It will prove difficult for the US to Balkanize, even if it wanted to because every group is represented in every city and state. Furthermore, the typical suburban American moves every 5 years or so to wherever their next job is.
If we want to simulate a mercantile society where many disparate groups are crammed together in the same territory some of which might be semi-nomadic, we need only look to the Levant where tribes have competed for a very long time over a narrow neck of valuable sea-side real estate with a Mediterannean climate that lies on top of a natural chokepoint of world trade routes.
In recent history, Lebanon provides us with the best example because it experienced a bloody civil war in that confined space after a multi-cultural democracy broke down over the issue of mass immigration.
We can roughly divide Lebanon into 3 major factions, Christians, Sunnis, and Shi’ites. When Sunni Palestinian refugees flooded into the country after Israeli independence guess which faction started lobbying to make sure Palestinians stayed? Then are any of us surprised that once the Palestinian camps were effectively permanent one of those 3 factions tried to count them towards a majority of seats in parliament? No doubt they also wanted them on a “path to citizenship.”
Of course we are not surprised that the Sunnis conspired to upset the balance of power in their favor by “electing a new people.” A fatal flaw of mass suffrage democracy where any warm body can vote or be counted towards seats in the assembly is that the temptation for factions to bring in more warm bodies always becomes irresistible.
At the time the Christians were the ones with the most power so they were the ones to beat. The Shi’ites and Druze were tempted to join the Sunnis and dogpile the Christians. A fatal flaw of multi-cultural democracy is it always becomes a game of king of the hill. In Lebanon, when one faction has an advantage the others are sure to join against them and so it repeats endlessly.
Most recently, the Christians and Shi’ites were aligned against the Sunnis because both feared the growth of ISIS in Syria. Now that the threat of ISIS has dwindled, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was yet another re-alignment as the balance of power is re-assessed.
Right now, the Shi’ites led by Hezbollah are the most powerful, so perhaps the other two will join up to take them down a peg. I’m sure Washington, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv would send them billions of dollars to make sure it’s worth their while.
Hezbollah gives us a model of what the neo-tribal state might look like as the power of nation-states recedes. They are the de facto government in southern Lebanon while seemingly content to operate within the framework of a formally recognized nation-state. They get to have their own territory while still participating in a larger economic zone. They effectively carry out their own foreign policy as they maintain their special relationship with Iran while still participating in the national politics. Hezbollah gets to enjoy all the privileges of being a nation without the strategic liabilities of nationhood. They get the best of all worlds.
I noticed this same impulse for political arbitrage in the renewed flareups of European separatist movements. The Catalonian government wanted regional autonomy under the protection of the larger EU economic zone, cutting out the annoying middleman so they could enjoy the best of all worlds.
I anticipate a similar sort of dissolution might happen in the United States. The government in Washington might well still be there as the reality on the ground quietly changes. De facto territories emerge but no one wants to disrupt commerce in a way that impoverishes everyone. When Lebanon was embroiled in its civil war each militia had checkpoints at its borders to “tax” anyone passing through. No one in present day Lebanon wants this. I would figure even the most diehard Hezbollah member enjoys being able to drive into Beirut.
But what what about direct state coercion? One lesson of Lebanon is multi-cultural national militaries only exist on paper once tensions are high. I was shocked as I read there was still a national military in Lebanon amidst 20 years of civil war. Once members of every group serve in the military, commanders know better than to order them into actions that will cause mass mutiny and infighting.
To the average soldier, the military is just a paycheck and that’s true for the United States as well where all the effusive praise and near-worship just papers over the fact that it’s a government jobs and training program for millions of Americans who would otherwise be barely employable with their high school diplomas. The military is welfare for the working class.
Just as no one in Lebanon wants to charge territorial border tax anymore, the different ethnic groups in the military can all agree to sit on the easy paycheck even once bullets are flying and simply revolt or desert if someone tries to actually send them into battle.
Those soldiers who want to actually fight leave the military and join their group’s militia.
We can look at the Mexican military as a supporting example. They go through the motions of following their orders for the most part but they have little appetite for challenging the power of emergent narco-states anymore than they need to.
The defensive power of neo-tribal militaries isn’t necessarily being able to defeat national militaries outright. Like a sea urchin or a cactus pad, they need only represent a net energetic loss for large predators.
Another lesson we can take away from Lebanon is that coalitions are always shifting in the game of identity politics. Euro-Americans are perceived as the strongest, most vulnerable faction right now, so all the other groups can agree to target them. As this position is weakend, it will become progressively easier to peel factions away from the coalition of the fringes. The same applies if the strongest faction seems to be winning. Then the least loyal members of the coalition of the weaker start jumping ship.
It would do well to always watch for opportunities to re-align and ultimately divide and conquer.
In these kinds of struggles it’s smaller factions caught in the middle of the struggle that switch sides first so they will end up on the winning side. In Lebanon this is how the Druze, a group that’s about 5% of the population, plays their hand.
If we think of Whites as Christians, Sunnis as Mestizos and Indios, Shi’ites as Blacks, and Palestinians as Illegal Immigrants, the Druze in our situation might be Asian Americans who are ambivalent about either side and shift their allegiance wherever they feel benefits them most. Right now, they fall behind the establishment even though the other members of the coalition of the fringes envy their wealth and power. When the American Druze begin to waver, the Christians know there has been a change in the balance of power.