“We created a beast, a nuclear monster that neither side could tame… Tehran, Islamabad, Qom, Lahore, Bandar Abbas, Ormara, Emam Khomeyni, Faisalabad. No one knows how many died in the blasts or would die when the radiation clouds began to spread over our countries, over India, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, over America” (92, World War Z). This insight by a former Iranian commander describes the escalation to nuclear war between Pakistan and Iran. The speaker laments this development as a completely unnecessary tragedy.
City of Hiroshima in aftermath of bombing (Image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk)
The conversational speech indicates that the speaker has thrown out formalities to give a frank interpretation of the event. The listing of cities functions to illustrate how cities containing millions of lives became mere tallies marking the destruction in chronological order.
In 2016 this scenario seems entirely possible. The narrator includes this story in the post-war commission as a warning: unless there is a radical change in human behavior and our global economic system humans will continue to exist on the brink of catastrophe. The Iranian commander’s example demonstrates the critical flaws that the novel suggests humans suffer: myopia, self-interest, and limited perspective.
The novel opens with a conflict between the narrator and his superior. The superior wants objectivity and statistics. In the narrator’s eyes it is important not only that the scope of destruction of the pandemic be recorded, but also the human and systematic failures that severely exacerbated it.
I view the Iranian’s narrative as particularly significant to the passage because it reflects on a real historical standoff between the US and USSR that nearly led to Armageddon. The reality is that the pathways that almost led to mutual destruction are just as accessible today. This is what the author is getting at: catastrophe will occur unless destructive pathways are no longer accessible. Presently, the natural response of each actor will initiate a chain of events with bad results for everyone. The prevention of future spiraling tragedy requires cooperation based upon an understanding of our flaws.
*Featured Image from http://www.sonypictures.com