Americans have lots to be grateful for this Independence Day, but nothing more so than Igor Panarin being wrong.
Panarin, you may recall, is the celebrated Russian academic who predicted that the United States would splinter into pieces — six to be exact — in 2010. “There’s a 55-45 percent chance right now that disintegration will occur . . .,” the Russian Foreign Ministry political scientist boldly announced in 2008 after decades of research into the American DNA.
Panarin, a professor and political scientist, is slightly less celebrated today, one presumes.
French historian Alexis de Tocqueville is usually cited as America’s keenest outside observer. And for good reason. The “Democracy in America” author wasn’t just prescient, he was a 19th Century quote machine, spilling out undying gems of insight including:
- “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.”
- “The American republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
- “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”
But it’s worth peeking at Panarin’s contemporary research in an effort to see the forest for the trees through the eyes of another outsider, who was, after all, 45 percent correct in his prediction of American decomposition. What are America’s potentially fatal weakness as Panarin saw them? What, if anything, could divide the world’s most powerful nation, which is celebrating its 241st birthday?
America’s fault lines, as identified by the Russian, are unsettlingly familiar — economic recklessness, demographic instability and moral decay. Panarin postulated that debt would eventually collapse the U.S. dollar; wealthier states would defensively withhold money from Washington and social unrest would follow, fracturing the nation along ethnic lines.
This is a gross oversimplification of Panarin’s remarkably detailed disintegration scenario, but you get the picture: America will spend itself into chaos and there won’t be enough glue left among its citizenry to keep its pieces together.
We’re justified in chortling at Panarin’s fantastical prognosis for America — incidentally, New York would be part of “Atlantic America,” a potential European Union member — but we mustn’t laugh at his diagnosis. He touches, after all, on many of the same lesions Tocqueville pointed to in warning almost 200 years prior.
But Tocqueville also added this: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
I like him more.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.