Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Intelligence analysis

Jennifer Sharp posted a link to this WSJ article on her Facebook page, an article which includes this deliciously preposterous map of what the United States will be in just two years:

According to the article, a former KGB analyst is going around predicting that "an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S," as soon as 2010. Now, I estimate a probability of .983754 that this guy is just a huckster who doesn't particularly believe a word he's saying, and anyway, we survived Margaret Sanger and the 19th Amendment, followed by the Great Depression, with no discernible threat to our geographic integrity. But just for fun, let's play along for a minute.

First, it's helpful to remember that intelligence analysts don't necessarily do a great job of predicting the future. If you're almost as old as I am, you might remember that the opening of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later came as a complete surprise
to our intelligence community and our foreign policy leaders. Some of these, like former ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick, had made careers by arguing that nasty totalitarians who would do business with the US were fundamentally different from nasty totalitarians who called themselves "communist" and wouldn't work with us; the latter were said to be uniquely incapable of reform from within. Then came Gorbachev and Lech Walesa and the impossible happened.

Second, our KGB man's target audience is very familiar with large states splintering into many independent states, especially along ethnic lines, but probably not terribly well versed in US demographics. The truth is, our ethnic boundaries just don't conform to any geographic boundaries, not even if the former Mexican territories. We have nothing in our country that is at all comparable to, say, Quebec, let alone Kosovo or South Ossetia.*

Which brings us back to this imaginative map. Who that knows anything about the US could imagine these divisions? South Carolina goes to the European Union, no doubt due to their slavish imitation of everything that Massachusetts does first. Canada takes over Kansas and Missouri? Wouldn't the gun owners of the Upper Peninsula bleed them white before they ever got that far south? The Mexicans get nothing from California or Arizona, but they take Alabama and Mississippi? Poor bastards, but it would make some sort of sense: gathering all the third world countries under one roof.**

Interestingly, California stays in one piece. If anyplace in our country split into two parts, I would expect a break somewhere between Monterey and Santa Barbara. Our KGB guy probably thinks he can lump LA and San Francisco together as just "Californians."

My favorite part:

"It would be reasonable for Russia to lay claim to Alaska; it was part of the Russian Empire for a long time." A framed satellite image of the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia like a thread hangs from his office wall. "It's not there for no reason," he says with a sly grin.
Hey, jackass, we paid fair market value for Alaska back in 1867. You can have the governor at a discount, but the rest of it is going to cost you.

* Although, from what I hear, there have been attempts to persuade all the most fundamentalist Christians to move to a single state (I think Idaho gets mentioned) so that they can take it over and create their own little theocracy. I don't think they've had enough takers, though.

** Although if they gain control of Texas, look for some serious payback.


Cranberry Necklace said...

Why would any of the states remain intact? If there is civil unrest, the states are as likely to feel the brunt of the poor people's anger as is the federal government - and as likely to fracture.

James Hanley said...

Very cool post. LMAO. I really like it when you post this kind of stuff.