The Global Citizen

Search form

Category: Prevent War

Preventing Nuclear Terrorism - Defusing the Nightmare

During the summer of 2012, when I was a research associate at, I began a research project that dealt with the issue of nuclear terrorism. It was a labor of strangelove. About eight months later, this project has resulted in "Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Nuclear Security, the Nonproliferation Regime, and the Threat of Terrorist Nukes." This research paper seeks to analyze this nightmarish threat. Among the questions that this paper will seek to answer are:

  • From which states would a terrorist-controlled nuclear weapon be most likely to originate? Why are these states such unique threats?
  • What has the US done to counter the proliferation threat posed by these countries?
  • What international institutions are currently in place to prevent this kind of unauthorized nuclear proliferation?
  • What additional steps can the US and the international community take to prevent nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands?

It is sometimes tempting to dismiss the nuclear threat as a relic of the Cold War. That, after all, was the era of the A-Bomb and the H-Bomb, of "duck and cover" and MAD (mutually assured destruction). And yet, to adopt such a viewpoint is to ignore the reality that, in the post-Cold War world, the nuclear threat has, indeed, changed, but is far from disappearing entirely.

The Cold War nuclear threat was very much centered on states, and specifically on the possibility of two nuclear-armed states engaging in an all-out nuclear war. However, if a nuclear device explodes in a major city in the near future, it is very likely that a terrorist organization, rather than a national government, will be the direct culprit.

Amnesty urges Obama to lead on the Global Arms Trade Treaty

Amenesty speaks out against NRA claims. (Amnesty International USA logo)

Last week, Amnesty International USA issued a statement urging President Obama to take the lead on the Global Arms Trade Treaty, and to help stop “1,500 deaths every day resulting from the virtually unregulated flow of small arms globally.”  Unregulated weapons perpetuate civil war, violence against women and children, and terrorism.

The United States must lead the formation of an agreement on basic regulations for the flow of small arms and conventional weapons crossing international borders.  Amnesty’s campaign is aimed at battling the falsehood currently being spread by the National Rifle Association that the Arms Trade Treaty threatens Americans’ Second Amendment rights.  Amnesty says, “The treaty is concerned exclusively with the flow of weapons between countries, not inside of them, and therefore has no bearing on the Second Amendment.”

Recent blog posts by on the Arms Trade Treaty include Sabotaging the Conversation about Guns and Make a Resolution that CountsWe want to hear from you.  What are your thoughts on international arms control?

Deteriorating Situation Requires Increased International Assistance

Damascus, Syria (AP Photo)

A young girl was "gang-raped and forced to stagger home naked-heightening her shame in a society where modesty is so valued." This is a statement from an International Rescue Committee (IRC) report recently released on the crisis in Syria, almost two years after the uprising in the country first started. The international community must step up its response to one of the world's humanitarian crises and devote more funding and support to neighboring countries and agencies operating in the region.

Unimaginable brutality is occurring in Syria as the world stands by, desperately trying to figure out how to manage a peaceful transition in the country. The death toll in Syria has reached an estimated 60,000 and more than 620,000 refugees have already fled the country. Fear of escalating tragedies mounts as Foreign Policy reports that according to a secret State Department cable, Syria used Agent 15, a chemical weapon that causes paralysis, on its people on December 23, 2012. If it is indeed true that Syria used chemical weapons on its citizens, then the crisis has escalated even further. 

A Humanitarian Plea for Help

A young boy waits for aid (Reuters)

Early Monday morning, Syrian warplanes bombed a public market on the Turkish border killing at least 20 civilians. This on-going two-year civil war in Syria has been plaguing the entire area, with a death count to nearly 60,000 people.

On Monday, January 14th, I attended an eye-opening talk at The Brookings Institution featuring Ambassador Frederic Hof and Panos Moumtzis about the horrifying situation in Syria. Panos Moumtzis, a United Nations refugee agency's (UNHCR) regional coordinator for the Syrian emergency response emphasized the need for international agencies in Syria and how the increase in funding would have a higher guarantee for stability.

There are over 620,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt, all of whom are entirely dependent on the international community for humanitarian aid. Many Syrian refugees take refuge in government sponsored camps in neighboring countries but those who have crossed illegally are not provided aid within these camps.

"This is a children crisis," says Moumtzis. 75% of refugees are women and children, who are unable to support themselves and are often victims of rape and violence. Rape and domestic violence are common forms of conditions women and children face on a daily basis, often occurring in public or their homes.

Google Chairman Dabbles in Diplomacy at the Disapproval of the State Department

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was in North Korea last week. (Photograph by David Guttenfelder/AP)

Some may call it "hopelessly naïve" but no one can say that Google Chariman Eric Schmidt's four day trip to North Korea, where he was photographed walking through the streets surrounded by North Korean people, did not have an impact on the mindsets of people ordinarily closed off to the outside world. For more than half a century, North Korea has maintained its tightly state-controlled system and built up its nuclear weapons program, keeping foreign invaders at bay, while millions of its citizens are at the same time dying from food shortages. The United States government has, understandably, hesitated to act; however, it is about time we let somebody else try to negotiate with the Kim dynasty.

Even though it is gutsy of Schmidt to dabble in diplomacy with North Korea, I have to applaud him for giving it a shot. Last week, BBC News reported that Schmidt and a delegation that includes former New Mexico governor and US envoy to the United Nations Bill Richardson visited North Korea in order to urge the country to take down some of its restrictions and to allow its citizens to use the internet. It also pushed for North Korea to end its nuclear weapons and missile tests and discussed the case of the Korean-American detainee, Kenneth Bae, who has been held in the country on arrest since November.

Make a Resolution that Counts

Angels line the roadside in Connecticut in rememberance of the young lives lost as Sandy Hook Elementary School students return to school. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill).

Two weeks ago CEO, Don Kraus, reminded us of the proliferation of bullets worldwide and of the essentially non-existent regulations currently governing international trade of weapons and ammunition. These issues are especially relevant as we start a new year, resolving to make right the mass tragedies of 2012.

The growing number of gun violence victims in our country hit home for me on Dec. 1, 2012 when Kassandra Perkins, a 22 year-old in my high school graduating class and a loving mother, was killed by her Kansas City Chiefs linebacker boyfriend after being shot nine times in the head with a firearm. Sadly, I had hardly interacted with Kassandra, but I was nonetheless overwhelmed by the shock and sadness of knowing someone close to me had been viciously killed. Her death made the tragedy that had already occurred in Aurora feel all the more real to me.

Last week Sandy Hook students went back to school and we remembered again how the mass shooting at the elementary school ripped our hearts apart three weeks ago. According to The Nation, there were 16 mass shootings, killing 88 people, in our country in 2012, a fact that makes my blood curl with anger. These tragedies tell us that we are not doing enough to monitor and limit the types of guns available in our country. The guns used in the Aurora and Sandy Hooks shootings were high powered assault rifles, far too dangerous for any person to need in their home. As a result, we are now all debating with our loved ones and in Washington what types of guns people should be allowed to own and how we should monitor who owns them.

Sabotaging the Conversation about Guns

UN Arms Trade Treaty

Does NRA stand for "No Rational Argument"? In response to the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the gun group's CEO called for an armed cop in every school and a national database to track the mentally ill. Wayne LaPierre's widely broadcast proposal prompted the New York Daily News to ask whether this list "should include the paranoid, delusional man himself?"

But this is far from a laughing matter. When it comes to gun violence within the United States and around the entire world, the NRA makes our planet a much more dangerous place for our children and families by using lies, misinformation, and political arm-twisting to support easier access to assault weapons and ammunition.

In the days and weeks to come, debates will rage within the United States on how we can best address the 30 mass shootings that, since 1999, have left over 260 people dead and many more permanently disabled. The NRA will work hard to derail attempts in statehouses and in the nation's Capitol to tighten controls on the assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips. But in New York, there's another debate brewing where the NRA will also attempt to play the role of spoiler: the upcoming negotiations at the United Nations to establish a worldwide Arms Trade Treaty. The gun group's antics could impact the lives of millions around the world.

In March, negotiators will meet at the UN for a final round of talks to hammer out a set of common global standards on how countries import, export, and transfer conventional weapons. Every year, 12 billion bullets are produced worldwide. That's enough to kill nearly everyone on the planet twice. Yet, bananas have stricter international trade regulations than weapons and ammunition.

Floyd Ramp 1923 - 2012

Floyd Ramp

On December 10th, Human Rights Day, we lost a wonderful friend and leader. Floyd Ramp was a great supporter of human rights and world peace. During World War II he served as an ensign in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific where he witnessed the testing of the atomic bomb and the devastation wrought in Japan. He became committed to world peace and developing the laws and institutions to make it possible.

I met Floyd and his wife Marjorie in the early 1990's where they were both active in's predecessors; the Campaign for United Nations Reform (CUNR) and the World Federalist Association (WFA). I soon learned that Floyd's passion for world peace was not academic. It was quite political. During the pre-computer dark ages, Floyd would join the other CUNR board members to draft the Global Statesmanship Rating Guide. They would spend a weekend locked in a hotel conference room pouring over congressional votes. Then, using adding machines, they would manually calculate the results for the only assessment of Congress that graded lawmakers on their support of global issues and a cooperative U.S. role in the world.

In 1996 when I became the executive director of CUNR, Floyd was the board's chair and president. I worked with him and other board members to develop the candidate questionnaires that were used by our political action committee to help make decisions on endorsing and supporting candidates. This laid down the foundation for the work that the Global Solutions PAC continues today.

Floyd was extremely engaged and passionate when it came to this political work. For him, world peace was not about speeches (although he was not shy on the podium) or papers. It was about quietly utilizing hardnosed political clout to develop relationships with lawmakers and to make a difference. Floyd remained engaged in our PAC work through this year.

Our National Failure to Commit

Former Senator Bob Dole on Senate Floor during vote on Disabilities Treaty

The Senate hasn't approved any major multilateral treaties since 1997.

America is suffering from a failure to commit. Just ask Bob Dole.

While the former GOP presidential candidate and decorated veteran watched from his wheelchair on the Senate floor, all but eight of the Republicans in that chamber shamefully voted down the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It's hardly a radical pact. To date, 126 other countries have ratified this treaty. Dole, who served as Senate Majority and Minority Leader for more than a decade, had championed it. So did veterans groups, disability rights organizations, and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The treaty simply took our own Americans with Disabilities Act, and "expanded that kind of rights to people all over the world who don't have them today," explained Senator John McCain of Arizona, another former Republican presidential nominee and veteran with a disability.

But it takes two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty, and even with all 53 senators in the Democratic caucus supporting it, too few Republicans got on board for it to pass.

The treaty's opponents seem stuck in a partisan twilight zone of UN black helicopters and conspiracy theories that undercuts U.S. influence in global affairs. They've perfected a method of defeating virtually every treaty that comes along. Since controversial treaties never pass in the Senate, opponents make any unobjectionable agreement divisive by inventing a big lie.

Foreign Policy Wisdom for the Next Four Years

President Obama at the UN

"We believe that 'We're all in this together' is a far better philosophy than 'You're on your own'.'' That's how Bill Clinton summed up the philosophical difference between Democrats and Republicans when he nominated President Barack Obama to run and eventually win a second term. It's also the philosophy that underpins the work of the Connect U.S. Fund. For the last eight years they have brought together a community of advocacy and grassroots groups, philanthropic foundations, and think tanks to push for farsighted American leadership in efforts to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. They have just released a letter to President Obama and his transition team signed by over 180 foreign policy leaders, who represent millions of Americans, and came together to develop proposals to enhance U.S. global leadership and cooperation in this new presidential term. As one of its signatories, I'm excited by the detailed recommendations which lay out a blueprint for constructive and achievable U.S. actions across four key areas: human rights, climate change, nuclear weapons, and development. The letter urges the President to take action to: