The Pentagon’s plan to stave off the zombie apocalypse

May 15

Gordon Lubold of Foreign Policy has an article about the Pentagon’s contingency plan for waging war against zombies. It may sound like a joke, but it isn’t. Indeed, the plan’s “disclaimer” section specifically states that “”this plan was not actually designed as a joke.” However, it is primarily intended as a planning exercise, rather than a real war plan:

“This plan fulfills fictional contingency planning guidance tasking for U.S. Strategic Command to develop a comprehensive [plan] to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde,” CONOP 8888′s plan summary reads. “Because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.”

CONOP 8888, otherwise known as “Counter-Zombie Dominance” and dated April 30, 2011, is no laughing matter, and yet of course it is. As its authors note in the document’s “disclaimer section,” “this plan was not actually designed as a joke.”

Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack of any kind. The officers used zombies as their muse. “Planners … realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan,” the authors wrote, adding: “Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional ‘Tunisia’ or ‘Nigeria’ scenarios used at [Joint Combined Warfighting School], we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan.”

As Lubold notes, the plan includes consideration of the political and economic factors that might impact efforts to combat zombies, as well as purely military ones. At the risk of engaging in shameless self-promotion, I hope Strategic Command will update the plan based on the research in economists’ Glen Whitman and James Dow’s forthcoming edited volume on the Economics of the Undead. My own contribution to the book may be particularly relevant, because it focuses on the ways in which widespread political ignorance and irrationality impede efforts to combat the undead menace in numerous works ranging World War Z to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As I explain in my chapter, the dangerous public ignorance depicted in these stories is a plausible, albeit exaggerated, version of the widespread voter ignorance that bedevils real-world politics. Sadly, political ignorance undercuts our efforts to deal with real problems – including real threats to national security, as well as zombies.

Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and the study of popular political participation and its implications for constitutional democracy. He is the author of Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter (Stanford University Press, 2013), and coauthor of A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Somin has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the University of Hamburg, Germany, and the University of Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before joining the faculty at George Mason, Somin was the John M. Olin Fellow in Law at Northwestern University Law School in 2002-2003. In 2001-2002, he clerked for the Hon. Judge Jerry E. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Professor Somin earned his B.A., Summa Cum Laude, at Amherst College, M.A. in Political Science from Harvard University, and J.D. from Yale Law School.
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