Understanding the ‘War on Zombies’

Published: October 10, 2010
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It is interesting to see how the US establishment has induced a fear of terrorists in the American public.

A little while ago, I came across a rather unusual essay, “Night of the Living Wonks” by Daniel W. Drezner in Foreign Policy magazine. I have re-read it a number of times now – essentially because it makes me wonder about things that are not romantic or unrealistic, things that we fret about day and night.

A zombie plague?

This right wing American academic talks about international relations in the wake of a zombie plague on earth! Actually, I think that perhaps he has not lost his mind. Before I delve any further, I would urge my readers to go on and read Drezner’s piece. Isn’t it all too familiar?

Just replace the words “zombies”, “flesh-eating ghouls” and “undead” with “Islamists”, “fundamentalists” and of course, “terrorists”. Now re-read the essay and you will see how American foreign policy is playing into action. It is interesting to see how the American establishment has found ways to induce fear of the non-existent in its public (and foreign governments) and then use it to pursue its bossing around (or if you prefer-imperialism). Let us re-read Drezner’s piece again–only with a few changes.

In the author’s words

In his essay, Drezner discussed various policy outcomes in case the undead start coming out of their graves and start feeding on human flesh. In such a scenario, what would be the response of international political actors? Well, we are not too unfamiliar with that, are we? So we will now make our word replacements and read on. According to Drezner, those who belong to the realist school of thought will respond to a zombie terrorist attack as follows:

“States could also exploit the threat from the living dead (fundamentalists) to acquire new territory, squelch irredentist movements, settle old scores, or subdue enduring rivals. The People’s Republic of China could use the zombie (terrorist) threat to justify an occupation of Taiwan. Russia could use the same excuse to justify intervention in its near abroad. The United States would not be immune from the temptation to exploit the zombie (terrorist) threat as a strategic opportunity. How large would the army of the Cuban undead (Afghan Taliban) need to be to justify the deployment of the 82nd Airborne?”

The liberal response, according to Drezner, would be somewhat like this:

“And what would liberals do after a ghoul invasion (9/11)? Provided that the initial spread of zombies terrorists did not completely wipe out governments, the liberal expectation would be that an international counterzombie (counter-terrorist) regime could make significant inroads into the problem. Given the considerable public-good benefits of wiping the undead islamists from the face of the Earth, significant policy coordination seems a likely response.”

The neoconservative response (the best part):

“The neoconservative policy response to an undead uprising (9/11) would be simple and direct. To paraphrase Robert Kagan (George W. Bush), humans are from Earth, and zombies (terrorists) are from hell. Neither accommodation nor recognition would be sustainable options in the face of the zombie (terrorist) threat. Instead, neocons would recommend an aggressive and militarized response to ensure human (American) hegemony. Rather than wait for the ghouls (fundamentalists) to come to them, they would pursue offensive policy options that take the fight to the undead (Iraqis and Afghans). A pre-emptive strike against zombies (Saddam Hussein) would, surely, be a war against evil itself.”

Drezner goes on to say:

“However, other elements of neoconservatism might undercut the long-term viability of proponents’ initial policy pronouncements. For example, neoconservatives frequently assume that all adversaries are part of a single axis or alliance of evil enemies. To be sure, that assumption works when confined to zombies (terrorists), but it is unlikely that neoconservatives would stop there. They would inevitably lump reanimated corpses (al-Qaeda) with other human threats as part of a bigger World War III War on terrorism against authoritarian despots and zombies terrorists — an “Axis of Evil (Dead).” This would sabotage any attempt at broad-based coalition warfare, hindering military effectiveness in a Global War on Zombies (Global War on Terrorism).”

At the end of his analysis, Drezner remarks that “with careful planning and a consistent approach, the zombie (terrorist) threat can be managed. The purpose of this essay is not to make a policy recommendation or suggest that one approach is superior to another. It is up to the reader to exercise his or her own judgment in determining what to do with this information. Indeed, interested and intelligent students of world politics should use their own brains — before the zombies (terrorists) do.”

Reading between the lines

If we know a little bit of modern history, we would remember that after the World War II ended, the United States pursued a singular international policy: countering the threat of Communism and defeating the USSR. At an implicit level, this was a way to maintain American hegemony in the postwar era. After 1991, the Cold War ended and so did the threat of communism. One threat (actual or perceived) still remained: the threat to the unilateral world order and hence American dominance. Bob and Sam came up with a brand new plan: “Lets create a monster that’ll scare the c**p out of everyone and we, being the good old Americans, will go around the world chasing it.”

How does this help maintain American hegemony?

It’s quite simple – go around the world occupying territories with the pretext of ‘killing the monster’ and that way, everyone knows that who’s the boss! And where does the monster come from? Well, the Americans are good at manufacturing stuff, how hard is it to manufacture a monster?

Let’s hear out Bob (Donald Rumsfeld) on this:

Q: “With regard to Iraq weapons of mass destruction and terrorists, is there any evidence to indicate that Iraq has attempted to or is willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction? Because there are reports that there is no evidence of a direct link between Baghdad and some of these terrorist organizations.

Rumsfeld: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know…And so people who have the omniscience that they can say with high certainty that something has not happened or is not being tried, have capabilities that are — what was the word you used, Pam, earlier?”

Q: “Free associate?” (laughs)

Rumsfeld: “Yeah. They can — (chuckles) — they can do things I can’t do. (laughter)”

What an American president had to say about this

In his speech on American foreign policy in 1821, American President John Quincy Adams warned against what was to become a reality over a hundred years later: America’s urge to go abroad in search of the fearful zombies – “But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”

If we look back to the last 50 years, every decade or so, the Americans find a poor old struggling country (China 1945-46, Korea 1950-53, China 1950-53, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-60, Guatemala 1960, Congo 1964, Peru 1965, Laos 1964-73, Vietnam 1961-73, Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Grenada 1983, Lebanon 1984, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1980s, Nicaragua 1980s, Panama 1989, Iraq 1991-1999, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, and Yugoslavia 1999.), beat it till its unconscious,  and make it clear to the rest who the boss is.

The Americans find a ‘zombie’ threat every ten years or so to keep those who challenge USA’s hegemony at bay. Quite unlucky for us, the modern zombies are our very own “islamists”, “fundamentalists” and “terrorists” — terminologies that we didn’t here about until after the 9/11.

In this rather tricky game, many (including perhaps the Pakistanis) have been misled into believing in the existence of zombies. It is perhaps high time that we steer away from this deceptive campaign that the US is pursuing, lest, plans are already underway to put the zombie label on us –Bob Woodward anyone?

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