Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"More Stars In Our Flag."

Back in 1992, on the op-ed pages of The Los Angeles Times, Walter Mead put forth a "modest proposal" for US foreign policy at the dawn of the post-Cold War era. He proposed that the United States buy Siberia from the Russians, whose president at that time, Boris Yeltsin, was shopping it to bring in much-needed cash. Mead's proposal was a brilliant idea; a kind of Louisiana Purchase for the modern era. Too bad nothing ever came of it.

Yesterday, Ambrose Evans Pritchard argued that Germany should unite with (read: acquire) Spain to forestall economic disaster within the Eurozone. The contagion, Evans Pritchard wrote, has long since gotten out of hand. Drastic times call for unconventional ideas. Nothing will ever come of his idea either.

Here in the United States, we are on the doorstep of truly dire straits. The Federal government is broke. Many of the states are near bankruptcy. Large numbers of our leading cities teeter on the edge of insolvency. Taxpayers are tapped out. Most everyone is poorer than they were just 3 years ago. And our political elites can't even agree on an earmark ban.

The "big short" in 2007-2008 was betting against the housing market. The "big short" of 2011-2012 will be betting against state and municipal debt. It will be hair-raising. No one really knows what the outcome will be. The one thing we know for sure, as former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles said recently, is that if strong remedial action is not taken, "the markets will come. They will be swift, and they will be severe, and this country will never be the same."

For the moment, we seem almost resigned to this outcome. There is no reason we should be. We just need to think bigger and act boldly.

Step one would be a merger of the United States and Canada. That would ensure all the food and all the energy the combined entity would ever need. Then we need to revisit the idea of acquiring Siberia. Making Siberia part of the United States and Canada would ensure all the raw materials we could ever possibly use. More important, it would give us a vast new frontier; a tabula rasa upon which to build new cities, new roads, new railways, new information highways. And it would give us a warm water port (Vladivostok). And a physical (read: military) presence just north of China.

We're not going to get out of this mess by playing small ball. We need to fundamentally change the dynamic of history. The way to do that is to redraw the map.