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What it would take for the U.S. to "break apart"


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#1
starspawn0

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I see a lot of posts by people who don't live in the U.S., that look on the possibility of the U.S. "breaking apart", like some other countries they have seen that happen to, with excitement.  It seems to me that they don't realize how strong the bonds are holding the U.S. together, and how exaggerated the forces trying to pull it apart.  So, I thought I'd write something about just what it would take to "bring the U.S. to its knees":

 

First of all, forget about the "unrest" you see on TV.  Everybody is exaggerating the scale of what is happening.  The protests exist, sure; they are mostly peaceful, with a little violence here and there, some of which is being instigated by outside actors (like right-wing groups).  There is some looting, some burning of cars, some tear-gassing, and so on -- but it hardly adds up to very much, when you consider the country as a whole.  80% of the population haven't personally even seen any sign of the protests.  They've seen it on Fox News or CNN or MSNBC or their local news; but not up-close, and personal.  This isn't in the same league as the "Arab Spring" protests that led to "regime change" through the Muslim world.  

 

Some things to keep in mind:

 

* The groups protesting are very small.  They make up less than 10% of the population, and probably less than 5%.

 

* U.S. militias are also pretty small.  They are vastly outnumbered by police, military, state and federal agents.  This isn't like in some countries that break apart, where you have war lords with 10% of the population indebted to them -- and that can whip up a revolution, if they wish.  Only about maybe 0.05% of Americans belong to a militia, according to this:

 

https://www.quora.co...there-in-the-US

 

* As a general rule, Americans follow rules and authority more than most other countries.  I don't want to pick on anyone; but there are videos you can view online, that show how disorganized traffic and pedestrian ground movement is in some countries.  In the U.S., people mostly walk in straight lines.  They may not trust the police, but they don't often resist authority.  They may not believe the opinions they are hearing in the news on TV, but Fox News, say, usually doesn't lie about major happenings, like about whether the military shot down a commercial jet, or invaded another country.  And American culture is pretty much uniform -- in a way that it isn't in other countries.  Culturally, a person born and raised in Maine (North East) is a lot, lot, lot, lot more similar to a person raised in San Diego (South West), they are are even to a person born in the U.K.  There will be some difference in the accent, and a few other minor differences; but that's about it.  (It's harder to break apart a people that are so similar.)

 

* The global economy is locked in fate with the U.S. economy.  If the U.S. falls, lots of other countries will fall with it, as they are deeply invested in the U.S.  Russian Oligarchs, for example, probably have invested billions of dollars, collectively, in the U.S.  (e.g. their real estate investments).  Because of this, foreign countries try to prop it back up when it looks like it's falling down.  Even China knows better than to harm the U.S. economy (except in small amounts as a proportionate response to trade barriers).

 

* There is a lot of political polarization in the country; and it can be exploited to shift outcomes a little this way and that, in close elections.  But it's not really anymore extreme than support for the local sports team.  Yes, people say some stupid things on TV; but we all get along ok, in the end.  My brother, for example, has polar-opposite political views from me, yet we get along ok.  

 

....

 

Ok, so, now, what would it take to bring down the U.S.?   First, it won't be just one thing.  It's going to take a combination of things -- the bonds are just too strong.  Something like this:

 

* Collapse of not just the stock market, but the "real economy", following a massive bubble that burst.  This results in long-term unemployment in the double-digits (just like what happened with the 2008-2009 financial crisis).  

 

* In combination with that, a rising social movement, perhaps brought on my disaffected, poor millennials, who see their chances at the good life taken away from them by massive student debt.

 

* In combination with an ill-advised proxy war with, say, China or Iran, resulting in thousands of American deaths.

 

* In combination with the rise of neo-fascist leader even worse than Trump.  The leader makes some really bad military and economic decisions, prolonging both crises by several years.

 

* In combination with global growing resentment at the U.S., and a reduction in U.S. investments and influx of talented foreign students and workers.

 

* In combination with a disaster of some kind, that tears apart the social fabric.  For example, maybe a dirty radiological bomb is set off in New York City, resulting in the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment -- further stoked by that neo-fascist leader.

 

All that I listed so far still would not pull it apart.  It would come right back together.  What can we add, to worsen things?...

 

* Maybe an energy crisis of some kind causes gasoline prices to skyrocket, making it harder and harder for people to travel.

 

* Maybe another dirty bomb is set off, this time on the West Coast.  Now the public sentiment is really toxic, and coupled with all the other things going on, it might look like the U.S. has had it.

 

But, you'll hardly notice anything at all wrong with the country.  People will still go to their favorite breakfast spots; still go to their jobs; still have dinner with their families; as though nothing has changed at all.

 

I'm afraid we've only got about 10% of the way towards "bringing the U.S. to its knees".  we're going to have to turn up the temperature:

 

* Police and military are infiltrated by extremists united by anti-Muslim sentiment (Muslims are blamed for the dirty bombs), and incite random violence all over the country.

 

* TV propaganda is cranked up to even higher levels, and people just outright lie during the evening news.  Muslims are called "terrorists"; raw, racist language is used on right-wing channels.

 

* The neo-fascist president signs executive orders, and has the backing of Congress, to begin the construction of "education centers", which are actually concentration camps to "educate" Muslims.  Thousands are sent there against their will.

 

But that's STILL not enough.  We've only gotten 15% of the way there!  Good god... how hard can it be to bring this **** country down?!

 

* How about a solar flare severely impacts the internet and electric grid, so that our technology doesn't work?

 

* Or, even greater levels of unemployment due to AI automation?

 

STILL not enough!

 

 



#2
joe00uk

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I think it's well recognised by now that the US, and "Western civilisation" in general, is in decline and has been for roughly the past 50 years (since the post-war boom ended). The Roman Empire took about 300 years to collapse from its peak in the 2nd Century. Personally I don't think the US will last as long as 300 years after its mid-20th Century peak, but it's very possible that none of us on this forum will live to see the 'official' disintegration of the United States. On the other hand, many of us may well live to see it.

 

The factors you've mentioned mainly apply to an ethnically homogenous country (in terms of how hard it is to really bring such a country down) but the US is not homogenous in the way that, for example, Japan is. Ethnic diversity is always in every historical civilisation, without exception, a factor in the downfall of that civilisation. The reason isn't because of any "supremacist" argument, but because there are always power differentials between the different ethnic groups which live together as well as the fact that different ethnic groups are fundamentally of different nations, and that builds up over time and experience into ethnic resentments which eventually explode into violent ethnic conflicts. Even in the Balkans, where the ethnic groups aren't as different to each other as the different groups that are forced to coexist in North America and Western Europe, there were fierce conflicts and vicious civil wars which broke apart any polity which attempted to unite that Balkan territory. America is no different, and in many ways is actually worse. The same applies to Western Europe. African-Americans have quite clearly expressed that they no longer wish to be governed under the same state as European-Americans, and it's quickly becoming the same with Hispanic-Americans and other ethnic groups. You talk about someone from Maine being very similar to someone from California, but is a White American from Maine really similar to a Hispanic-American in California or an African-American in Georgia? I don't think so.

 

By the way, I've seen more reports from people in America saying that the rioting has been vastly underreported than vice versa. For example, with a lot of them, there's been violence in their small city which has been totally ignored by national media because of how many other places have seen even worse violence. 

 

Also, at the moment, there's a lack of organised dissident political leadership which means the system appears much stronger than it is. The moment organised dissident leadership arrives on the scene, things will change very quickly because of how hollowed out the Washington regime is. The lack of effective opposition in America (and I'm talking about something more clear-cut than pressure groups like BLM) is the only reason that the Washington regime is safe for the foreseeable future. Genuine loyalty to the concept of the United States of America is at an all-time low. I've never seen so many American people talk about balkanisation as the only feasible solution to their problems.

 

It only takes a very small proportion of the population actively engaged to bring down a regime. In Eastern Europe, it was only a very small minority of the total population out on the streets demonstrating, but they acted as the final trigger which brought down the socialist regimes there. The regimes of Eastern Europe became corrupted and hollowed out over many years, and the same has happened to the US and the regimes of Western Europe today. We do not live in healthy societies with healthy governments. We live under a thoroughly decayed system just waiting to collapse. Effectively, we live under zombie regimes.



#3
starspawn0

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You (and PhoenixRu) have no idea.

 

I would say that the protests are about the same size as the civil rights protests of the 1960s -- with the important difference that the ones in the 1960s happened again and again; and ones like we have now happen more sporadically.  

 

I recommend you travel to the U.S.  It's pretty similar to the U.K. -- but even more stable.  U.K. had all those years of Irish and Scottish resentment, including terrorist attacks.  The U.S. had something like that with the North and the South -- but that all faded away in the early 20th century; and what was left in the later 20th century was much more mild.  There were some bombings in the 1970s, but that was mostly from leftist groups like the Weathermen; but it's very small, compared to previous eras.

 

Yes, you can find "problems" -- poverty and segregated neighborhoods (due to racism?  implicit?  explicit?).  The same is true of U.K. cities.   



#4
TranscendingGod

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You (and PhoenixRu) have no idea.

 

I would say that the protests are about the same size as the civil rights protests of the 1960s -- with the important difference that the ones in the 1960s happened again and again; and ones like we have now happen more sporadically.  

 

I recommend you travel to the U.S.  It's pretty similar to the U.K. -- but even more stable.  U.K. had all those years of Irish and Scottish resentment, including terrorist attacks.  The U.S. had something like that with the North and the South -- but that all faded away in the early 20th century; and what was left in the later 20th century was much more mild.  There were some bombings in the 1970s, but that was mostly from leftist groups like the Weathermen; but it's very small, compared to previous eras.

It's not just that he has no idea starspawn. It's that he would become irate if anyone else did what he just did. And I quote:

 

"You can't tell me that's "dead wrong". You can't sit from halfway across the world and tell me I'm wrong about what my own country has turned into." - Joe when I suggested that immigrants thrive given the opportunity. 

 

Joe today when Sparspawn suggested that the United States has a common culture ethnic diversity nothwithstanding:  You talk about someone from Maine being very similar to someone from California, but is a White American from Maine really similar to a Hispanic-American in California or an African-American in Georgia? I don't think so.

 

It's hypocrisy of the highest order. Yet it is a necessary hypocrisy if one is to push the narrative that one has adopted. Whether one truly believes it matters not. 


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#5
PhoenixRu

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You (and PhoenixRu) have no idea. 

 

So, this whole passionate speech:

 

 

Ok, so, now, what would it take to bring down the U.S.?   First, it won't be just one thing.  It's going to take a combination of things -- the bonds are just too strong.  Something like this:

 

...

 

But that's STILL not enough.  We've only gotten 15% of the way there!  Good god... how hard can it be to bring this **** country down?!

 

...

 

STILL not enough!

 

...was caused by your humble servant PhoenixRu?

 

But note: I never wrote that the US will "break apart" in the near future. On the contrary: at least few times, on this very forum, I wrote the exact opposite.

 

HOWEVER:

 

USA is the center of current world system. During the whole XX century it was mostly the safe haven for people and (first and foremost) money, fleeing from the unstable outside world. Local and global wars, military coups, social revolutions and counterrevolutions, acts of genocide - this all was happening somewhere far away, and the USA seemed immune...

 

Well, this is going to change. US hegemony is clearly eroding, and the stability at home will become the first victim of this erosion. The current protests (regardless of their real nature) is just the first call, there will be others, of much larger magnitude. Instead of current caricatured "hipster autonomous zone", there will be the real gray zones dropping out of control. There will be the politicians crossing the new and new red lines like "thou shalt not kill the political rivals at home" or "thou shalt not use military in domestic affairs"... and so on and so forth.

 

As for the rest, I can agree with Joe: "it's very possible that none of us on this forum will live to see the 'official' disintegration of the United States". Other hand, who knows... I think a venerable university professor from the USSR-1985 could write roughly the same article: "of course we have some problems, even serious ones, but to assume that our country will break up in just 5 years is simply stupid. Calm down, young man, you have no idea what you're talking about..."



#6
joe00uk

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It's not just that he has no idea starspawn. It's that he would become irate if anyone else did what he just did. And I quote:

 

"You can't tell me that's "dead wrong". You can't sit from halfway across the world and tell me I'm wrong about what my own country has turned into." - Joe when I suggested that immigrants thrive given the opportunity. 

 

Joe today when Sparspawn suggested that the United States has a common culture ethnic diversity nothwithstanding:  You talk about someone from Maine being very similar to someone from California, but is a White American from Maine really similar to a Hispanic-American in California or an African-American in Georgia? I don't think so.

 

It's hypocrisy of the highest order. Yet it is a necessary hypocrisy if one is to push the narrative that one has adopted. Whether one truly believes it matters not. 

Answer me this then, TG, if you think I'm such a hypocrite. Do you really think all these disparate peoples are that similar? Are you really going to sit there and tell me that African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and White Americans are all the same? A lot of my opinions on this have been informed by Americans of all races, by the way, who are actually honest enough with themselves to recognise the reality before them. As a Brit, I know that White Brits are very different to the Black British who are themselves very different to British Asians. You yourself can only belong to one of these groups, or a different one entirely - unless you're mixed race, but even then, there'll be a tendency to identify with one race or the other. The fact of the matter is that these are separate nations within nations. You will never understand what it's like to be someone of a different race to you. You're erasing the very real identities different races have with their separate histories and cultures. BLM spokespeople would actually back me up on this and would call you out. We are not all the same. To pretend otherwise is dishonest and foolish. You think this is hypocrisy of the highest order? You're spouting ignorance of the highest order.



#7
joe00uk

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You (and PhoenixRu) have no idea.

I appreciate that I'm not an American, so like Phoenix I'll always have the outsider's perspective - but being British, I am a Westerner, and I can see common threads between issues in the US and the UK. You're in a small minority of American voices I've come across who feel that the US is essentially a stable country with no major problems capable of bringing the current regime down sooner or later (and by later, I am talking potentially up to 100 years away). I don't know where in America you live or your occupation or anything else like that, so I can't comment on your personal experiences. Surely, though, you can appreciate that America is a vast country - far vaster than Britain - and so the experience of someone else, and the experiences of entire communities, living on the other side of the country might be extremely different to yours and they may feel very differently about the state of the US than you do. We have people in Britain, too, who prefer not to see the forest for the trees but most people do know there's something seriously wrong and that the current system is unsustainable and eventually has to give way to something else. The contention here isn't whether the current regime has to go (and will inevitably go), it's what will replace it when it does, and that's what will give rise to the bitter conflicts to come.



#8
funkervogt

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The factors you've mentioned mainly apply to an ethnically homogenous country (in terms of how hard it is to really bring such a country down) but the US is not homogenous in the way that, for example, Japan is. Ethnic diversity is always in every historical civilisation, without exception, a factor in the downfall of that civilisation. 

China is a very ethnically homogeneous place, yet its civilization has fallen several times in history. 



#9
joe00uk

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 China is a very ethnically homogeneous place, yet its civilization has fallen several times in history. 

I didn't say homogenous countries and civilisations couldn't collapse, I just said that the ethnic diversity of other civilisations always becomes a key factor in their collapse. China isn't actually as homogenous as people think, though. There's a lot of different ethnic groups in China. Perhaps I should have made myself clearer. In those historical civilisations in which there has been significant ethnic diversity, that always becomes a key factor in their downfall. Of course, not every previous civilisation has had significant ethnic diversity.



#10
funkervogt

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I agree with almost all the points starspawn0 made. The only plausible way I could see the U.S. breaking apart in the near-term is over a disputed Presidential election coupled with other negative factors (this is probably present already). For example, imagine there's a repeat of the 2000 election, but much more evidence of fraud and malfeasance in how the votes were cast (e.g. - hacked voting machines, fraudulent mail-in ballots, illegal immigrants voting) or how they are being recounted. With no firm evidence to settle the matter, we might have a situation where Red states just decide that the Republican candidate is the winner and Blue states decide the Democratic candidate is the winner. Imagine what happens if both sides have control over parts of the national nuclear weapons arsenal. MAD would actually prevent a civil war and might force both sides to agree to separate. 



#11
Cyber_Rebel

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^ That scenario actually is plausible later this year, but hopefully things won't get that ridiculous. (Wishful thinking) 

There's issues with people who think America would separate purely along racial lines. I mean, I can seriously tell that commentators in this thread have an outside perspective based upon how much the U.S. media just loves to play up the racial drama in this country. There's some truth to the racial tension don't get me wrong, but not nearly enough to separate our identities as Americans. Especially the younger generations who grew up on the internet, interacting with all kinds of different people outside their ethnic groups. We consume a lot of the same media, we eat majorly the same shitty American diet, we enjoy the current lamest fads depending on the coast, we share fashion trends (stupid ripped jeans) & we still like our dumb commercialized holidays. Technology, as mentioned the internet but also smartphones & social media is also "sort of" homogenizing as an influence. 

There is far more that we share than separates us, and we also are identifying more with a global scene. The issue here, are those we wish to go against this or preserve what they believe defines American culture, even if this preserves systemic racism or cutthroat capitalism. Honestly, there is a much bigger cultural divide between the 1% and wealthy of the country, than our working classes or even middle-slightly upper classes. 

However, if America ever did Balkanaize, it would be upon the inherent regional cultures that exist within the U.S. rather than racial identity. Texas has its own unique "local" culture for example in which Texans (no matter if they're Black, Hispanic, or White) readily identify with, and is pretty different than New England, New York, or the East Coast; all of which boasting their own local uniqueness. They also trend towards different policies within their regions, based upon demographics, tourism, or resources. Whether that's enough to split apart later remains to be seen, as all are still considered apart of larger American culture.

One thing I have to note in regards to OP's post: don't underestimate wildcards such as pandemics or climate catastrophe. I strongly believe that what really made the U.S. particularly unstable this year was being hit by this current health crisis, which ended up causing an economic global crisis on par with the Great Depression. These conditions drove Americans to desperation as businesses closed, many were put out of work, and as many died as if we were at war. Had Covid-19 not struct this year, it's possible that people would not had been as on edge as now, being more secured. I can't say for certain, but it's worth taking note of.



#12
PhoenixRu

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An opinion (full article in Russian can be found here):

 

The world has entered a new era of great powers confrontation, this time between United States and China. It is generally accepted that their struggle will drag on for a long time, and its outcome is unpredictable... However, it is entirely possible that the new Cold War will end as abruptly as the previous one. And just as it was with the Soviet collapse, the key factor will be not the course of the struggle itself, but the internal processes within the losing side.

 

The Soviet system was not defeated on the battlefield. Instead, it just broke and fell apart, to the great surprise of its foreign rivals. Internal processes in the Soviet elite played a greater role than any efforts of Soviet enemies. The similarities between the USSR of the mid-1980s and the modern United States are so numerous and striking that they have already become the subject of online jokes.

 

Elderly politicians reading their cliched speeches from a piece of paper, ideologization of all spheres of life, the powerful institution of self-censorship in the media and social sciences. Economic decline and growing lag in most areas of production, masked by selectively quoted statistics... The complete lack of flexibility in foreign policy, adherence to “values and principles”, which are the subject of ridicule and bewilderment in the rest of the world, the growing problems giving a way to panic attacks, unpredictable and chaotic actions and the actual disintegration of American foreign policy into separate lines led by different departments and political groups.

 

For a man who, at a conscious age, witnessed the late 1980s in USSR, this all is painfully familiar.

 

The United States looks more powerful than any of their opponents, including Russia and China. But let's not forget that the main enemy of USSR was the USSR itself. What really matters is not the comparative indicators of United States and China, but American own dynamics.

 

For example, the life of average American is shorter compared to other countries with a similar level of development. And in 2014–2018, the average life expectancy has even declined... Another alarming indicator is the slow but steady shrinking of the middle class and stagnation or decrease of its income, despite all the reported economic successes...

 

The United States spends 17% of GDP on healthcore — more than almost any other country. But at the same time, their healthcare is the worst among developed countries, probably inferior in this regard to some developing ones... COVID-19 has become for America what Chernobyl disaster was for the USSR, only with much more damage and the much greater number of victims.

 

Each of these parameters, taken alone, does not matter much. What is really important is the steady decline of all these indicators over decades, which is a symptom of the political system's breakdown that occurred either at the final stage of the Cold War, or immediately after it. Like the Soviet system, it has lost the ability to flexibly and adequately respond to changes, it is corroded by the factional struggle and departmental lobbyism. And the total ideologization of all spheres of life has actually gone even further than it was in the late USSR.

 

China, observing the growing chaos in the United States, may conclude that it's time for more and more active course. At the same time, it is quite possible that in reality it is enough for Beijing to not make obvious and gross mistakes and just let the enemy to destroy itself.

 

The probability and expectations of a sudden American collapse may become a significant factor of unpredictability. China may one day decide that the best moment has come to take the place of leader, and the United States may try once again to divert attention from its internal problems by a military adventure. The result in both cases has every chance of being catastrophic.

 

Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, It will be very interesting to reread this thread sometime in 2025-2030.



#13
TranscendingGod

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Life expectancy actually increased in the Untied States for the latest year available. The United States actually has some of the best healthcare outcomes out of any developed nation. The only thing is that it's not accessible to a minority of the population. 


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#14
Scottishoctopus

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Corona made me see just to what obsessive level Americans value their 'freedom' and what a flawed understanding they have of it, so I think USA would need their freedom and patriotism shattered collectively. I think then such a chaos would ensue that would sure change a lot of things






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