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The Film “Countdown to Zero”

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Countdown to Zero recounts the history of the atomic bomb, from its origin to the present: nine countries have the ability to produce nuclear weapons with others rushing to join them, leaving the world in a delicate balance that can be affected by a terrorist act , diplomatic failure, or a simple accident.

The film dives into the concept of nuclear proliferation, a topic discussed in class several time, and how such a spread can prove to be dangerous according to some political scientists.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for instance, signed in 1968, tried to prevent nuclear artifacts from spreading around the world and aggravating the problems created by these weapons of mass destruction. The NPT didn’t prevent Israel from developing such weapons, as did India in 1974 and Pakistan in 1998, depicted in the film. North Korea is now the last country to join the list of these nations, which has created problems that threaten world peace.

Other countries have tried to develop nuclear weapons, notably Libya, Iraq, and other nations but have been forced, in one way or another, to abandon such projects. This overarching need to stop the spread of nuclear proliferation, is mentioned various times in the film, as some Political scientists in the film believe such proliferation would create a “dangerous” world. The film, for instance, suggests that a possible nuclear armed Iran would cause a chain of other states wanting to acquire nuclear weaponization.

This echoing theme of stigmatizing nuclear proliferation, is mentioned as one side of nuclear weaponization coin, throughout the later chapter of this course and specifically in topic 3. In a specific article assigned in class, “Why Iran should get the bomb”, critics of a nuclear armed Iran also argued that such a case would greatly impact the Middle Eastern region, possibly igniting a nuclear weapons race. Many critics in the Foreign Affairs article like those in “Countdown to Zero”, fear such a state like Iran, is irrational and allowing such an irrational state to possess such a weapon, could prove to be costly.

Most scholars in “Countdown to Zero” see the international system as anarchic and states in such a system seek power to be secure, and such power comes in the form of acquiring nuclear weaponry. Such a view of the international system, is widely discussed throughout our course; neo-realism, much like the other contending perspectives of the international arena: Realism, Liberalism, Conservatism, and Radicalism.

The film, “Countdown to Zero” itself, fused with much of the things we’ve touched on throughout the semester. The film touches on Nuclear Proliferation and Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, two things we’ve discussed throughout topic 3 and on the characteristics, mindsets of neo-realists.

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