Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Three States Solution - an immoderate suggestion

Shisaku readers: This has little or nothing to do with Japanese politics. However, this is my blog and I needed to get this off my chest. Thanks.



The Three States Solution

People of the United States of America: there is a way out of this.

Imagine if in the first week of January in 2017, newly elected and returning members of Congress gather as they do in Washington. However, in an agreed-to change, the Representatives and Senators of the North Atlantic and Pacific Coast states are not present. Instead the members of Congress from those regions gather elsewhere – the members from the North Atlantic states in Boston and the members of Pacific Coast states in Salem, Oregon. They all swear oaths to uphold the Constitution. However, in Boston and in Salem, the name of the country is changed. The Boston group swears allegiance to the Union of North Atlantic States (Nordlantica). The Salem group swears allegiance to the Union of Pacific States (Pacifica).

On January 20th, three presidents are sworn into office. In Washington D.C. President Donald Trump is sworn into office without incident. In Boston President Hillary Clinton is sworn in (as is Vice-President Bernard Sanders). In Salem Hawaii-born President Barack Obama takes his third oath of office as president.

The divorce is peaceful: there are no border fences; commercial, transportation links stay open. The U.S. dollar remains the common currency for the interim as the New York and San Francisco Federal Reserve banks take over the role of central bank for the two new countries. Persons and corporations in the two new nations receive instructions on where to send their Internal Revenue Service checks by April 15. Elements of the Federal Government in each region remain in place and functioning, with the photos on the walls of the president and vice-president being the only initial indication of the new situation.

In security and foreign policy, the new states divide up the assets and responsibilities of the pre-2017 United States of America. The tanks, planes, aircraft carriers and submarines are apportioned equally. Nordlantica automatically becomes a member of NATO and takes up U.S. responsibilities there. Pacifica similarly takes up all current U.S.A. alliances with Asian countries – allowing President Trump and members of his administration to decide whether to involve their nation in world affairs or not.

Another major change comes in the matter of nuclear weapons. In order to maintain world balances and in line with the presumed preferences of their publics, Nordlantica and Pacifica turn over all nuclear weapons in their possession to the U.S. of A. (the new formal acronym, to distinguish the remainder state from the pre-2017 U.S.A). They join the United Nations and the world community as declared non-nuclear weapons states.

In time, the physical differences between the three countries emerge. New passports and currencies are issued, new national anthems and national flags are chosen. The G7 becomes the G9. Pacifica joins the TPP; Nordlantica the TTIP; the U.S. of A. joins neither. Instead, U.S. of A. commentators weigh the pros and cons of their nation joining OPEC.

To be sure the divorce may not be painless. Post-breakup Nordlantica and Pacifica may face a surges in residency and citizenship requests, even refugee flows, from persons seeking to flee an unhealthy human and civil rights climate in the U.S. of A. Presidents Clinton and Obama may be calling on the citizens of their respective nations to be as inclusive toward immigrants as they currently claim to be. 

* * *

Too fanciful? The Soviet Union broke up peaceably. The Czech Republic and Slovakia divorced without acrimony. Trying to hold culturally and politically divided countries like Yugoslavia and Russia, by contrast, led to catastrophic human/civil rights abuses and war.

A common theme in recent years is how divided the U.S.A. has become. Indeed, like the War of the Roses or the Gempei wars, the division is color-coded: Red America versus Blue America. The mystery is why Americans keep trying, election after punishing election, to stay together. Certainly they live with the legacy of the Civil War, with a stern marble Abraham Lincoln and his “A House divided against itself cannot stand” looming over their heads. However, the current situation – of mutual loathing, street protests, alliances of convenience with foreign powers, plotting and counterplotting to game the Electoral College, depression and anger -- cannot stand either.

So as regards the "united" part of the United States of America, why not, as a rather popular tune of recent years advised, just let it go? As three nations, indivisible, Americans would be a lot happier.


  1. No comment on this particular post nor a comment that you will publish, but as regards the latest Tokyo on Fire podcasts, you must regret not simply asking Dr. Snow why a]she didn't vote for Trump, and b] what, in any of his public pronouncements or published policy statements, does she support to the extent that she'd want to work for him in his administration. Her pollyanna-ish embrace of the Trump admin. would certainly have gotten a rise out of me as well.

  2. The reason the states can't separate in this way is that the remaining "rump" United States would need to be heavily subsidized by the two break-away coasts. That's what goes on now. There would have to be a serious "exit payment" made by states such as New York and New Jersey, who put in way more to the federal treasury than, say, South Carolina.

    The second problem is that the 1860's resolved the debate as to whether states can leave on their own. It sounds like there would have to be a consensus from the rump America (Redhatland?), that bills itself as the "heartland", that they are going to support themselves without massive income transfers from the coasts. This isn't happening now within a United States, so it's hard to see how it could happen in the blue-state breakup ("Blexit"?).