Six Military Lessons of World War Z

With America having so little success in fighting unconventional wars over the last decade, perhaps it is time to learn from an unconventional army that wins. The lean, mean undead fighting machines in the movie World War Z have a military record that is unsurpassed. Never have warriors, living or decomposed, conquered so much territory as fast as these hard-fighting "Zekes." Within days they had wiped almost every major city on Earth, with a speed that would have dazzled Genghis Khan, bewildered Napoleon and flummoxed Rommel.

What are the military lessons that the Armageddon Armies of Zombiedom can teach us? Here are a few from War Z the movie (not the book).

1. Zombies make shock and awe work. U.S. shock and awe tactics failed to quickly demoralize and defeat Saddam Hussein's forces in 2003. However, the zombies of World War Z could write the manual for shock and awe. The undead moved rapidly, aggressively and decisively against human forces that were consistently baffled, hesitant and overwhelmed by zombie concentrations at decisive points. The living armies simply could not adapt their decision-making loop to the furious and unrelenting pace of the zombie offensive. Zombies also proved adept at waging psychological warfare. Not even thousands of laser-guided bombs dropped in an around-the-clock aerial assault can match the petrifying terror of watching a 200-pound animated corpse smashing his head through a car windshield for the fleshy prizes inside.

2. Zombies know how to wage low-tech warfare. Despite lacking tanks, drones and nuclear weapons, the undead still managed to defeat better-equipped and -trained human forces. The irony is that the living could have learned from history if they had so bothered. In 70 CE, the ragtag Jewish defenders of Jerusalem held five besieging Roman legions at bay for six months. Heavily armed Israeli troops, confident behind the high walls of their anti-zombie Maginot Line, lost Jerusalem in ten minutes after the zombies formed an inhuman pyramid to scale the fortifications. Instead of relying on IDF helicopters impotently machine-gunning Zekes, Jerusalem could have been saved by a few teenagers dropping rocks and boiling oil on to the zombies below. For that matter, modern high-tech body armor is effective at protecting the wearer's chest from bullets, but not from a lethal zombie bite. For the price of a single $300 million F-35 jet, the Pentagon could equip several divisions with medieval-style suits of armor that would not only be zombie-proof, but would be guaranteed to induce a sense of shock -- if not necessarily awe -- in America's enemies.

3. Zombies show that melee combat isn't dead. Swords and battleaxes have been anachronistic since the Age of Gunpowder, and even the U.S. Army (though not the Marines) have stopped teaching bayonet combat in basic training. However, zombies make very, very effective use of grappling and biting, with tackling techniques that put the NFL to shame. Indeed, Brad Pitt in World War Z appeared to have more success with an axe, crowbar and improvised bayonet than with firearms.

4. Zombies are formidable insurgents. Given that most zombies appear in their local areas, it can be argued that the undead are insurgents or rebels rather than invaders. Once one Zombie agitator appears, the local populace quickly swells the ranks of the undead. However, applying conventional counterinsurgency techniques such as propaganda and psychological warfare would be ineffective, given that transforming the dead into the living has not proved possible without divine intervention.

5. Zombies don't worry about legal niceties. It is likely that the feeble response of living forces to the zombie threat can be partly explained by legal concerns. Could American troops use force against zombies on American soil without running afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act? Is the act of becoming a zombie sufficient proof that an American has renounced his citizenship and sworn allegiance to a power hostile to the United States? If zombies are detained, perhaps for purposes of medical experimentation, are they considered as civil prisoners, or enemy combatant, or some new category such as UPW (Undead Prisoner of War)? Meanwhile, should lawyers attempt to wage lawfare against the undead, the zombies will most likely bite them, most likely to the applause of fellow citizens.

6. Zombie armies are their own best recruiters. The U.S. military is asking for more than $1.6 billion for recruitment and advertising. But for a modern professional military, even billions don't guarantee quality; manpower shortages forced the Pentagon to enlist poorly qualified recruits for the War on Terror. However, one bite from a zombie, and the victim become a zombie himself, thus swelling the ranks of the undead and depleting the ranks of the living. Zombie armies don't need recruiters. Every zombie is his own recruiter.