War on through deciders in the new millennium, the nuclear dilemma has touched every generation since the dawn of the Atomic Age. Consequentially the next generation of Americans will play a defining role in twenty-first century nuclear policy.

How and why states seek nuclear capabilities or to prevent proliferation are long-term policy conundrums. Status quo nation-states align along similar trajectories in the interest of reduction, while other states seek to redefine their own standing in the world by achieving recognized (or unrecognized) nuclear status. Nuclear proliferation constructs the modern political and security structure of all great power nation-states and plays a strong role in the security development of critical middling powers. Scientists and nonstate actors play supporting and destabilizing roles between these two extremes, simultaneously representing potential threats to society and unexplored avenues of cooperation toward reducing the spread of fissile material.

Nuclear expansion or reduction defines the future as its primary operating environment impacting current and future generations. Citizen education and comprehension can play a vital role shaping civil societies cognizant of realities at play. A better-versed population will accurately identify real and unrealistic dangers inherent in nuclear proliferation and encourage policies seeking to curb actual threats to humanity. Addressing these threats will lead to a more stable political, social, and economic environment for all nation-states and allow for mankind to solve one of the greatest manmade problems that continues to cast a dark shadow on humanity.

Michael Miner is our resident analyst covering nuclear weapons and associated research areas including security studies, globalization, and political stability in the Persian Gulf. Mr. Miner previously worked for an international communications firm based in Washington DC and is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Chatham House, and the Royal United Services Institute. He is pursuing a master’s degree at Dartmouth College and is a visiting graduate scholar at Harvard University. Outside of the academy he can be found training under the United States Olympic Judo Team while desperately trying to brew the perfect cup of coffee.

By Will Carter
Will is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Will below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

The role of young people in politics is constantly evolving. The past half-century alone has seen significant advancement in the political clout of young adults in the United States. As a result, today’s American youth possess the ability to greatly alter the future of our nation and the world by, among other things, working for an end to worldwide nuclear proliferation. I envision the young people of America working as a dynamic, well-organized grass-roots organization to simultaneously inform our generation about the dangers and drawbacks of nuclear proliferation, and motivate these young Americans to assert their views via political activity.

Informing young adults about the current nuclear proliferation situation is critical to this plan. I believe that a vast majority of young Americans would oppose the current state of an informal worldwide nuclear stalemate, if they were simply aware of proliferation’s inherent disadvantages. I envision a proficient use of technology to swiftly, and cogently dispense this information. Utilities of specific effectiveness would be facebook groups and blogs because to the rate at which they dispense information, and their established relevance with young adults, along with print materials such as newspapers and magazines due to their high circulation rates.

Simply informing our youth about the situation is only half the battle; stimulating political action requires material that motivates these young adults to become politically active, and efforts to make these political activities more convenient for them. Once the infrastructure for information distribution has been constructed, eloquent, rhetorically succinct material is crucial to inspire our nations youth to take action against nuclear proliferation. This action can be made more convenient for them by providing links on blogs and websites to voter registration forms, and online petitions. These political actions will inform our elected officials of our generation’s dissatisfaction with the status quo.

My name is Will Carter. I am a junior at Hampden-Sydney, where I am majoring in government and economics. I am interested in the issue because I think that many members of my generation are ill informed about it. I envision students in the country acting as an organized grassroots organization to alter the political incentives that face our legislators.

This past month, authorities in Moldova (a former USSR territory) arrested a group of traffickers who were trying to smuggle two kilograms of highly radioactive uranium, specifically uranium 238 for the price of $11 million US dollars. Although this type of uranium is not what would be needed to be used for the production of nuclear weapons (nor is it even enough), it nevertheless could still produce a so-called “dirty bomb,” spreading radiation in concentrations above what is considered safe for humans to be exposed to. You can find out more about this arrest and arrests similar to it here.

From my perspective, these incidents tell me several things. The first is that the ease of access to nuclear material in the territories of the former Soviet Union is a security issue that needs to be addressed immediately. The second is that the black market for these materials is thriving and shows no sign of stopping, which is certainly aided by how freely available the materials are to gain access to. The third is that nuclear terrorism needs to be recognized as the number one national security threat the US and the world faces. The reason being because the people most likely to purchase this smuggled nuclear material are terrorists themselves who seek to use a “dirty” bomb, or worse, a nuclear bomb, against their enemies. The fourth and final observation I gleamed from these various smuggling incidents is the need to expedite the process towards getting to nuclear zero (a world without nuclear weapons).

The elimination of nuclear weapons will undoubtedly require the halting of the production of new nuclear materials and the safe storage and/or reprocessing of old nuclear material, like that stored all over the territories of the former Soviet Union. Taking these steps will dramatically reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism. However, in the current political environment, the successful negotiation of an FMCT (Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty) is still a long way off. However, we do have an immediate step that we can take. We can ratify New START. Ratifying New START will not only reduce the threats posed by nuclear weapons, but it will also be an enormous step in building trust again between the US and Russia, which may go a long way to also helping Russia secure the nuclear materials that smugglers seem to so easily get their hands on. President Obama has already made a commitment to secure all loose nuclear materials across the globe by 2013. An ambitious goal to be sure, and only attainable if a first step is taken to START the process.

We should help in this critical effort, so if you would like to take action on getting New START ratified, follow this link to our action page where you can write and/or call your Senators urging them to ratify New START once they return from Congressional recess in September!

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