Zombies and Terrorists

By Neil Cohen

If I told you a horde of zombies over a thousand strong and growing in numbers had marched through a village in Africa killing everyone they encountered, what would you do?

I am sure you’re running through all the preparedness activities you and your co-workers or friends have discussed over a beer should the zombie apocalypse really begin.  All the things you would buy, steal and hoard and all the actions you would undertake upon learning of an undead army amassing.  Perhaps you would run out and purchase a pistol, or shotgun, or cross bow or samurai sword, depending on who is your favorite Walking Dead character.  Fill the garage with water, peanut butter and toilet paper.

Now what if I told you that in January, Boko Haram continued their march across Nigeria, killing indiscriminately, slaughtering up to 2000 people in one village alone.  In February of 2015, they moved beyond the borders of Nigeria and spread into neighboring countries.  Their ruthless army is now estimated to be about 6000 strong.

Well, how many of you are ready to begin stockpiling your bunkers and loading up on ammo?


No one going to pick up an M16 or flame thrower on next Sundays Costco run?

Me neither, yet the 30 pound jar of olives I impulse bought last week should last me through any future apocalypse.

The fact is Nigeria is a long way away.  And while an army of 6000 and growing is on the move slaughtering everyone in their path and now crossing borders, it has not affected my day to day one bit.

Just people killing people, old news.  And since it is not dead people killing people, and feasting on them, I see no need to change my weekend plans.

But what if it were closer, say South America?  Would it be more impactful to me? Probably not, lots of bad stuff happens there.

How about a contiguous nation, say Mexico, would that light a fire under my ass I ask myself?

Depends.  Was I planning a Cancun vacation and if so, could I get my deposit back.

Luckily, unless you are traveling to certain areas of Africa or deciding to pay a visit to Syria, the chance of you encountering Boko or the other terror group de jour ISIS, is very slim.

But these groups must be dealt with and since it is most likely going to be the US Military that will have to lead the effort, our military leaders of today could learn a thing or two by flipping through the pages of the cannon of zombie books the likes of which you and I have piled up on the floor next to our bed.

Real world terroristic mobs like ISIS and Boko are strikingly similar to fictional zombie hoards, so let’s look at how lessons learned from zombie literature could be brought into play when dealing with real world threats.

First, if you were unfortunate enough to have been caught by a zombie hoard, you cannot assimilate in hopes of surviving.  In Max Brooks book World War Z, he refers to the living who attempt this assimilation as Quisling.  This is a term originating with Norwegian politician Vidkun Quisling who assisted Nazi Germany to conquer his own country.  In WWZ, these Quislings were people who tried to blend in with zombies, act like zombies and even try to bite living people as if they were zombies. Some may have resorted to this tactic as an attempt to survive by joining the heard, or if they had just become so mentally broken from the zombie war that they truly believed they were zombies. This phenomenon led to faulty news reporting of zombies killing zombies in the early days of the outbreak, but in actuality, it was zombies killing very confused human quislings.

In an original leaked version of the WWZ movie script, Brad Pitt’s daughter becomes a quisling after she realizes her parents had cooked and fed her a human hand in order to keep her alive.  She has a psychological breakdown and thinks she is a zombie. After outbreak is contained, she must wear a sign around her neck that says alive so other parents don’t shoot her due to her zombie mimicry.

We have seen real world attempts at quisling among captives of ISIS.  Some hostages have converted religions while in captivity in hopes of not being executed.  Even the captive’s non-hostage family members back home have converted in hopes it would appeal to the ISIS terrorists to spare their lives.  But those who converted were executed in horrific ways right alongside those who made no attempt to convert.  Ultimately the religious conversion efforts of the captives and their family were for naught.  You cannot assimilate once captured. Just like if your family member is captured by the zombies, you must accept that there is no chance of survival.

You also cannot negotiate with a zombie. A zombie is not going to trade in a skinny waif of a person it has captured in exchange for a fat guy to be named later.  They will kill and eat whatever they have.
In February, we learned that the Jordanians had been negotiating with ISIS for over a month for the release of their captured pilot.  In exchange for his release, the Jordanians were going to release a female terrorist that was benign held in Jordan.  When the Jordanians demanded proof of life of their pilot before the swap, the negotiations broke down and shortly after, the infamous video was posted of his live immolation.  Upon review of the video, it was identified he had actually been killed a month earlier.  Like with zombies, there are no negotiations and no trades.  No one gets out alive.

The comparisons could go on and on.  Both zombies and current terror mobs are decentralized, with no defined leadership, no clear chain of command.  They both have little need for infrastructure, establishment of forward operating bases equipped with beds, latrines and computer rooms to skype home, etc.  Neither have need for sophisticated military comms systems, nor do they have to establish supply chains, as resources are consumed where they are found.

So how would we defeat an army of the undead?

In my opinion, we would need to first come to grips with whom we were at war with.  We still as a nation have not yet come to understand our current non-fiction enemies.   I have seen people post about ISIS that they are the New Face of Evil.  This is inaccurate. Terror mobs are as old as dirt, but they are now using new messaging platforms.  Unlike the Nazi’s who tried hard to hide their atrocities from the world, todays terror groups flaunt their activities and are addicted to social media. They are like the Kardashians of terror.

But even with all this media presence, they are not fully understood. It would be the same in the early days of the zombie uprising.

At first, there are going to be people who will be sympathetic to the zombis. They will wring their hands, and ask themselves “why are they doing this?”, and “is it our fault, are we to blame?”  “What did we do to provoke them, why do they eat us?”  They will seek out ways of empathizing with the zombies, understanding them. Perhaps if we just extended our hand in friendship, they would unclench their jaw from our fingers.

We have seen in zombie literature examples of this, such as parents keeping zombie children at home. Hiding and even protecting zombie friends and family in shelters believing they are just “sick” and a cure could be found.  This always results in disaster.

There would need to be a unified, unconditional and unwavering understanding of who, or what, they are. The dead are dead.  They cannot be assimilated, they cannot be negotiated with and they cannot be cured.

Once the dead do rise, it will be like the birth of an ideology.   And an Ideology can never be completely eliminated, so the best we can hope for is to contain and diminish the threat.

We do this through Anticipatory intelligence and Rapid Reaction Forces.

More on that in my next posting.