Humanity’s war against the zombie epidemic was unlike any other war. All other wars that we had encountered in the past had been operated by humans. And human soldiers needed to be “bred, fed and led” (Brooks 271). Zombies, on the other hard, did not have to be bred, fed and led. They were programmed to infect the human population, did not need arms to do so, and did not need food to survive. Even if we declared “total war” where every one of us would “commit every second of [our] lives to victory”, such victory would undeniably be in jeopardy. Adding to this very inherent fact that the zombies had the upper hand, General D’Ambrosia suggests that the very idea of a total war itself is flawed on two levels; it is physically impossible to have every citizen working for the war, all the time and as humans, we had “emotional and physiological breaking point[s]” (273). As humans, there is a limit to enduring sacrifices and mental and physical suffering. How, then, could we fight off the zombies without support from every citizen, every waking moment?
As the war against the undead is carried out, the readers clearly see such emotional and physiological breaking points. For example, Father Sergei Rykhov narrates the tremendous levels of mental stress that comes with dealing with infected soldiers on the war ground. Once infected, someone had to kill his comrade. Someone had to kill a friend “whom [they] fought with side by side, shared break and blankets” (295). When the responsibility is placed on the field commanders, they ultimately end up committing suicide. In other words, the declaration of war between humans and zombies creates a sense of camaraderie between the soldiers. Unlike how Rat Face simply shot the girl that had become a zombie with complete emotional detachment, the “us against them” mentality inherent in a war made the bitten soldiers ‘an infected friend’ rather than ‘then human, now zombie’ (79). In such ways, the war against zombies clearly brings about emotional breaking points. Not only that, the traditional methods of fighting off zombies was completely ineffective. The boobie traps, for example, was completely useless in that the soldiers “wanted them upright and easy to spot, not crawling around the weeds waiting to be stepped on like land mines themselves” (324). As such, the war was a completely unfamiliar kind with completely different species with huge emotional commitment and distress.
So is it worth it? Are all the lost soldiers and emotional breaking points worth going against the zombies for? If I was head of state in World War Z, I would have voted yes. Yes, the war against zombies was a huge risk. But yes, we had to. Had we not gone to war with the zombies, the uncertainty of whether the zombie did, in fact, completely die off would have persisted. Simply waiting for the decomposition of the zombies would have put us at risk of running out of resources. In a few years, even the safe zones, isolated from zombies could end up like “barricaded zones [with] nothing but rat-gnawed skeletons…that fell to starvation or disease” (325). The citizens of such barricaded zones that Todd’s army encountered had indeed fallen victim to the depletion of resources. There is no denying that this could have easily been the world’s future had they simply waited for zombies to die off. Not only that, it is revealed that the zombies were incredibly resilient. According to Michael Choi, the zombies underwater were there and functional – withstanding the saltwater and pressure. Clearly, it would have taken a long while for such hardy zombies to die off. Not only that, the depletion of resources would have generated a sense of uncertainty. Without the citizens’ trust in the government, a healthy economy cannot be run as Arthur Sinclair underscores in his interview (337). Thus the safe zones would have failed resource-wise and, on top of that, economy-wise.
Declaration of World War Z, with all its losses, was nonetheless necessary. Such waiting and build up of uncertainty was avoided. As Todd recollects, it was “finally the beginning of the end” (282). Despite the emotional and physical suffering that the war generated, it did not lead the society to go into uncertain periods of starvation and economic turmoil. Not only that, the war itself was driven by people who did not simply strive to be the next “heroes” but people who were motivated to save the human race. We see this through Todd’s reaction to the zoomies outside of Omaha. He says “they were actually living better than us, fresh chow, hot showers, soft beds. It almost felt like we were being rescued” (321). He is simply reassured that some “people he liberated”, as phrased by the interviewer, were surviving and were doing well. Todd did not hold the arrogance that he had “liberated them”. Todd simply worked to save the human race by clearing safe zones—it was his role in the total war. As such, towards the end of the novel, the idea of “total war” is redefined by “the Whako”. Whako says that “everybody’s gotta pitch in and do their job” and tells the tree that it is “doin’ a good job”. In other words, the “role” that one plays to pitch into the war need not be huge and heroic. It is the sense of pulling the community together emotionally that we are responsible for preserving. That is the role that the common civilians play in total war, and that is how a ‘total war’ state can be achieved. Thus, as head of state, I would have voted ‘yes’ to go to war against the zombies.
Brooks, Max. “The Great Panic.” World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. 79. Print.