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Monday, December 29, 2008


cry havoc

A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

as evidence that you can get too negative for my taste, i present not shakespeare's antony but igor panarin.

Prof. Panarin, 50 years old, is not a fringe figure. A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations.

But it's his bleak forecast for the U.S. that is music to the ears of the Kremlin, which in recent years has blamed Washington for everything from instability in the Middle East to the global financial crisis. ...

A polite and cheerful man with a buzz cut, Mr. Panarin insists he does not dislike Americans. But he warns that the outlook for them is dire.

"There's a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur," he says. "One could rejoice in that process," he adds, poker-faced. "But if we're talking reasonably, it's not the best scenario -- for Russia." Though Russia would become more powerful on the global stage, he says, its economy would suffer because it currently depends heavily on the dollar and on trade with the U.S.

Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces -- with Alaska reverting to Russian control. ...

He based the forecast on classified data supplied to him by FAPSI analysts, he says. He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in. ...

Americans hope President-elect Barack Obama "can work miracles," he wrote. "But when spring comes, it will be clear that there are no miracles."

contra prof. panarin, i think the far more likely outcome of serious civil unrest in the united states -- which is a possibility, so far from dismissing, i see as a significant minority chance if not likely over the coming years -- is not a national breakup but the consolidation of the united states over the course of years into something resembling a thinly-veiled dictatorship under the emergency rule of an imperial executive. such a state would have a much diminished but certainly still important intenational role.

panarin may see himself as another emmanuel todd, but i think todd's own views on la décomposition du système américain are vastly more convincing. nevertheless, the map alone may remain a durable icon of the blackness of this period.

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I'm sorry but while the geopolitical risks are the aspect of this crisis that scare me the most, this prediction seems practically laughable. I know you disagree with it (and I agree that your alternate scenario would be more likely), but you framed this as simply too dire rather than silly and perhaps politically convenient. It's way too specific. Also are there any examples in history of countries splitting up in this way unless there were existing historical fault lines?

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'silly' is about the right tenor, hbl, i'm with you. it's more interesting as a tell of the psychology of the times than anything -- particularly as it appeared in the WSJ.

fwiw, i do think the united states has cultural and geopolitical fault lines, and that we might even see them surface to some extent. but a breakup? i think that's simply an example of russian nationalist projection.

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I see a civil war as a possibility. Also the rise of an American Napoleon. In 1912, Edward Mandell House wrote "Philip Dru, Administrator" about the rise of an American military dictator. A national bankruptcy could bring almost any type of "unpleasantness".

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ia, i think civil unrest is a lock -- whether it rises to the level of civil war complete with the choosing up of armed sides... it is of course possible with the degree of political partisanship we now suffer under in combination with the increasing politicization of the military, but i still think a more remote probability. here's hoping.

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That map won't happen. America is already divided between have's and have nots'. The brick and mortar physical divide will be in ever increasing segregated communities, ghettos versus gated communities. Burger King and Wal-Mart will not abide a divided union. Too much paperwork.
Europe is going to have one hell of a time with demographics which will mirror that of the USA (i.e. a bunch of muts). Immigrants from Asia and Africa outnumber whites in the under 18 generation in western EU nations.

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