America's Triumph Over the Zombie Horde

According to Daniel Nixon, the zombie wars will make the United States more powerful than ever.

In his courageous attempt to bring rigor to our understanding of the zombie threat, Daniel Drezner commits the common error of reducing realism to its balance-of-power variant ("Night of the Living Wonks," July/August 2010). He thus pays inadequate attention to the most likely result of a zombie apocalypse: the re-emergence of empires as the dominant form of global organization.

A zombie apocalypse would most certainly lead to profound transformations in the current order, but in ways consistent with hegemonic-order theory, which sees the rise and fall of dominant powers as the most common pattern in world politics. In the case of a zombie plague, the most likely outcome, for several reasons, is the reassertion of U.S. power.

As Drezner suggests, "the strong will do what they can and the weak must suffer devouring by reanimated, ravenous corpses." Those (re)emerging powers with relatively low state capacity -- such as Brazil, Russia, and India -- will soon succumb to the flesh-eating horde. The United States and the other remaining major powers will protect themselves through indiscriminate force -- quite possibly including nuclear strikes -- to prevent undead mass migration from overrun regions into their territories. America's unmatched global-strike capabilities will lead most other remaining states to acquiesce to U.S. leadership over the zone of the living.

The result will not, unfortunately, be Liberal Order 3.0, but a global Pax Americana supported by regional client-empires tasked with controlling and eradicating local zombie eruptions. In time, we will see efforts to actively settle zombie-controlled wastelands. In other words, the world will experience a macabre replay of 19th-century imperial expansion, but as imagined in the dreams of the most virulently racist advocates of European imperialism -- those who saw indigenous populations as subhuman monsters fit only for exploitation and destruction.

Daniel Nexon
Assistant Professor
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

Daniel Drezner replies:
I greatly value Daniel Nexon's penetrating insights into the realist response to the specter of the undead. I must, nevertheless, dispute his prediction of U.S. hegemonic revival and nuclear-weapons use. First, even if weaker developing countries are overrun by zombie hordes, it is unlikely that the great powers -- particularly China -- will face a similar fate. Although the United States will remain first among equals in terms of power projection, the presence of ghouls would not tip the balance of power so far in the U.S. direction so as to support revanchist policies. Concluding that other great powers would simply "acquiesce" to U.S. hegemony seems contrary to the logic of realpolitik. Acting in concert, powerful states would reassert control over nettlesome border adversaries (Cuba, Taiwan, etc.). In a world in which the dead come back to life, however, further territorial expansion would pose greater security risks than gains.

Furthermore, the use of nuclear weapons would be a catastrophic mistake in a zombie-infested world. Zombies cannot be deterred, stripping nukes of their one useful trait. In the event of their use, a nuclear blast would no doubt kill massive numbers of zombies. Unlike human beings, however, the undead would survive any radioactive fallout that comes from such weapons use. Indeed, zombies carrying lethal doses of radiation would pose a double threat to humans as they stumbled around -- death by radiation or reanimation by zombie bite.

If any government were so foolhardy as to launch a first strike, it would create the only thing worse than an army of the living dead -- a radioactive army of the living dead. We can only hope that when faced with a zombie horde, cooler heads than Nexon's will be in the Situation Room. 


Reagan Was Right

Richard Perle challenges Peter Beinart's representation of Reagan's foreign policy.

One could assume that the dubious straw men invented by Peter Beinart are the result of innocent misconstruction ("Think Again: Ronald Reagan," July/August 2010). After all, Beinart was 10 years old when Ronald Reagan became president and began the daunting task of re-establishing American pride, confidence, and global leadership after Jimmy Carter's disastrous presidency. But they are more likely yet another example of the refusal of liberals to acknowedge the success of Reagan's Cold War policies.

Beinart attributes to the "American right" the view that Reagan's policies led the Politburo to install Mikhail Gorbachev, "who threw in the towel." But Beinart seems alone in taking this view. Instead, many of us who served in the Reagan administration argue that the delegitimization of the Kremlin dictators (accomplished, in part, by what Beinart calls "virulent Cold War rhetoric"), the rebuilding of U.S. military capabilities, and a skillful arms-control strategy led to the West's victory in the Cold War.

Reagan negotiated with the Soviets from the moment he took office, but with a subtlety that escapes Beinart completely. Reagan knew what he wanted, and he knew how to achieve it. This was especially true with respect to arms control, where -- often against the advice of the experts, the liberals, and much of the media -- Reagan stayed the course until the Soviets gave him the agreement he wanted.

What Beinart calls Reagan's "sudden infatuation with arms control" is pure invention. When Reagan proposed eliminating all intermediate-range missiles in 1981, he was denounced for overreaching. Indeed, he was accused of having put forward a proposed treaty for the express purpose of assuring that the talks would fail. For Reagan's success in out-waiting and out-negotiating the Soviets, Beinart and those who share his outlook will never forgive him.

Beinart is not alone in confusing a tough, deliberate application of American power with the bellicose reckless abandon that he seems to think is the essence of a "conservative" foreign policy. In Beinart's worldview only liberals, relying on the United Nations, international law, and multilateral diplomacy, can secure U.S. interests and preserve peace. But Reagan, following his own beliefs and proceeding in his own way, achieved results no liberal foreign policy has approached -- or is likely to achieve.

Richard Perle
Resident Fellow, The American Enterprise Institute
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, 1981-1987
Washington, D.C.