Dan at Duck has posed a question in response to this awful series idea:
Thus, I ask readers to suggest better scenarios for a “Second Civil War.” I’ll suggest my own “formal” criteria, but feel free to take issue with me:
1. The issue–or constellation of issues–should be sufficiently polarizing as to (a) appear impossible to resolve through routine political processes or lesser forms of contentious politics and (b) draw a significant part of the US population into the pool of secessionists;
2. The polarization created by the issue should map onto other, long-standing disputes such that resolving the core issue (or issues) threatens other entrenched interests;
3. The balance-of-power has to have shifted against Federal power such that a great many secessionists–and potential secessionists–believe they have a chance of winning the conflict. This could result from exogenous shocks that weaken Federal power, structural changes in the American polity (a robust “New Federalism,” for example), fragmentation of the US military and its chain-of-command, or concerted outside support for the rebellion of a kind that the Feds cannot preclude or nip in the bud.
Scenario 1: Free Cascadia Now!
The militant wing of Evergreen Revolution, also known as the People’s Front for the Liberation of Cascadia, stages a coup designed to seize the levers of the state in urban areas across the Northwest. Unfortunately for the coup plotters, efforts fail in Seattle, Portland, and both Vancouvers, leaving the movement in control only of Eugene and Bellingham. The movement calls for a wide range of revolutionary social and environmental measures, but is crippled by its unwillingness to use any of the coercive apparatus of the state. Federal reaction is swift, but not swift enough to prevent locals from tearing the coup plotters to pieces in a bloody massacre. This outcome leaves everyone more or less satisfied.
2006: US military action against Iran successfully delays the Iranian nuclear program, but fails to dislodge Iran’s government. Occupation of parts of Iran, combined with increasingly violent Shiite sectors in Iraq, radically increases the cost of the occupation in both blood and treasure. Concern about oil security increases oil prices to over $100/barrel, severely damaging the US economy.
2008: Sam Brownback wins the Presidency in an election marred by violence and accusations of massive voter fraud.
2009: In the wake of the 2008 Olympics, a Chinese assault on Taiwan achieves complete operational surprise. Chinese forces quickly seize a beachhead and major strongpoints on Formosa. In spite of increasing isolationist sentiment at home (temporarily ameliorated by the aggressive Chinese actions), massive budget deficits, and continuing military action in Iraq, President Brownback decides to commit military force to the defense of Taiwan. The results are disastrous for the United States; US forces are unable to dislodge PLA units, and two US carriers (the Nimitz and the George Washington) are lost to Chinese submarines and surface units. After a coercive air campaign against the PRC government fails to budge the Chinese, President Brownback is forced to conclude a humiliating peace agreement with the PRC.
2010: Continuing trade sanctions against China cause severe economic dislocation in the United States and across the Pacific Rim. In the United States, the worst effects are felt on the West Coast. Chinese support for Iran and Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents results in an ever more deadly and expensive occupation. On the upside, the global economic crisis results in somewhat lower oil prices. Nevertheless, mega tycoon Hugo Chavez successfully purchases Colombia, Peru, and Panama.
2011: Under severe domestic and financial pressure, the United States withdraws from Iraq. The Iraqi government collapses in six weeks. Conservative media elements in the United States begin to pursue a “stab in the back” narrative, blaming the defeat on traitorous leftist elements and the Democratic party. Right wing death squads assassinate several important left wing media and political figures.
2012: In an election marred by brutal violence and massive fraud, President Brownback wins second term in office. In effort to create “national unity” cabinet, President Brownback nominate President Clinton as Secretary of State and President George W. Bush as Secretary of Defense. Sadly, President Clinton is assassinated by a right wing death squad before being confirmed by the Senate.
2013: The governors of Oregon, Washington, California, and Hawaii declare independence from the United States and establish the “Republic of Pacifica”. Large majorities in the Pacific states, impoverished by continuing trade disputes with China and angered by President Brownback’s administration, support the move. The Republic of Pacifica seizes control of military assets within its borders (reduced in size by the previous military and economic disasters) and begins to raise troops. The People’s Republic of China, nervous about supporting a secessionist movement but delighted by the idea of eliminating US military power in the Far East immediately recognizes Pacifica and promises economic and military support.
How’s that for plausible? Sends shivers up your spine, doesn’t it? ;)