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We have all see it before from The Walking Dead to World War Z, the military and those that compose their ranks fall to hordes of undead cannibals that ultimately overrun society causing it to collapse. While a common trope in the zombie apocalypse genre I do have some serious doubts as to whether or not the military specifically the United States military as they are the ones most depicted in various zombie films and games fighting the masses of infected corpses would be so incapacitated that they could no longer fight back against the undead. In this blog I will argue that the military while intially would be unsure how to respond to a zombie outbreak they would inevitably find a sound strategy to fight back in order to protect society from falling apart. I will also try to analyze both the strengths and weaknesses of the military responding to a zombie apocalypse.
When a zombie apocalypse hits its usually unexpected. The outbreak at first might seem like just another health risk that the public might have to be aware of but nothing that would disrupt their day to day lives. As the crisis grows however that opinion would quickly change. The first individuals to meet the threat of a zombie outbreak would be any law enforcement officers, (ie. state troopers, city police, sheriffs, etc.) There are roughly 1.1 million police officers within the United States. As the scale of the crisis grew as major cities such as Los Angeles and New York City start to become overwhelmed with the undead hordes the law enforcements capabilities to contain the outbreak would be strained to the limit. While the police certainly possess the tactical training and weaponry to contain small groups of zombies they would be unable to effectively contain the outbreak as their efforts would be piecemealed. Police in larger cities would have a greater challenge in protecting the citizenry from the undead while trying to combat anyone who would be infected while police officers in rural areas would only have to deal with limited numbers of zombies in small population zones such as rural town in the countryside.
When the scale of the crisis becomes known to the Federal Government the military as well as various government agencies such as the CDC, FEMA, FBI, etc., would start to focus their efforts on combating the threat of the undead. Their initial efforts would meet with either limited or no success because they were never prepared to deal with sudden appearence of hundreds of thousands of infected while millions of civilians try to flee their homes. The United States Government and the military it commands is the most technologically and well funded organization in human history. This point alone cannot be understated or said enough. The logistical capabilities of the United States Armed Forces are so great that they can respond to any natural disaster that happens overseas within days and carry the necessary supplies in order to help that country start to rebuild such as with the relief efforts in helping the island country of Haiti after it was struck with a massive earthquake. In the case of a zombie apocalypse the military would use their immense logistical capacity to both evacuate civilians to safe zones while cleasing towns then larger cities of the undead.
But herein lies the greatest weakness of the military's ability to both fight the zombie masses and protect the civilians. For every soldier you have evacuating civilians is one less soldier who is fighting the undead. Zombies in most depictions of a undead apocalypse seem to overwhelm humanity with a war of attrition. Which is that the for every undead person killed another takes their place as the military, police, and private citizens combat them thus exposing themselves to being infected. As the infection spreads government and military officials would realize that protecting large cities from the undead is a waste of manpower and firepower. Rather than protect whole cities which would be disastrous, it would be more strategically beneficial to only defend certain areas of a city that allow for basic services to continue such as a water treatment facilitiy or a power plant. It would be even more ideal if you could create a safe zone for civilians by isolating part of a city and closing it off from the undead masses. Given that the greatest risk to exposing ones self to being infected comes from actively searching out the undead it would be more effective to draw the undead to you which would allow the military to set up kill zones with crossing fields of fire.
Digging in or fighting behind sandbags would be a horrible way to fight the undead. Instead the military would have to find away to fight the undead from an elevated position perhaps from buildings that have been cleared out then fortified to use as firing positions to shoot down at the undead. Also perhaps instead of focusing on holding the large cities it would be better at abandoning them altogether and instead retreating into the countryside where safe zones could be set up where the military could draw the undead out of major population centers and towards fortified positions. One thing that has always bothered me about zombie apocalypse shows, movies, games, etc., is that they all fail to take into consideration that the Federal Government has in place a number of Continuity Of Government or C.O.G. plans for short. These plans were developed during the Cold War where the threat of nuclear annihilation was high and then updated as the threat of a nuclear holocaust dimished while the threat of terrorism became the primary focus of the government to protect itself in the event of something horrible that would cause the government to initiate these plans. While major cities like DC might become overrunned by the undead the government would relocate to a secure location from which they could communicate with both the civilian and military officials in order to combat the undead horde. Even the military is given certain leeway to act in the event a command structure is no longer present or cannot be contacted. So the fight would never end against the undead, however it would be difficult to keep an army in the field if the soldiers had families at home they felt were vulnerable which is why the government would probably initiate some kind of program that prioritize the evacuations of military families from infected areas and into safe zones.
I could keep rambling but the point of this blog is this, there is always a plan by the government to continue the functioning in the case of any event and because of the military's superior technological edge and training they would be in a better position to effectively deal with a zombie outbreak. Most dramatizations of a zombie outbreak usually have society collapse and all resemblence of social norms disappear because it creates a more powerful character driven story rather than an actual depiction of how both the government and the military would respond to a crisis.