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How could a medical crisis unite two countries previously at odds and usher them into a new era of peace, prosperity and perhaps even unity? Think of South and North Korea, or Israel and Palestine.

  • Their hatred for each other is bitter, generational and has had brief histories of violence.

    • In my head, both countries are relatively equal economically. But I'm open to scenarios where they are not.
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  • $\begingroup$ Both countries are relatively equal economically. - that is not the case with the Koreas or with Israel & Palestine. $\endgroup$ – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Feb 4 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact Okay, imagine a conflict and animisoity similar to theirs in nature and also culturally. In my head the two imaginary countries are relatively equal economically, but you can tailor your answer towards either direction. It is perhaps a detail that I didn't need to mention. $\endgroup$ – Nivlak97 Feb 4 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ Easy answer: it wipes out one of the countries! $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Feb 4 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ World War Z gets pretty geopolitical in the face of a public health crisis. Not to be confused with the movie, which...features Brad Pitt running a lot? $\endgroup$ – Punintended Feb 4 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like each side would be pleased (schadenfreude) to see the other suffer, and might understate their own suffering to highlight the greater suffering (hence inferiority) of the other. In other words, the calamity may be conveniently exploited to make matters worse. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 5 at 2:27
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As long as there is no way that either of the countries can blame the other for the medical crisis, the unification process should naturally occur. Each side will have strengths that can help the other. Simultaneously, each side will have needs that the other can fill. As long as the leaders recognize the opportunity to end the animosity and are willing to work towards that goal, it can be done.

A scapegoat would be very helpful in this process. On each side there are bound to be people who do not want the hatred to end. Those people are likely to make up rumors that the medical crisis is actually a biological attack by the other side. They will also makeup horror stories about how the other side has a cure that it isn't sharing. Anything they can think of to justify their prejudice will be given impassioned voice.

To combat this, both governments need a third party who can be blamed for the medical crisis; a distant foreign power with a history of medical mishaps and horrendous acts. Then the rumors of blame and of the withholding of a cure will fall on the scapegoat, giving the two sides a mutual enemy to despise!

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Not only is this plausible, it's currently happening.

Here's an article from today that describes exactly this kind of reconciliation in the face of a medical crisis.

To summarize, China has never fully forgiven the atrocities committed by Japan during its 1937 invasion of China, and the relationship between the two countries remains strained to this day. But during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, a few well-publicized acts of kindness by the Japanese, like donating a million face masks to Wuhan to help stem the outbreak, are helping to mend the countries' relationship. Some of the boxes of supplies were labeled, "Lands apart, shared sky," an ancient phrase emphasizing the connection between the two nations. This has been met with an outpouring of gratitude on Chinese social media.

This may just be a relatively small-scale, feel-good story, but it's not hard to imagine something like this leading to a permanent improvement in relations between two rival countries. One helps the other through a medical crisis, and gradually, one act of goodwill at a time, the countries cease to think of each other as old enemies, but rather as friendly neighbors who can help each other out in times of need.

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One group is forced to emigrate to the other in mass

A medical crisis could do this as long as we are not talking about a plague that would give the receiving nation a good reason to seal its borders. Let's say instead the medical crisis is something like a massive malaria outbreak. Since it is only carried by mosquitoes, there is little risk of allowing refugees into your borders. So if B-Land is devastated by a malaria outbreak, and A-Land is farther north, and therefore too cold for mosquitoes, you may see millions of B-Landers move to A-Land all at once forcing a cultural melting pot scenario with a bias towards the native culture. After a few generations, the B-Landers have a bunch of family in A-Land; so, it's hard to hate a nation where half your family lives happily, and the A-Landers all have that one friend from B-Land who they like, so B-Land must be an okay place.

We see something similar to this with the Great Potato famine. Prior to the famine, the Irish were one of the most hated nationalities in the US because they were mainly Catholic and most Americans were Protestant. This created tons of religious tensions and hateful stereotypes. However, the famine forced the Irish families to scatter across the United States by the millions. In the short term, the hatred was escalated, but the large surge of immigrants forced Americans and Irish to coexist. The Irish mostly adopted American culture, but in the process exposed Americans to actual Irish people to dissolve a lot of the harsher stereotypes. Now, a few generations later, Americans and Irish get along pretty well.

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They once were one country...

Once, both countries were one nation. But then they started and lost a war against their neighbors all around. As part of the peace deal, they got split betwen the fragile alliance of nations that had won. But the alliance was not to last for political reasons. So the ex-allies did errect two totally different governements. Let's call them the north and the south.

The division

The north was recreated by the Northern Giant in the shape of a one-party dictature. It was created as a border-marsh, the people were made wary of 'the enemy' right over on the other side of the border, people that were friends just years ago. Political indoctrination fortified the minds over the next 40 years while The Party did dictate economics and culture. Life in the north isn't the most happy, as they are pretty much a subsidiary of the the Northern Giant, who set up the state, and they look at the south with envy.

The Southern Giant reeducated the people to form a democracy like them. It sheltered the fledgling state and educated them how to not fall back. The new trade made its economy flourish. First they made them a junior-partner in a defensive alliance, then they gave them the means to become a proper partner and they did. Southerners however never stopped to demand that the Northerners should actually be part of their state, because that was what the provisional peace deal said before the alliance broke apart.

The disaster.

The Northern Giant however wasn'tas stable as it looked. Over the years it didn't age well. Its dictated economics ended up broke and destroyed itself within 35 years, the whole state was falling apart. And then a new head of governement came up that wanted to end the rivalry with the Southern Giant because he was fed up with building ever bigger and better weapons to get the potential of wiping the planet another 5 times. It was time to CHANGE. And change cam e radical: within a few years the puppet regimes the Northern Giant had errected around itself as a border started to crumble and collapse, and among them was North.

The solution

Northe, super proud about its (fake) achievements just had had it's 40th birthday with all the pomp it could muster... and then the shockwaves hit. Change was in the air, the party knew it could not fund their state anymore and they would go under in a fireball. And then they looked back at their hated neighbors and... simply said "ok, you want reunification? Let's make a deal. One condition though: We don't want our state to become 41, so make it quick!"

Within less than a year, the two states became one... The economics of North had to be overhauled completely, but... in the end, the two became a somewhat happy whole again.

The Inspiration

Ok, who still hasn't gotten the huge clues, this has actually happened in our world. Because this is pretty much the story of Post-World-War Germany. North is a stand in for the DDR, or eastern Germany, a puppet of the USSR. South is a stand in for the BRD, western Germany, while the Southern Giant is a stand in for the USA, France and the UK.

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