Total War, Total Epidemic

A nation’s leader usually makes decisions from a utilitarian viewpoint, or a perspective that would bring about the most salient effects for the largest number of people. This utilitarian view can be seen in the Redeker Plan, which chose to salvage as many as possible by sacrificing the others. Using this same line of thinking, I would have voted to go on the offensive in the Honolulu Conference, as it would be saving the lives of as many civilians as possible and sacrificing those who fought. Going on the offensive would also build morale, which had been severely devastated, in several nations. As one fighter says “the voices woke me up; everyone jawing, laughing, telling stories.”  (282). One of the most crucial survival instincts is the belief that one can survive, but with the severe devastation of morale, the thought of survival had not crossed the minds of many, and was purely categorized into “fight or flight,” as one survivor put it.

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Even with going on the offensive, however, “every second of life cannot be devoted to victory.” (272). Total war had never been an idea before the zombie apocalypse because no country could devote all its time and resources to fighting. However, this idea of “two sides trying to push the other past its limit of endurance” which normally defines human warfare, was particularly apt for the zombie war, which could be defined as a total war because there were “no limits.” (273). The sides were constantly changing and never fixed, with one side being able to morph into the other. Because there was no way of negotiating or coming to the terms with zombies, the war was unbounded and consumed all resources and capabilities. The fact that the war was of such great capacity reinforces why it would have been best to go on the offensive in the Honolulu Conference. A war establishes that there are two sides, and that one is clearly against the other. However, by using an epidemic as a metaphor for total war, we see that the one side is completely ravaging the other. We saw this SARS and Ebola in The Hot Zone. The goal when fighting an epidemic is survival, which is the case here. The goal when fighting a war, is to win, which does not always constitute survival. Therefore, an epidemic could serve as a metaphor for the zombie war, but only if it is categorized as a total war and not just a war in which two sides are opposed to each other.

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One thought on “Total War, Total Epidemic

  1. Hi Snigdha,

    As a supporter of the Redecker plan, I totally agree with your viewpoint that a national leader has to make decisions from a utilitarian standpoint, as there’s no way for a leader to actually take every single individual’s gain and loss or even emotions into account, and the only way he/she can do this is by putting them into cold, hard math – by adding and subtracting, assigning different weights to different factors and find the answer that brings greatest benefits. It might not be the best plan, but at least it is a plan in a crisis.

    However, I’m having some trouble seeing why does a total war fit into the utilitarian thinking. When there’s another, easier way, which is staying on defensive and waiting until the zombies vanish and die by themselves, a fully committed war really doesn’t seem as a cost-efficient decision to me. And also as you’ve mentioned about the fact that humans can be transformed into our enemies, which is different from any conventional warfare, isn’t it more risky to wage a war against the undead, as we’re probably growing the enemy by sending soldiers to protect ourselves?

    Like

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