Fear The Walking Dead: Failed States, the Collapse of Societies and Other Light Topics

I spent 2004 with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa ("CJTF-HoA") as part of the Global War on Terrorism ("GWOT").

 

Although CJTF-HoA did not operate there, what was happening (and what had happened) in the failed state of Somalia was often a focus.  In the late 1990s, the East African Al Qaeda Call ("EAAQ") operated there prior to the 1998 Embassy Bombings and were believed to remain there in 2004.

 

Failed States came to interest me. 

 

They seemed significant, not because they failed, state failure is not uncommon historically.  They struck me as significant because who restored order . . . and on what template . . . seemed to be the dispositive issues.

 

I am not the first person to see a parallel between state failure and the fictional trope of the Zombie Apocalypse.  David Wellington's three book series, Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet, use Somalia as the backstory for a Zombie Apocalypse.  However, I think the difficulties that AMC's series Fear The Walking Dead has encountered have been attributable to (except for the 3d Season) focusing too much on the failure of civilization, rather than on how people attempt to restore order. 

 

Fear the Walking Dead was introduced in 2015 as a spin-off series of AMC's The Walking Dead.   Although set in the same fictional universe, it shared no characters, was set in LA rather than the Southeast and was set (when it began) right at the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse and was initial intended to show how things had collapsed. 

 

The show took as its lead characters Travis Manawa, a divorced Maori-American High School English Teacher living with his girl friend, Madison Clark, a widowed High School Guidance Counselor, and her two teenage children, one of whom was a heroin addict and one of whom was an honor student.  Additionally, Travis had an ex-wife, a Mexican-American nursing student, and a son.  A Salvadoran Barber and his wife and daughter were  also introduced as  main characters as was an up-scale African American businessman (and sometimes con man).

 

The first and second episodes were quite good, showing an increasing realization that things were going wrong.  However, the show seemed to rush the end of civilization, culminating the First Season with a Federal plan called "Cobalt" which involved firebombing LA to halt the plague.

 

A more interesting approach might have been to show the Zombie Apocalypse spreading more slowly in LA, due to its more decentralized nature and the existence of  alternative forms of social control to Federal, State and Local governments (such as gangs and possibly the film industry). With the spread of the Zombie Outbreak being precariously arrested by competing (and mutually hostile) forces. 

 

The Second Season dealt with the cast being lead to Mexico by Strand, the African American businessman.  The focus was on how Mexican culture was relatively more able to adopt to the outbreak based on how their culture viewed death.  The season was widely viewed as unsuccessful. 

 

The Third Season concerned a survivalist compound and their ongoing conflict with a local  First Nation tribe (whom the survivalist leader, Otto, had cheated).  This story became in twined with the story of a dam in Mexico which a Mexicana Engineer and her brother, a defrocked and alcoholic Catholic Priest, were attempting to use to benefit the local survivors. Daniel, the Salvadoran Barber (and formerly, a feared government operative in El Salvador, known as "The Angel of Death"), became their protector.

 

The Season culminated in an attempt to seize the dam by a Biker Gang called The Proctors, who were seizing key lines of communications ("LoCs") and other key geographic and cultural resources like the dam.  In the ensuing battle, the dam was destroyed. 

 

The Fourth Season introduced new characters, including Morgan Jones, formerly a main character on The Walking Dead.  The Season also saw the elimination of two of the former lead characters, Madison Clark and her heroin-addict son Nick.

 

The villains included The Vultures, who awaited the collapse of other groups of survivors in order to loot their resources (and helping the processalong by releasing hordes of Zombies) and Martha, the "Dirty Lady," who wanted that people not help others in order that they remain "strong." 

 

Needless to say, the conflicts seemed less interesting in the Fourth Season as compared to the Third.

 

It strikes me that this has been interesting television at times.  It also seems that one way it could become even more interesting television in the future would be to look at how disparite groups in actual failed states seek to restore order.

 

The Proctors, in the Third Season, were trying to do what actual "Warlords" tried to do in Somalia after the collapse of the Barre Government in 1991: gain control of lines of communication and infrastructure, like port facilities, airfields and even hotels. 

 

There was a time-jump between Season 3 and Season 4, how far have The Proctors gotten in the intervening period?  Are they about to enter the Austin area where the main characters are operating?  These are potentially interesting antagonists in that they are, personally, amoral, but what they are doing may be the most useful thing possible for restoring some degree of order.

 

An existing biker gang, like The Proctors, is plausible as a force operating to take advantage of the collapse of civilization.  They already had an existing operation, had a shared "culture" and were used to working together.  There are real world examples of such things.

 

In Somalia, for example, after 1991, a number of roles of the old government, including banking regulation, were undertaken by Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya ("AIAI"), a sort of Islamic Knights of Columbus, that had many members in nearly all Muslim Somalia. 

 

AIAI was more of a "them" than an "it."  Parts of AIAI took over the regulation of banking in the failed state.  Parts of it undertook charitable activities.  Parts of it waged an insurgency in the Somali National Regional State of Ethiopia.  And parts of it were aligned  with EAAQ, and gave rise to the Islamic Courts Union and Al Shabab.  What existing institutions become when other institutions fail is an open question.

 

In the Third Season, one of the Survivalist Leader's sons was a lawyer and the leader of the First Nations group they were in conflict with was also a lawyer, called Walker.  One of the interesting things about the "War Lords" in the former Somalia was that many of them were lawyers and not Soldiers.  (Although, there were Soldiers like "General" Morgan and former Colonel Dehir Aweys.)

 

A potentially interesting concept to explore is who rises to power when things fall apart?  Would it be lawyers like Walker or one of the Otto brothers, as in Somalia?  Would it be criminals like The Proctors?  Would it be Soldiers like Dehir Aweys in Somalia?  Would it be someone like Daniel who has a checkered (but useful) background, someone like the historical  Nathan Bedford Forrest in the US Civil War?

 

In a world that increasingly evokes Yeats's The Second Coming, fiction that explores what happens after the unthinkable happens may be as useful as it is entertaining. 

           

Comments

Katharine Otto Added Oct 4, 2018 - 3:27pm
John,
Good idea.  It could also turn people's minds toward solving problems rather than rehashing the same old power struggles.  I would say that he who controls the food and water would be in the best position to call the shots.  If a group of people could do it cooperatively, and even engage others in developing some sort of self-sufficiency, they might even build a sustainable civilization.  
 
I haven't paid close attention, but I was interested in the fact that Maduro in Venezuela has put the military in charge of the food supplies.  If he can keep the military on his side, and better yet, if he could get the military to help the people stave off starvation, he might turn the situation around.
John Minehan Added Oct 4, 2018 - 4:19pm
Food and water are critical as are the things that let you transport both of them.  In Somalia, control of port facilities and air fields was a major source of income for "War Lords."
 
Also important, although it may be surprising was control of intoxicants, in Somalia, Khatt, mostly grown in Yemen and (to a lesser degree, Ethiopia).   In Fear the Walking Dead, The Proctors were a biker gang that ran drugs before things fell apart.   
John Minehan Added Oct 4, 2018 - 4:24pm
"I haven't paid close attention, but I was interested in the fact that Maduro in Venezuela has put the military in charge of the food supplies.  If he can keep the military on his side, and better yet, if he could get the military to help the people stave off starvation, he might turn the situation around."
 
That leads to another important point: Legitimacy.
 
That could work.  Certainly, the military has things beyond weapons, including rolling stock to transport food.  but does it have the Legitimacy to make hard decisions or will peasant-farmers withhold produce?  
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 4, 2018 - 8:42pm
John -  Good article and a topic worthy of exploration. Nice job identifying the examples from the AMC series.
 
I just recently finished reading Steven King's The Stand again after many years. At the end when the they call for a sheriff and then the sheriff says I need more deputies.....Yeah. Same old shit. We are dumb brutes, well deserving of extinction.
wsucram15 Added Oct 4, 2018 - 9:23pm
Interesting show and liked it until Scott Gimble and the new show runners screwed it up like they did with the walking dead.  I started watching TWD intermittently  after Negan came on, but when Carl died, well I am a comic fan so that was it.
FTWD however, was a really good show and I liked it better in some ways. New people are always bad for the originals, but not like this. nick leaving was bad, but Maddison also?  I dont watch either show now.
Sad too because I like Morgan.
James Travil Added Oct 4, 2018 - 10:51pm
I enjoy both the Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead. I do agree with John that I wish they would have spent more time with the Walker Apocalypse (what's a "zombie"?) civilization collapse thing. Perhaps the counter argument can be made that Walkers, though somewhat easy to destroy, become an ever multipling threat, as their numbers grow, which is almost always the result of human deaths, thus the full collapse of civilization comes far faster than expected.
I will admit that I skimmed parts of this because I watch both shows via Netflix and Hulu respectively and am a season behind and I wasn't keen on reading spoilers, but I found what I did read interesting. 
Michael B. Added Oct 5, 2018 - 4:36am
I think it's interesting that among the criteria for identifying a failed state is "the lack of a monopoly on the use of force." I see that as both a good and a bad thing. For some strange reason, it reminds me of the central message of the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"..."Don't let these White Westerners ruthlessly and shamelessly exploit you! Let us do it to you, because we're, you know, fellow Asians."
 
"They seemed significant, not because they failed, state failure is not uncommon historically. They struck me as significant because who restored order . . . and on what template . . . seemed to be the dispositive issues."
 
John, as you know, nature abhors a vacuum, which you witnessed first-hand. Somalia is obviously the poster-country for failed states, but what of the rest of us? Overall, it always falls to the Golden Rule: "Those that have the gold, make the rules", although I would add "and the guns, who are better disciplined and organized" in addition to the gold. Although I've never been into sci-fi too much, and therefore never watched the shows you refer to, I see and often have to deal with "the walking dead" on a daily basis.
 
In the technical world, there is no such thing as a free lunch; if you gain something in one area, you are almost mathematically certain to lose it in others. Many things are a balance of compromises; a military man like yourself would know that the T-34 tank (ironically, the Soviet evolution of an American design) is a good example of such things. The inability to compromise is what drives many of the world's problems, and is also a key factor in a failed or failing state.
Ward Tipton Added Oct 5, 2018 - 7:43am
"The Walking Dead" lost me when they had a bunch of Georgia rednecks who could not find a gun store. 
Dino Manalis Added Oct 5, 2018 - 8:42am
 Somalia and the rest of Africa need economic development to accompany stability in society to prevent outbursts of terrorism.  NATO should fund Africa's security, while the continent has to become a free trade zone among all its countries and companies.  Somalia and all of Africa have potential and it goes far beyond terrorism.
Ward Tipton Added Oct 5, 2018 - 8:49am
The Chinese and the Americans are far too busy exploiting and dividing the continent to allow them to unite in any kind of free trade agreement. 
Stone-Eater Added Oct 5, 2018 - 10:18am
What is a failed state ? One that doesnt't function the way WE want ? Hmmm..
 
Stone-Eater Added Oct 5, 2018 - 10:21am
Dino
 
Sure. NATO should....be dissolved. It is nothing but an imperialist structure. Now call me socialist LOL
Stone-Eater Added Oct 5, 2018 - 10:21am
Ward
 
Thumps up.
Ward Tipton Added Oct 5, 2018 - 10:40am
Stone - 
"What is a failed state ? One that doesnt't function the way WE want ? Hmmm.."
 
Nah, just one where the super powers need a new lackie in charge and implement "Insert Ethnic Group Here Spring" ala the Arab Spring regime changes of the much beloved Obama.
Stone-Eater Added Oct 5, 2018 - 11:00am
Ward
 
https://www.truthdig.com/articles/blowback-from-a-generation-of-american-folly/
 
Home made. From Afghanistan to Somalia to...?
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 2:56pm
My time in East Africa has made me a fan of apocalyptic literature.
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 3:00pm
Michael B, It strikes me that what constitutes "gold" changes, as you point out.  It might go from being a shareholder in one of Mogadishu's better law firms to being able to procure enough khatt to keep a group of armed men interested in protecting your port or airfield or hotel.   
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 3:03pm
"What is a failed state ? One that doesnt't function the way WE want ? Hmmm."
 
Operationally, to me, it is a place where influential men fight post-modern wars over control of a hotel while children die of measles.
 
Metaphorically, that covers a lot of ground.
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 3:06pm
I should have put out a "Spoiler Alert."  
 
The problem is I usually write about less weighty topics, like Health Care.
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 3:14pm
"I do agree with John that I wish they would have spent more time with the Walker Apocalypse (what's a "zombie"?) civilization collapse thing. Perhaps the counter argument can be made that Walkers, though somewhat easy to destroy, become an ever multipling threat, as their numbers grow, which is almost always the result of human deaths, thus the full collapse of civilization comes far faster than expected."
 
One of the plot points in Romero's Dawn of the Dead  was that the outbreak got out of control because the Government was collecting corpses without saying why and people where hiding dead family members, who then revived as Zombies.
 
I thought I had about Fear is that various gangs or production companies or film industry unions might have the Legitimacy to explain to people what was happening in and what they must do with dead family members. 
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 3:17pm
The other question that prompts is: how do local, state and Federal authorities react to alternative sources of authority?
 
That, rather than  the outbreak getting out of control might be a better explanation for "Cobalt."
 
Something like that might have been a better First Season plot.  
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 5:38pm
"I just recently finished reading Steven King's The Stand again after many years. At the end when the they call for a sheriff and then the sheriff says I need more deputies.....Yeah. Same old shit. We are dumb brutes, well deserving of extinction."
 
I think The Stand may be remembered as one of the best American novels of the second half of the 20th Century.
 
The central theme is: 1) who restores order; and 2) on what template, which is the central issue raised by failed states in general.
 
I also liked the scene where Stu and Fanny are talking one night and Stu mentioned that one night, when he was moonlighting at the gas station, he waited on a man who he thought might have been Jim Morrison (after Morrison was reported to have died).
 
Stu then wonders, if Morrison is indeed, still alive, if he would go to Bolder with them or to Vegas with Flagg?  Stu thinks the likely answer will be "None of the above."
 
I would say  The Burgal Hidage might also opt for "None of the Above."  I suspect that might also be my preference.  Sometimes, "Non serviam" is not offered in disrespect.                                      

 

      
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 8:29pm
"Sure. NATO should....be dissolved. It is nothing but an imperialist structure. Now call me socialist LOL"
 
My thought might be that it made sense in an other time.
 
Neither the US nor Canada are European powers but Russia is and, arguably, since the fall of Napoleon, the quintessential one.
 
Possibly, some realignment is needed.
 
(I was once part of "America's First Choice For The Fulda Gap.")  
Ward Tipton Added Oct 5, 2018 - 9:41pm
I thought the movie about the Stand was sadly lacking, though I loved the book ... but then again, that is most often the case for me. Despite the urging of one of my brothers, I never could find it in my heart to give up reading the books just so I may be able to enjoy a movie. 
 
"The other question that prompts is: how do local, state and Federal authorities react to alternative sources of authority?"
 
See Boston after the Marathon tragedy with the full implementation of martial law without even a declaration, and an "exchange" of gunfire with an unarmed suspect. See Randy Weaver. See Waco. 
 
 
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 10:21pm
"See Boston after the Marathon tragedy with the full implementation of martial law without even a declaration, and an "exchange" of gunfire with an unarmed suspect. See Randy Weaver. See Waco."
 
In other words, not well.
John Minehan Added Oct 5, 2018 - 10:27pm
"I thought the movie about the Stand was sadly lacking, though I loved the book ... but then again, that is most often the case for me. Despite the urging of one of my brothers, I never could find it in my heart to give up reading the books just so I may be able to enjoy a movie."
 
An inherently cinematic book, yet also, in a real way, unfilm able.  I read it in 1980 and I saw certain actors in my mind for the movie and I just could not see other people doing it. Like Sam Elliot as Stu Redman or Neil Diamond or Bruce Springsteen as Larry Underwood or Dustin Hoffman as Nick Andros or William Schlertt as Glen Bateman.  
Ward Tipton Added Oct 6, 2018 - 1:19am
M O O N ... that spells epic filming disaster ... Lawsy yes! 
 
The Abyss ... I do not often watch movies, save on occasion with my family, as I generally find the movies highly irritating in all they exempt from film. Worse still, when the directors seem to presume an abject stupidity for their audience and make it painfully obvious which route the movie is taking. I mean seriously, Hannibal Lector in a kitchen and he could not find anything to pick a set of handcuffs? One of the easiest things in the world to pick? 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 6:22am
Never go to a Court Room Drama with a lawyer, a Medical Drama with a doctor or allied health professional or a war movie with a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine. 
Ward Tipton Added Oct 6, 2018 - 6:46am
Hahahahahahaha I assure you that I am just as bad as all of them ... collectively. 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 8:28am
I saw the film Fury in audience with a lot of former Tankers During the fight with the Tiger I, you could hear people yelling, Gunner . . . Sabot . . . Tank.  On The Way.  Target . . . Reengage!
Ward Tipton Added Oct 6, 2018 - 8:36am
DATs we called them. "My tank will take a direct hit from a 188 and still be fully functional!" Never understanding the concussion would leave nothing but oatmeal mush residual of the former crew within the tank. 
Ward Tipton Added Oct 6, 2018 - 8:38am
My first problem was the wrong tanks in Fury ... but I am a history freak ... well maybe just a freak ... but also one who is fascinated by history. 
 
I kinda liked the modern pickup truck in the background of Dunkirk as they were landing the plane to pull that gal out though. 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 9:34am
Well, for one thing, the War was going a lot better for the Allies by the time when the movie is set (March 1945) than the story suggests . . . .
 
Jeffry Gilbert Added Oct 6, 2018 - 9:36am
Never been exposed to the shows you speak of John so I'm missing a lot of things that are common experience back in the land of the formerly free. 
 
How do you see things shaking out in your corner of the world post failure? 
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 6, 2018 - 10:18am
Inasmuch as I am currently able I have already opted for none of the above :)
 
As a culture (addressing just the Yanks here) we have become quite fond of the apocalyptic theme, particularly the post apocalyptic iteration of a society or lack thereof.
I have a somewhat different take on it. I'm thinking of an apocalypse more as a process, rather than an event. We go with a whimper. A true planetary apocalypse would be getting caught in a gamma ray pulse, or a giant asteroid collision.  We think in terms of an apocalypse that is tailored to order, just for us, so we tend to think of it in the terms of a cataclysmic event, usually of our own making.
I think in a broader sense, thinking long term, we are in the midst of an apocalypse of our own making, a slow but inexorable grinding down but imperceptible. We are as the frog on a hot plate, slowly being consumed and not knowing. Always watching for the big flood or mega volcano - all of which may happen at any time - some of us to near obsession. These are things that if we are really truthful with ourselves we know these are beyond our control. Keeping attention focused on these potentials somehow prohibits us from recognizing the slow demise that we are cooking for ourselves. We have a very fragile order that is vulnerable to catastrophes. Is that our own fault or the catastrophe's?
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 10:27am
CAPT Gilbert, Having followed the rise in influence of The Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, I would bet on the rise of influence of the Bet Dins in Kiryas Joel, if there were ever a loss of civil order in Southeast NYS.
 
Being able to offer fair and incisive resolutions of disputes provides a great deal of social influence. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 6, 2018 - 10:28am
Related to my professional experience..... When you can present evidence to board members, CEOs and CFOs of major players in our electrical grid that their systems are already compromised and a dollar detail of what would be their potential loss and then don't dispute it. They are aware and you can present them a range of solutions to mitigate the risk and they.....laugh. I am not kidding, have had them laugh. "We're not going to risk pissing off the investors spending that kind of money on security".....paraphrased I'm sorry, but that is damned near a verbatim quote from a CFO with a major electric and gas provider in the NE US ( I never said their name, but you can figure it out).  People have no idea, NONE, how long the lights could really be out. 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 10:31am
TBH, I would guess you would agree with Camus that "Every day is judgment day."
 
It is probably worth noting that probably no one noticed for a few hundred years that Rome no longer really ruled Western Europe.  
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 10:45am
The historian Michael Vlahos has done a lot of great work recently on the possibility of another American Civil War.  It is brilliant stuff.
 
However, my money would be on a "norm of nullification" instead; the States basically doing what they want to while still professing loyalty to the Union.
 
Civil Wars are for he young, To Lucasta on Going to the Wars and all of that.  Old societies just drift apart. 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 10:48am
"People have no idea, NONE, how long the lights could really be out."
 
Perhaps the more pertinent question might be, could service ever be fully restored? 
Lindsay Wheeler Added Oct 6, 2018 - 11:25am
I can't stand the Walking Dead series; I don't watch them anymore. They are totally nihilistic and the preaching of mixed races is totally in tune with PeeCee culture. It is totally false and totally brutal with no morality or ethos. It's just a bunch of animals, killing a bunch of animals. Oh yea, women with broadswords---a real clincher there. 
 
It's just idiotic--but it is preparing America for its coming civil war by teaching brutality and inculcating it. 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 12:22pm
"They are totally nihilistic and the preaching of mixed races is totally in tune with PeeCee culture."
 
OK, maybe, I don't know, if about 75 percent of the population died off, maybe the resulting set of survivors, especially those coming out of fairly diverse cites (like LA, or Austin or Atlanta) would wind up being more diverse?
 
Maybe, at that point, folks might think of "their own kind" as "those with a pulse?" 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 12:28pm
"Oh yea, women with broadswords---a real clincher there."
 
But it was worse before the ZA, she was a lawyer. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 6, 2018 - 2:20pm
But it was worse before the ZA, she was a lawyer. 
 
ROFLMAO! Touche!
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 6, 2018 - 2:30pm
My thoughts on the fate of the states drifts much the same as yours John. In some ways this is something I believe is already in the works. The divides between differing regions - and especially between urban and rural America- are ever widening and under current structures and climate I do not see a rapprochement any time in the near future.
 
As to the grid..... A full restoration? Define full :) A full restoration to total uninterrupted power, as much as desired, on demand, all the time. Erm....let me borrow from our English cousins again: not bloody likely.
 
The vulnerability worldwide in metal clad switchgear, transformers of all classes, controls, automation components.....It is truly alarming. Which is why, outside of the industry, you hear very little about it. Another great concern is a severe want of qualified personnel required in this field for restoration on that kind of scale. Too many retired, not enough new blood coming in, and....  if the automated systems, the more modern components are removed from the equation a lot of these new hands have no practical field experience with old school methods. The engineering knowledge is out there, but the practical application with the limited qualified workforce available is a daunting task.
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 4:52pm
In other words, being used to the fluctuating power in Djibouti City might be useful long term?
TexasLynn Added Oct 6, 2018 - 6:21pm
I was a fan of the original series from the beginning.  For me, it all came down to quality writing which I think is key to any good series.  The original series had a great run for many seasons but started floundering just before the introduction of Negan.  It’s a shame, since Negan was the best villain from the comic series.  I slogged through that season culminating with the Sasha committing suicide inside a coffin.  That clenched it for me and I gave up.  It just got too stupid.  I’m convinced the producers lost sight of the plot concentrating instead on special zombie effects and that dam CGI tiger.
 
I tried to like FTWD but HATED the main character Nick (the dope head) from the get go.  I made it through the second season but got bogged down with the survivalist compound… and gave it up too.
 
Better Call Saul... :)
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 7:02pm
I really liked the 3d Season.  The Proctors made a lot of sense.  The collapse of the water table and the effect on the Ottos and Walker's group seemed a bit too convenient, though.
 
The idea that Nick's heroin addition would be an advantage in a societal collapse makes no sense to me.  At minimum, withdrawal would strike me as a real issue under those circumstances.  At first, when Strand remarked on that, I assumed  Strand was setting him up as a patsy to get him out of the holding facility. 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 7:29pm
Comes to mind that area of Texas would be a good place if there were problems. 
 
You have Texas A&M in the area, one of the world's best agricultural schools with useful people like vets and soil scientists, a mild climate with two growing seasons, Belton Lake and a good water table.
 
You have Hood and probably some part of III (US) Corps, 1st CAV, 4th ID (M) or the 36th ID (TXARNG) would probably be left with a lot of gear.
 
You could do worse. 
TexasLynn Added Oct 6, 2018 - 9:56pm
JM >> Comes to mind that area of Texas would be a good place if there were problems.
 
I would think rural is the key.  In my case I would draw a line between Houston and Dallas.  You would want to be at mid-point farthest from each.
 
Living in Houston for twenty years, I was well aware that if apocalyptic disaster occurred my primary goal would be to put as much distance between me and the city as possible.  Hurricane Rita (that caused a mass evacuation but missed Houston) taught me that 1) in such a scenario you're on your on and 2) What the "authorities" (state and local) tell you isn't necessarily in your best interest.
 
I don't know how bad the mobs from the cities would be.  It depends on how degraded our education system is.  I suspect a large percentage would starve to death in the Kroger parking lot because that's where food comes from (in the minds of the masses).  I just don't know the percentage of idiocy.
 
 
Spit-balling here... you would want to surround yourself with people who have a modicum of common sense; and a rural farming/hunting background.  That is if you're thinking long term.  You could go the murderous thug looter route, but it's like socialism... you eventually run out of shit to steal. :)
 
Late to the post... wrapping up my hunting holiday.  So maybe I'd be one of those long-term guys; though I've never been very good and slinging pointed sticks (arrows) at much of anything.  My resume would be I'm a decent shot with a long gun, I grew up on a farm and I've got common sense out the wazoo (in my own mind).  I think I'd be in the new 1% everybody's always hating on.
TexasLynn Added Oct 6, 2018 - 9:58pm
This thread reminds me of my Y2K story. I was working as a programmer for a large corporation in December of 1999. We hadn't worked on Y2K stuff in over a year before that. I had a ultra-left boss at the time and we would spar every now and then. In a little office get together just before the roll-over, he mentioned that he was prepared by getting some extra cash, and stocking up on food and water. He asked me if I had prepared and I said "Yes, I bought a case of shotgun shells." He snidely said I couldn't eat, shotgun shells. To which I replied, "No, but I know where you live and I know you're not armed." :)
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 10:14pm
"I would think rural is the key.  In my case I would draw a line between Houston and Dallas.  You would want to be at mid-point farthest from each."
 
A lot would depend on what is grown and how it is grown. 
 
"Rural area" as in "around a factory farm" or even something fairly specialized, like fruit orchards that are highly cultivated, might not be that helpful.
 
Something like the area around A&M might be good, you still have working family farms (or there were such things in the 1990s) and you have people  with a lot of technical knowledge in the area to help bridge the gap between 2018 agriculture and something like about 1850 (limited combines and plows and pesticides).
 
 
 
John Minehan Added Oct 6, 2018 - 10:21pm
I wasn't in Somalia when the Black Hawk down incident went down.  But based on what I heard from the people who were there in 1993 that I worked with in 2004, don't underestimate cities. 
 
Mogadishu still functioned.  There were still things there that people wanted and it survived on that basis.     
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 7, 2018 - 1:14am
John - Yes, your Djibouti experience should serve you well.
 
I would agree that to some extent cities might continue to function. Without direction, in spontaneous order, smaller groups will determine what holds currency. Not coin, not state promissory notes, real currency. Water, anything for vices will hold a premium, tobacco, booze, dope.....and more purposeful drugs, antibiotics.  Weapons and ammunition, of course. Fuel, batteries and yes, certainly skills. Tools, wire, wood will take on a revived importance. Radios, receivers and two-ways, any method of maintaining some network of communication. Those are the biggies, but within certain geographies there would be variables....some things holding greater currency in some groups than in others.
 
With your interest in this topic, John, I can commend another book (if you've not already read it!)....I have referenced Dr. Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs and Steel on numerous occasions. He penned a later work titled Collapse, wherein he makes a highly detailed analysis of cultures or civilizations that have "collapsed", including the Mayans, the Easter Island culture.....there were certainly more, but those two cases stand out in my memory. It's a fascinating read and Diamonds presentation is very accessible.
John Minehan Added Oct 7, 2018 - 6:42am
Vikings in Greenland, also.  Good book.
 
One that I think is on point is Floating City by Venkatesh.  Big cities seem unstable, but they have an underlying order due to the need for cooperation between unlikely groups (a sort of spontaneous order). 
John Minehan Added Oct 7, 2018 - 7:03am
John Minehan Added Oct 7, 2018 - 7:54am
Another good, generally connected book is Misha Glenny's McMafia
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 7, 2018 - 9:20am
I will try to make some time for these sometime this week John. They sound right up my alley.  I am beset with a massive canning operation for a lot of this next week. Too much coming to fruit all at once!
John Minehan Added Oct 7, 2018 - 10:06am
As some one who lives in Ulster County, I can appreciate that, as I drive to work dodging trucks hauling apples.
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 7, 2018 - 11:23am
LOL.....you know it!
TexasLynn Added Oct 7, 2018 - 4:54pm
JM >> "Rural area" as in "around a factory farm" or even something fairly specialized, like fruit orchards that are highly cultivated, might not be that helpful.
 
I might have a bit of bias against the urban folk... I found common sense a rather lacking commodity in all my years in Houston.  If you ever found it, it was almost always transplanted. BUT... my reference to rural had less to do with where the food is produced and more to do with the initial onslaught of death from both starvation, disease (more people) and violence.
 
Many cities now have ample ground to produce.
 
Even if you found yourself in a rural community... one problem would be in finding heirloom (non-hybrid) seeds.  I believe the survivalist business sell buckets of such seeds.  Other than that you need someone who is intentionally saving them or even know what they are.
 
You're absolutely right in that you're looking for a 'working family farm'.  In all of East Texas I can count the number I know of on one hand.  The Johnson family farm... being one of them.
 
TBH, in my conjecture, I'm thinking total collapse in that we're not going to rebuild or get the communications/power grid back up and all of that.  Modern drugs, weapons, ammunition, fuel, batteries, radios are all the things that will last about a generation but slowly disappear.  Long term (future generations) all these things will have to be (not reinvented) but reconstructed.  Vices... alcohol and other means of escape will definitely hold currency (as it always has).
 
With books and knowledge, we would hopefully get a head start with some advancement; How does one make penicillin after all?  I kinda know that rifling is important in accuracy of a gun but exactly how do you do that?
John Minehan Added Oct 7, 2018 - 5:45pm
Good point about non-hybrid seeds.  Nicholas Nassim Taleb's pet issue, but he is right about it. 
Ward Tipton Added Oct 8, 2018 - 7:28am
Invest in precious metals ... Copper (jackets), Lead (rounds), Steel (barrels) and (shooting) Irons. Simple. 
Ward Tipton Added Oct 8, 2018 - 7:29am
If you find yourself in the city in need of a bugout bag, you are likely already buggered. Highways were designed with one straight mile in every five so they could be shut down ASAP and utilized as makeshift airports in times of crisis. 
John Minehan Added Oct 8, 2018 - 10:29am
You might be better off in a large city.
 
Look at how Rome fared after 476 CE or how Mogadishu fared after 1991 CE (versus places like the Jubba Valley). 
TexasLynn Added Oct 8, 2018 - 10:45am
WT >> If you find yourself in the city in need of a bugout bag,
 
I actually had a bugout bag when I lived in Houston.  It contained many of the precious metals you mentioned above... plus water and food.  After the gas lines of Hurricane Rita I expanded it to include a very large external source of gasoline.

 
I do acknowledge that you are right though.  If you're loading your bugout bag  in truck, you are likely already buggered.
 
JM >> You might be better off in a large city.  Look at how Rome fared...
 
Yeah... but didn't Rome have a wall?  :P  Also, the barbarians were mostly outside said wall/city.
 
Nooooope.... if the ^&%$ hits the fan, get me as far away from those things (cities) as possible.
John Minehan Added Oct 8, 2018 - 10:59am
Large cities have a lot of interrelationships that tend to make them stable (see, e.g., Venkatesh's Floating City). 
 
Additionally they: 1) encompass a lot of resources; and  2) are where they are in the first place because they control natural lines of communication ("LOCs").
 
It isn't just Rome that fared better than other places, more recently, it was also Mogadishu.
 
An author who presents an alternative view, is James Howard Kuntsler, whose idea is that you should avoid large cites and rural areas and orient towards middium sized cites in agricultural areas.
Michael B. Added Oct 8, 2018 - 2:00pm
@ John M. - I would add a thriving black market and/or "alternative" markets to the list of failed/failing states criteria, especially when it comes to weapons. The last I checked, I still can't buy a T-72 or enough AK-47s to equip my khat-fueled thugs at the local farmer's market, lol. There will never be a shortage of Al Capones willing to supply a demand, whatever the demands may be, as long as the money and/or trade goods are there.
John Minehan Added Oct 8, 2018 - 4:54pm
Excellent insight. 
 
No T-72s that I saw.   There was a nickname for Yemen though, back then: :The Wal-Mart of small arms."
 
It is amazing how much stuff the Sovs, the former Warsaw Pact and the PRC made . . . and how much is still floating around 29 years after the Wall fell (and how much of it is STILL serviceable). 
 
It is an abject lesson to Mechanical Engineers everywhere . . . .  
Ward Tipton Added Oct 9, 2018 - 12:41am
Stay away from the ChiCom type 56 variant of the Kalashnikov ... the bolt housing is made out of substandard materials. Wherein the bolt is lined up just like the AK ... but when the type 56 jams ... it blows the bolt straight back ... meaning it tends to enter just about at the eye and proceeds to remove everything on its way out through the back of the head. 
 
Never had an AK jam on me personally. 
Stephen Hunter Added Oct 9, 2018 - 9:14am
John, a very interesting article. I have never watched any of the zombie shows, however you have illustrated the comparisons to society, so I sort of get it now.  
John Minehan Added Oct 9, 2018 - 11:34am
An AK is a lot like the old US M-3 SMG. You can immerse it in mud, clean out the barrel and the magazine well and it will fire nine times out of ten. 
John Minehan Added Oct 9, 2018 - 11:38am
Wish the insight was more original. 
 
The historian, Michael Vlahos, did an interesting piece on something US FEMA did on Zombie Apocalypse as a generic disaster.   
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 9, 2018 - 5:05pm
Ya can't beat a good old fashioned generic disaster! :) I still have some reading to do, John. Thanks for those suggestions. I am taking a time out from the heat for a time this evening and hope to tackle some of those then. Sounds like some fascinating reading
The Burghal Hidage Added Oct 9, 2018 - 7:13pm
Read your link on the cartel war. It'll be a cold day in hell before I would buy from Amazon, but I will obtain a copy of Floating City. Looks like a good read :)
Michael B. Added Oct 10, 2018 - 3:09am
@ John M. - "It is amazing how much stuff the Sovs, the former Warsaw Pact and the PRC made . . ."
 
Yes it is. Regarding the legendary reliability and user-friendliness of Soviet weaponry and equipment, what did GEN Patton say..."Don't tell people HOW to do things; just tell them WHAT to do, and they'll amaze you with their ingenuity." True, true, to a certain extent. The Soviets did well with their low-maintenance/brute force approach to just about every engineering problem they ever faced, but they seem to shifting more toward Quality and less toward Quantity, that old Russian and Soviet not-so-secret weapon. In the meantime, the world will be dealing with Cold War-era weapons and munitions many, many decades from now.
John Minehan Added Oct 10, 2018 - 11:22am
But, I also suspect they no longer make tanks for which the equilibrater fluid for the main gun HAS to be potable because they know the troops will drink it.
 
When you have a professionalized military (and there are few economic alternatives, as in Russia) you can make the equipment more complex.
 
It is funny. The Soviets HAD to make their own equipment tough, simple and robust since they had conscript levies of widely varying quality.  But that made their (small arms particularly) PERFECT for insurgents.
 
This gave then an advantage in sponsoring what Trinquier called "Modern War."  But it may not have been the conspiracy that Trinquier saw.
Michael B. Added Oct 10, 2018 - 12:47pm
Funny you mention potables. I read somewhere years ago that an entire Soviet fighter regiment was grounded during an alert because the ethanol needed for some function was diverted to several nearby towns and villages, where the locals were lining up with any vessel they could find to get pure grain alcohol real, real cheap. Not sure if the story is true or not, but I have no reason to doubt it, lol.
 
You'd think that another lesson from Vietnam is how quickly it collapsed when the support was removed. Sophisticated systems usually require sophisticated people to operate them, unless it's dumbed-down enough. Like the Fred MacMurray character said in The Caine Mutiny about his ship, in that it "was designed by geniuises, to be operated by idiots." Easier said than done, as I've found out many times, lol.
 
"The Soviets HAD to make their own equipment tough, simple and robust since they had conscript levies of widely varying quality. But that made their (small arms particularly) PERFECT for insurgents."
 
As we've seen, and will continue to see, it's a gift that keeps on giving.
Michael B. Added Oct 10, 2018 - 1:24pm
I have a Romanian SKS made in 1959 and have shot several thousands of rounds with very, very few malfunctions, and of those, it was the ammo and not the weapon itself. The first time I thoroughly cleaned it, I was amazed at how much fouling and outright crud that I found; a small portion would have been more than enough to render an M16 useless. I had a similar experience with a German G3 clone I had; I'd almost go as far to say they were almost zero maintenance for all practical purposes.
 
I saw a M3 Grease Gun still in service in the 1980's. It was issued to a mechanic in Circus, I mean, Service Battery who drove a wrecker.
A. Jones Added Oct 10, 2018 - 10:15pm
[Failed states] struck me as significant because who restored order . . . and on what template . . . seemed to be the dispositive issues
 
You're assuming that a nation without a central taxing authority like government is in complete social and economic chaos and requires a "template" (western-anglo-european, of course) to "restore order".
 
Alas, it's an assumption, and it happens to be wrong. See:
 
The Law of the Somalis: A Stable Foundation for Economic Development in the Horn of Africa

by Michael van Notten

"This book details many striking features of Somali customary law. It is compensatory, for example, rather than punitive. Instead of being imprisoned or otherwise punished, law breakers are required to compensate their victims. A victim seldom fails to receive compensation, moreover, because every Somali is insured by near kin against his or her liabilities under the law. Being based on custom, Somali law has no need of legislation or legislators, hence is happily free of political influences. Even so, the author points out areas in the law that are in need of change. These do not require legislation, however; many desirable changes, such as ending restrictions on the sale of land and enhancing the status of women, are implicit in economic development. As for the Somali political system, not only is there no need to set up a democracy, the author clearly shows why any attempt to do so must inevitably produce chaos. This book by a trained and sympathetic observer shows how, viewed in global perspective, Somali law stands with the Latin and Medieval laws and the English common law against the statutory law that originated in continental Europe with the modern nation state. It explains many seeming anomalies about present-day Somalia and describes its prospects as well as the dangers facing it.
 
Born in Zeist, the Netherlands, in 1933, Michael van Notten graduated from Leiden University in Law and was admitted into practice in Rotterdam. He later served with a New York law firm and directed the Institution Europaeum, a Belgium-based policy research organization. In the early 1990s, he became interested in the prospect of Somalia developing in the modern world of a stateless society, and for the next twelve years, he studied Somali customary law. A keen analyst of the intricacies of clan politics, he traveled fearlessly in war-torn Somalia. He died in Nimes, France, on June 5th, 2002"
 
And see this:
 
"As for disorder, Van Notten quotes authorities to the effect that Somalia's telecommunications are the best in Africa, its herding economy is stronger than that of either of its neighbors, Kenya or Ethiopia, and that since the demise of the central government, the Somali shilling has become far more stable in world currency markets, while exports have quintupled.
 
As for Somalia being lawless, Van Notten, a Dutch lawyer who married into the Samaron Clan and lived the last dozen years of his life with them, specifically challenges that portrayal. He explains that Somalia is a country based on customary law. The traditional Somali system of law and politics, he contends, is capable of maintaining a peaceful society and guiding the Somalis to prosperity. Moreover, efforts to re-establish a central government or impose democracy on the people are incompatible with the customary law.
 
Van Notten distinguishes between the four meanings of the word 'law' — statutory, contractual, customary, and natural law. The common misunderstanding is that legitimate rules only come from formally established entities and that therefore a country without a legislature is lawless. Refuting that misunderstanding, van Notten explains that a perfectly orderly and peaceful country can exist when people respect property rights and honor their contracts. While natural laws denote peace, liberty, and friendly relations, statutory laws represent commands. Statutory laws reflect the preferences of legislators, who impose "morality" on those they govern and regulate their ability to voluntarily enter into contracts. This, according to van Notten, is wrong from the standpoint of both morality and law.
 
Customary laws develop in a country like Somalia in the absence of a central legislating body. Rules 'emerge spontaneously as people go about their daily business and try to solve the problems that occasionally arise in it without upsetting the patterns of cooperation on which they so heavily depend' (Van Notten, 15: 2005). Van Notten contends that the Somali customary law closely follows the natural law an
A. Jones Added Oct 10, 2018 - 10:15pm
"Customary laws develop in a country like Somalia in the absence of a central legislating body. Rules 'emerge spontaneously as people go about their daily business and try to solve the problems that occasionally arise in it without upsetting the patterns of cooperation on which they so heavily depend' (Van Notten, 15: 2005). Van Notten contends that the Somali customary law closely follows the natural law and therefore should be preserved . . .
 
. . . Questions arise as to rampageous warlords when discussing a country without a central government. Van Notten explains that warlords exist because of the efforts to form a central government, not because of its absence:
 
'A democratic government has every power to exert dominion over people. To fend off the possibility of being dominated, each clan tries to capture the power of that government before it can become a threat. Those clans that didn't share in the spoils of political power would realize their chances of becoming part of the ruling alliance were nil. Therefore, they would rebel and try to secede. That would prompt the ruling clans to use every means to suppress these centrifugal forces… in the end all clans would fight with one another." (van Notten, 136; 2005)'
 
He thus asserts that efforts by the United Nations are not only futile, but also harmful to the Somalis."
John Minehan Added Oct 11, 2018 - 11:00am
"You're assuming that a nation without a central taxing authority like government is in complete social and economic chaos and requires a "template" (western-anglo-european, of course) to "restore order".
 
Alas, it's an assumption, and it happens to be wrong."
 
Actually, you don't quite grasp what I'm saying.
 
 
 
 
 
   
 
John Minehan Added Oct 11, 2018 - 11:55am
Here, let me put Jones's cut and paste job into context.
 
The Somalia Clans are very important.  But their importance also means having things that can work across Clan lines important.  In Somalia, one of those things was AIAI, a faith-based group that cut across Clan boundaries.
 
The "Warlords" largely drew their power from their Clans, control of facilities like ports and airstripes brought money and power to the Clans.  Think of it as a form of "patronage."
 
However, some people in Somalia (particularly, certain members of AIAI) thought they had a better way. 
 
Virtually everyone in Somalia is a Muslim.  Somali Customary Law, like Pashtunwali in Afghanistan, is thought of as being "Sharia Law" but has a lot of local elements that legal scholars might look askance at. 
 
In 2004, Dehir Alweys and other AIAI members started formal Sharia Courts in Mogadishu as part of the Islamic Courts Union ("ICU") with the intent of having a more legitimate, fairer legal system.  By large measure, it succeeded. 
 
Drawing support across Clan lines, the ICU spread across southern Somalia.  It had such success, that it lead to an intervention by Ethiopia in late 2005. 
 
If it sounds familiar, it is somewhat similar to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, who arose to control Warlords, which the Pashtunwali customary law system were not dealing with effectively. The law they drew from was more formal Sharia, upon which the local customary law was based and which had inherent legitimacy among the devote. 
 
So Jones and the man whose work he cuts and pastes (or whose reviews he cuts and pastes) is correct in stating you don't need a taxing authority (or, more specifically, a "Westphalian Nation State').  As Cardozo wrote, "Danger invites rescue."  As the saying goes, "Nature abhors a vacuum."
 
But, as with Dehir Alweys in Somalia or the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, people can find an approach that is particularly attractive and apply it more generally. 
 
What Alweys did (ultimately unsuccessfully) or what the Taliban have done more resiliently is neither good nor bad.  It helped promote order and improve conditions, which is what human interactions are supposed to do.   
John Minehan Added Oct 11, 2018 - 12:03pm
But Jones (like most people) does not keep in mind that Somalia (like Caesar's description of Gaul) is divided in three parts: the south, Mogadishu and the Jubba Valley; Puntland (where the pirates operated out of); and Somaliland (the former British Somaliland), which is a very stable and well-governed state.
 
He also does not say that the new Somali National Government (which grew out of the Transitional National Government ["TNG"]) incorporates people from AIAI and the ICU.
 
As to how this woks out, we shall see.
A. Jones Added Oct 11, 2018 - 6:27pm
Actually, you don't quite grasp what I'm saying.
 
Actually, I grasp perfectly what you're saying.
 
You're saying Somalia is a "failed state."
 
Another attorney — one who had lived in Somalia for many years — disagrees with you. He even wrote a big book about it.
 
I agree with him. 
 
Actually, it is you who did not grasp what he was saying in the "cut and paste" I kindly provided.
John Minehan Added Oct 12, 2018 - 2:45pm
"You're saying Somalia is a 'failed state.'"
 
Because it is a failed state.  There was a government in Somalia in 1991 (SaidBarre's) and then, subsequently, there wasn't, hence, a "failed state."
 
But people organize themselves, as the author you cut and pasted pointed out. 
 
The point is, as I said, states fail. It is not uncommon.  The part of the process that is really interesting is what the new template is.
 
The author you cut and pasted has a good point about customary law.  He points to common law being a more useful approach than civil war, a point I agree with.
 
But an interesting thing is WHICH customary law tended to prevail in Somalia and Afghanistan.  It tended to be MORE Sharia than traditional customary law in either Somalia or Afghanistan.
 
That isn't as unlikely as it might appear.  Both things like Pashtunwali in Afghanistan and Somali customary law were supposed to be rooted in Sharia . . . but functionally diverged considerably, something which missionary efforts by Saudis in both places made clear. 
 
Additionally, things happened that de-legitimized the old tribal systems, the Russian invasion in Afghanistan and the clans inability to control the Warlords coming from that clan.
 
   
 
 
 
A. Jones Added Oct 12, 2018 - 11:52pm
Because it is a failed state. 
 
A failed central government, but not a failed state.
 
As the above "cut and paste" from Michael van Notten, Esq.'s book demonstrates.
John Minehan Added Oct 13, 2018 - 1:33pm
"Because it is a failed state. 
 
A failed central government, but not a failed state.
 
As the above "cut and paste" from Michael van Notten, Esq.'s book demonstrates."
 
And order is restored according to some template, which enough peple thinks works. 
A. Jones Added Oct 14, 2018 - 5:14pm
And order is restored according to some template, which enough peple thinks works. 
 
They already have order and most of the people who actually live and work there believe it works; it's simply a kind of order that doesn't adhere to the template you prefer. Try expanding your conception of "order" and "template." Shelve your law books and read a few things by Hayek. Maybe that will help.
 
The violence is mainly caused by those trying to vitiate the self-organizational propensities of the people and impose one particular group of people as "THE" clan with the power to rule all other clans. Apparently, the other clans disapprove. See the cut-and-paste from Michael van Notten, Esq. above.
John Minehan Added Oct 16, 2018 - 8:00am
"They already have order and most of the people who actually live and work there believe it works; it's simply a kind of order that doesn't adhere to the template you prefer. Try expanding your conception of "order" and "template." Shelve your law books and read a few things by Hayek. Maybe that will help."
 
Quite a lot happened since the author you cut-and-pasted died in 2002. 
 
The Clan system was not quite up to doing what you are talking about, which tended to surprise most of the old Somalia hands.
 
What became the template for exactly the "spontaneous order" you are talking about was based on more formal Sharia rather than Clan law, which was a sort of folk Sharia, somewhat of a parallel to what happened in Afghanistan with Pastunwali. 
 
The AU intervened, causing the kind of problems you are talking about.
 
Conditions in Somalia are often better than in neighboring states.  I think "governments" and "states" can be more trouble than they are worth.
 
However, what many people forget about Somalia is that Somaliland (in the north) is one of the best functioning states in Africa. 
 
Another example that things were never quite as bad as presented in the South is that Coca-Cola placed a new bottling plant in Ras Kamboni, Somalia in 2004, rather than in neighboring Kenya.