Voice

What if author bios were brutally honest?

When someone publishes an op-ed, longer essay, or book, they have to write a tagline.  It's usually two sentences describing their title and affiliation, and whatever big projects are associated with them. 

After watching the preview for The Invention of Lying, however, I began to wonder what these tag lines would look like if they were brutally honest.  With a nod to Megan Mcardle's "Full Disclosure" post from a few years ago, here's fifteen examples I came up with: 

  • Jack Silver is a fellow at the Institute for Strategic Studies.  He has been Henry Kissinger's bitch for something like three decades, so when Henry passed on writing something for us, he was the next logical choice.     

 

  • Suzie Wong has never been to the country about which she is writing.  What's in this op-ed is culled from a quick perusal of the Economist and a few phone calls.     

 

  • Cass Bunstein is a law professor.  He dashed off this essay in his head while commuting to work this morning, wrote it in under thirty minutes, and it's still smarter than anything, my dear reader, that will ever pop into your brain. 

 

  • Augustine Cornington has been teaching at an obscure state school for two decades, lying in the tall grass, waiting for her archnemesis to make a mistake in print.  This book review is her chance to completely eviscerate him. 

 

  • Joe Schlub Jr. is a law professor.  This essay is a badly mangled version of an interesting idea he heard Cass Bunstein riff on at a cocktail party last week. 

 

  • Andrew McClutchen is a former governor.  He hopes that this op-ed is the first step in getting beyond that horrible sex scandal from a few years ago. 

 

  • Madeleine McFadden is a former cabinet secretary, and did not write a single word of this policy essay.  It is possible she read the first few paragraphs of it, but that's being really optimistic.

 

  • Jane Babbington has no extraordinary policy expertise.  She does have an awesome book jacket photo, however, and will have better hair and skin than you do until the day she dies.  

 

  • Lou Marston is a very smart professor at Princeton University.  This op-ed is woefully underplaced because he took his own sweet time writing it, and this issue is from last week's news cycle.  

 

  • Robert Knaus lost the capacity to write long-form essays years ago - what you just read is what an intern scraped together from one year's worth of Twitter tweets. 

 

  • Ann Stoneham is the foremost expert on this topic, and cannot write her way out of a paper bag.  Her uber-competent editor busted her ass for the last 48 hours to try and convert this essay into semi-readable prose

 

  • Gwen Pollard is an area expert at a prominent DC think tank.  She fervently hopes that everyone has forgotten how completely wrong she was about this topic just five short years ago.

 

  • C. Thomas Pope is a professor at the University of Chicago, and his worldview hardened into an inpenetrable black mass the day he turned twenty-four.  As no amount of contradictory evidence will cause him to change his mind, he is perfectly willing to make absurd, idiotic statements without worrying that he is wrong. 

 

  • Richard Jensen is a professor at Harvard University.  He has the Mother of All Balloon Payments due on his mortgage next year, so any extra income helps. 

And, of course.....

  • Daniel Drezner is a professor at Tufts University, and is publishing the fifth version of exact same idea with this essay.  Seriously, the man would be nothing without the cut and paste function.

Readers are warmly welcomed to come up with their own brutally honest tag lines in the comments. 

Daniel W. Drezner

Theory of International Politics and Zombies

[NOTE TO 2011 AND BEYOND READERS OF THIS POST:  If you like what you read here, then trust me, you'll love the book that came from it:  Theories of International Politics and Zombies, (Princeton University Press, 2011).  This post is where it all began!!]

Alex Massie alerts us to this BBC story about modeling who would win if the dead actually did rise from the grave

If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively.

That is the conclusion of a mathematical exercise carried out by researchers in Canada.

They say only frequent counter-attacks with increasing force would eradicate the fictional creatures....

To give the living a fighting chance, the researchers chose "classic" slow-moving zombies as our opponents rather than the nimble, intelligent creatures portrayed in some recent films....

[T]heir analysis revealed that a strategy of capturing or curing the zombies would only put off the inevitable.

In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity's only hope is to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often".

They added: "It's imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else... we are all in a great deal of trouble."  

Now, one could argue that this finding represents a Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious. On the other hand, the report has clear freaked out Alex Massie:

[The researchers] are cheating. It's like something out of Dad's Army: You can't fight like that, it's not in the rules... Then again, if we can be destroyed by Zombie 1.0, just think how powerless we'd be when confronted by Next Generation Zombies...

To try to make Massie feel better let's have some fun with this and ask a different question -- what would different systemic international relations theories* predict regarding the effects of a zombie outbreak? Would the result be inconsequential -- or World War Z

A structural realist would argue that, because of the uneven distribution of capabilities, some governments will be better placed to repulse the zombies than others. Furthermore, anyone who has seen Land of the Dead knows that zombies are not deterred by the stopping power of water. So that's the bad news. 

The good news is that these same realists would argue that there is no inherent difference between human states and zombie states.  Regardless of individual traits or domestic instiutions, human and zombie actors alike are subject to the same powerful constraint of anarchy. Therefore, the fundamental character of world politics would not be changed. Indeed, it might even be tactically wise to fashion temporary alliances with certain zonbie states as a way to balance against human states that try to exploit the situation with some kind of idealistic power grab made under the guise of "anti-zombieism." So, according to realism, the introduction of zombies would not fundamentally alter the character of world politics. 

A liberal institutionalist would argue that zombies represent a classic externality problem of... dying and then existing in an undead state and trying to cause others to do the same. Clearly, the zombie issue would cross borders and affect all states -- so the benefits from policy coordination would be pretty massive.

This would give states a great opportunity to cooperate on the issue by quickly fashioning a World Zombie Organization (WZO) that would codify and promnulgate rules on how to deal with zombies. Alas, the effectiveness of the WZO would be uncertain. If the zombies had standing and appealed any WZO decision to wipe them out, we could be talking about an 18-month window when zombies could run amok without any effective regulation whatsoever. 

Fortunately, the United States would likely respond by creating the North American F*** Zombies Agreement -- or NAFZA -- to handle the problem regionally. Similarly, one would expect the European Union to issue one mother of a EU Directive to cope with the issue, and handle questions of zombie comitology. Indeed, given that zombies would likely be covered under genetically modified organisms, the EU would trumpet the Catragena Protocol on Biosafety in an "I told you so" kind of way. Inevitably, Andrew Moravcsik would author an essay about the inherent superiority of the EU approach to zombie regulation, and why so many countries in Africa prefer the EU approach over the American approach of "die, motherf***ers, die!!"  Oh, and British beef would once again be banned as a matter of principle. 

Now, avid followers of social constructivism might think that Wendt and Duvall (2008) have developed a model that would be useful for this kind of event... but you would be wrong. Back when this paper was in draft stage, I specifically queried them about wther their argument about UFOs could be generalized to zombies, vampires, ghosts, the Loch Ness monster, Elvis, etc.  Their answer was an emphatic "no":  aliens would be possessors of superior technology, while our classic sci-fi canon tells us that the zombies, while resistant to dying, are not technologically superior to humans. So that's a dead end.

Instead, constructivists would posit that the zombie problem is what we make of it.  That is to say, there are a number of possible emergent norms in response to zombies. Sure, there's the Hobbesian "kill or be killed" end game that does seem to be quite popular in the movies.  But there could be a Kantian "pluralistic anti-Zombie" community that bands together and breaks down nationalist divides in an effort to establish a world state. Another way of thinking about this is that the introduction of zombies creates a stronger feeling of ontological security among remaining humans -- i.e., they are not flesh-eaters (alas, those bitten by zombies are now both physically and ontologically screwed). 

Unfortunately, I fear that constructivists would predict a norm cascade from the rise of zombies. As more and more people embrace the zombie way of undead life, as it were, the remaining humans would feel social pressure to conform and eventually internalize the norms and practices of zombies -- kind of like the early-to-middle section of Shaun of the Dead. In the end, even humans would adopt zombie-constructed perceptions of right and wrong, and when it's apprpriate to grunt in a menacing manner. 

Now, some would dispute whether neoconservatism is a systemic argument, but let's posit that it's a coherent IR theory.  To its credit, the neoconservatives would recognize the zombie threat as an existential threat to the human way of life.  Humans are from Earth, whereas zombies are from Hades -- clearly, neoconservatives would argue, zombies hate us for our freedom not to eat other humans' brains.   

While the threat might be existential, accommodation or recognition are not options.  Instead, neocons would quickly gear up an aggressive response to ensure human hegemony.  However, the response would likely be to invade and occupy the central state in the zombie-affected area.  After creating a human outpost in that place, humans in neighboring zombie-affected countries would be inspired to rise up and overthrow their own zombie overlords.  Alas, while this could happen, a more likely outcone would be that, after the initial "Mission Accomplished" banner had been raised, a fresh wave of zombies would rise up, enmeshing the initial landing force -- which went in too light and was drawn down too quickly -- in a protracted, bloody stalemate. 

Readers are hereby encouraged in the comments to posit other IR theoretical prediction of the response to a zombie uprising. For example, would the zombie uprising confirm Marxist predictions about the revolt of the proletariat? 

*Alas, your humble blogger does not have the time to puzzle out the zombie effect on two-level games. 

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images