I'm trying to devise a situation where the United States is Split into multiple smaller states. I'll cover other factors of my scenario in other posts, but I'll stick to life in states and military forces in this post.

From what I can look up, a state can not split on realistic political boundaries, due to rural areas being more conservative with cities and metropolitans being more liberal. However, my guess if that if we oversimply each state to having a unified political structure, it might be possible to have a united more liberal west coast state, a midwest state, a united southern states, and maybe a greater new England state? If someone has some more realistic divides and/or better names, I'll gladly accept them. How would a restructuring of a government work, and where would be the borders of new states?

I'm assuming that each state is still relatively hostile to each other, and have frequent border conflicts, like India and Pakistan, but both don't think they can win a full on invasion, so just kinda "poke" at each other in retaliation for the previous skirmish in a kinda endless loop(basically state xyz attacks state abc, so state abc attacks back for revenge, and state abc responds by attacking back for revenge of that, and that loops in a constant cycle), but never escalate.

Obviously, with the constant threat of war, it would make sense to have a constant conscription, like South Korea. However, how long could mandatory military conscription be without drastically hurting the economy? Would 2 year of service work? 4 years? 6 years? How would this change life for people, for example, would everything just socially get put on pause until the conscription is over? Would people get married and have kids later in life?

Second, what age would it make sense to have mandatory conscription? Would it make more sense to have it set after high school? College? Or would it make more sense to have it be over a certain age period, like from 18 to 24, for example.

Third, would it be a male only conscription or both male and female? Some states in the real world like Israel have both Male and Female conscription, but the USA hasn't drafted for a long time, so we have no reference to compare to in the USA. Would more liberal states have both male and female conscription? Or would it make no difference? If both Men and Women had to be conscripted, would women have a shorter period, or would it be all the way(equal period), or nothing? With the goal of the largest and most efficient military force, would Men and Women get different roles?

I apologize if this seems like a question dump. I felt like put each paragraph of questions into a separate post would have seemed too spammy, but I would appreciate any feedback on how to make my post clearer and more easy to read.

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    $\begingroup$ Too many questions in a single post. You are more than welcome to split them into multiple posts, but before doing that rework the questions to remove all the opinion based ones. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 5, 2021 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ There wouldn't be universal conscription. Israel has universal conscription because it is very small and very much less populous that the combined potential enemies; but your Disunited Stated of America have lots and lots of people. Even using only mercenaries (or volunteers, depending on the point of view), the current USA has a gigantic army of 1,400,000 people (and that's not counting reservists, and not counting the mini-armies of the component states). I cannot see a realistic scenario where, let's say, New England would require millions of people in their army. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 5, 2021 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ Conscription will always Hurt the economy. So asking how long for it to drastically affect the economy is purely an interpretation of what people define as "drastically". $\endgroup$
    – D.J. Klomp
    Jun 5, 2021 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ I left just the first one. Hopefully people will post sweet maps with new boundaries and not just a lot of blah blah. You can post the others separately. Now Dutch needs to come back and unclose. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 5, 2021 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ /Split into multiple smaller states./ do you mean that there would be 200 or 300 states? Because the subsequent text reads as though there would be just a few much larger states. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 5, 2021 at 16:33

4 Answers 4


It won't work

Simply put, the way the U.S. is set up now means that any long-term attempt at semi-amicable situation (or even one where there is animosity and tension but not outright war as with India and Pakistan) is doomed to failure.

I'm going to try to outline a question I submitted to Politics SE about could the U.S. successfully split, but since it got deleted without even notifying me and I can't find it anymore I won't have the whole argument.

The primary dividing lines that the U.S. would probably split along are between the liberal-leaning West and East coast and the conservative/libertarian-leaning interior. These zones are easily separated by the Cascade and Appalachian mountain ranges to the east and west, making them readily defendable. Florida could go either way. Alaska might try to form its own independent government, though in the long term it would more likely be conquered and colonized by the West coast. Hawaii would have to do something, it relies too heavily on imports for its standard of living, and couldn't maintain that on its own.

The biggest, biggest issue is that the interior and the coasts both have critical resources that the other needs for long-term survival. "Flyover country" contains most of the United States' arable land, as well as most of its strategic resources such as iron, natural gas, strategic oil reserves, and uranium. However, the coasts have near unilateral control over trade, and without access to the coasts or the St. Lawrence seaway the interior will become highly dependent on trade through the Mississippi, and the interior's economy will crash without easy access to the sea, especially in states like Illinois, Ohio, Idaho, and Montana. Lack of sea access is typically devastating for a country's economy (look at Bolivia).

In terms of arable land and crops, California and Florida do produce a huge amount of the U.S.' food but overall the highly populated coasts rely on the interior to support them. There just isn't enough arable land otherwise (which would be made worse if the parts of Washington and Oregon east of the Cascades use this as an excuse to finally leave like they've been grumbling about). However, when it comes to arable land, most of the U.S.' winter food is grown in California and Florida, which means the interior is likely to run into food shortages and famines once winter hits.

In the case of California, a much bigger issue is water. The major cities of California like Los Angeles and San Diego are dependent on the Colorado River for water (both for drinking and agriculture) and hydroelectric power. Control over the Colorado River is a big deal, so much so that California and Arizona nearly went to open war over access to it, with Arizona setting up machine gun nests along its side of the Colorado in preparation for open war. If the U.S. split the primary dams controlling the flow of the water would end up in the interior, in a position that would be really hard for the coast to maintain military control of due to being on the other side of Death Valley. If California didn't have access to the Colorado River its population would die of thirst and it would no longer be able to be an economic breadbasket.

Another issue becomes the question of "who gets the silverware". Washington D.C. is east of the Appalachian mountains, so it makes sense that the East Coast would get D.C., but who gets control of America's military hardware and the numerous military bases dotted around the country? Do they remain in the original government's hands, or get split 50-50, or geographically? Do some of these new nations have foreign military bases dotting their soil, creating positions of vulnerability? Who gets the nukes? Only two of the 10 known nuclear silos are outside of traditional conservative strongholds (mostly in interior states), but those two silos hold 2/3's of the United States' nuclear arsenal.

This doesn't get into external geopolitics. China would try to seize control of the U.S. as best it could, trying to convert it into a vassal state if they saw weakness. The U.S. is still useful as a beaten, shackled rival buying Chinese goods to keep their economy afloat. Japan, South Korea, Australia, Europe, and Israel would panic at their largest supporter against external enemies vanishing. They would probably end up throwing military support behind whatever faction wished to maintain a single United States regardless of the citizens' wishes, creating an El Cid-style scarecrow for protection. This would result in whichever side wanted to reunify the States through force seeing a huge amount of overseas funding and materiel support.

Canada might fall apart with the prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, maybe with B.C. joining in) wanting to join the U.S. Interior. Canada has similar problems to the U.S., in that the prairie provinces produce the bulk of Canada's food and has most of its fossil fuels, but have almost no say in how these resources are used because Canada has a straight majority system based on population rather than an electoral college with two houses and so the Lawrencian Consensus (Ontario and the parts of Quebec along the seaway) almost totally dominate Canadian politics. Canada has a lot of the same problems that the U.S. does.

Militarily, the bulk of the U.S. population is in the coastal states (though some of these are in provinces west of the Appalachians), as well as the largest cities, so the coasts would have more troops to draw on. The interior would have much lower population densities, but gun culture means you would have a lot more people familiar with fighting and thus easier to train as higher-quality soldiers. People in the U.S. often like to joke that if such a split as described would happen and led to civil war between the liberal and conservative parts of the U.S., it would be over in five minutes because most left-leaning Americans are soft city folk who don't even know how to fire a gun, completely ignoring the fact that you can train someone to be battle hardened very quickly and our own history (i.e., the Civil War) shows that large numbers of undertrained troops can easily overwhelm more highly trained troops and better commanders. This is oversimplifying things, but one of the big reasons the Union won the Civil War was it was more industrialized and more populous, and therefore was willing to play "who can get the higher casualty rate" with the Confederacy after a while.

The other question is whether the United States would be willing to peacefully separate in the first place, and that one would not seek to simply conquer and subjugate the other for ideological reasons rather than logistics. This is something that is actually talked about in the case of eastern Washington and Oregon wanting to secede and join Idaho because they are so politically disenfranchized by the Sea-Tac area and Portland having near-unilateral political power. People on the coasts do not want to allow eastern Washington and Oregon to be allowed to leave and self-determinate, because they claim it will be a breeding ground for "white supremacy" or backwards ideals. Current left-leaning politics in the U.S. is becoming increasingly authoritarian, the rhetoric of the coasts increasingly being "you are too stupid to know what's good for you and we must force our ideology on you whether you want to or not, even if you just want to be left alone". On the other hand, if the interior does secede and adopt more conservative, religious policies, you could easily see some new-age firebrand pastor trying to incite a war against the coasts to reclaim "lost land". So it's either a crusade in the name of woke-ism or a crusade in the name of backwards old-school religious values. Neither sound like good options.

This isn't even getting into the fact that most separations don't end peacefully. Especially because in this case the primary lines of disagreement are not between geographic regions, but between neighbors. Look at what happened with the Partition of India. Or, to look at American history, a good example might be the state of Missouri, where the most brutal fighting of the Civil War happened. Missouri was split in terms of its loyalties, and the confederates in particular engaged in brutal terrorist actions where they hunted down, tortured, and murdered pro-Union civilians in horrific manners, including women and children (indeed, in some cases they deliberately targeted children), and then blended back into the civilian population. In response Union General Ewing responded to the guerilla warfare and terror tactics with the time honored tactic of killing everybody. He told the population they had 15 days to get to places of safety within military outposts, and then has his troops kill every man, woman, and child that he found outside these safe zones (whether they were Union supporters or not) and burned their houses, there are even records of troops killing entire families execution-style in front of their homes, including the elderly. It worked. This is what you would get if you tried to divide the United States today.

So, what would probably end up happening is that you would separate amicably for a few years before all out warfare would erupt over control of the Colorado River at the Hoover Dam (yes, really. No, I'm not talking about Fallout: New Vegas). This is a do-or-die scenario: California and the coasts' breadbasket will starve without Colorado River water and hydroelectric power, whereas the cities of the Southwest and the Colorado Plateau will die without access to fresh water. This would result in open warfare, and eventually one country would conquer the other. You would have a United States again, but with one country turned into a conquered vassal nation with its inhabitants turned into second-class citizens.

And this is honestly just the tip of the iceberg with regards to how issues in U.S. geopolitics would turn secession into a nightmare that would probably end through violent subjugation and conquest at best.

  • $\begingroup$ The thing about wokeness consisting of "you're too stupid to understand" is a shtick that I've seen conservative talk shows repeat but not something that I've (being liberal) or most other people haven't actually said, and I do have the opportunity to end up in person to person political fights on a semi-regular basis. Other arguments, yes, but the authoritarian vibe is not one of them that actually holds ground. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2021 at 2:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Madman It's something I've had to deal with firsthand quite often, and I say this as a centrist that leans libertarian left and is heavily involved in academia. Not every left leaning person in the United States is this way (or even most), but it's become a really big problem in recent years. I've had to deal with a lot of colleagues who just want others to agree with them through brute force, with no ability to empathize with others' point of view or figure out a way to convince them that their view is right: they just want to stomp on them. And these are all strongly liberal people...(1/2) $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2021 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Madman Having lived through the 90s and aughts I absolutely loathe the conservatives and their views, but looking at the present situation it's hard to ignore that the American left has basically turned into the very thing they hated. "The world must know our peaceful ways through force" comes to mind. I mean, the American left (at least, those in power) has been promoting policies that encourage bigotry more than the conservatives have (and that's a tall order) and no longer stand for "equality" or individual value. It's the difference between "what they say" and "what they do". $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2021 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about the policies that produce bigotry. The thing which immediately comes to mind is critical race theory, which in its most basic form just states that white people have a general institutional advantage with regards to most societal processes in general in American society, which when filtered through the conservative lens tends to be "white people evil". I don't really see how policies just as that tend to promote bigotry, or how policies attempting to moderate that tend to promote bigotry/Sorry for not respondingI got outofthe ER yesterday and I've been resting. $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2021 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ As for the totalitarian bent, that would seem to better fit the bill of a general dropping of political rhetoric in general, 1/2. $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2021 at 1:34

All politics is local politics.

There are plenty of scenarios similar to what you describe; most of them have the Confederacy as a thing. Example: https://www.reddit.com/r/imaginarymaps/comments/6o9kzn/2nd_us_civil_war_map/

I propose / a situation where the United States is Split into multiple smaller states./ Multiple smaller states.

counties and municipalities

After the Civil war, the Feds realized that the existence of states in their current form was a threat to the Union. The 3143 counties were redefined as states. The counties already exist and already have working governments. The federal government encourages competition between the new "states" and breaks up collaboration between far flung landowners (read: plantation owners) and encourages cooperation between city based industrialists, whose motivations were thought to be more in accord with the concept of Union.

The Constitution stays the same. Elected representatives and senators might represent several or even many states. These officials are often bankrolled by the big city interests.

You will note the Mexican municipalities are also on this map; different story but same working principles.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not an American, but I seem to remember that the Constitution of the USA has some language to the effect that a state cannot be split unless it consents. Found it: article IV §3: which means that "the Feds" cannot do it. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 6, 2021 at 23:48

you should not be looking at politics by state boundaries. The United states does not have conservative states and liberal states. It has liberal urban areas and conservative rural areas. At first viewing the urban areas seem to have all of the economic and most of the political power, but they are utterly reliant on the rural areas for food, water and power. Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta to give three example would cease to be inhabitable without water supplies from the surrounding rural areas. Nor could they exist with out electrical power form power plants located in rural areas. Food might be able to be imported from other countries, but only at great expense.

Like wise rural areas would be greatly impoverished with out the urban areas to provide services and markets. They would be survivable, but not prosperous.

Rather than large regions, you may see small urban areas existing in a clod/warm/hot war with the rural areas surrounding them,


Outside influence

Consider the DEA map below: enter image description here The U.S. falls under the influence of rival cartels extending their influence from Mexico. (Recall that the success of "barbarians" was unexpected in 1860s China, and resulted from similar drug prohibition profits) The cartels and the mixture of rural and urban areas they control are relatively similar - they are simply rivals. By time and chance, different political forces might gain the upper hand in the corrupt governments that follow.

For purposes of fiction, the arrangement above is unsatisfactory because one cartel dominates too much territory - you need to suppose some internal schism or external crackdown (neither exceptionally improbable) to make the zones more equitable. Additionally, the presence of Chinese, Russian and EU peacekeeping troops to secure the country's nuclear arsenal would tend to shift the lines of division.


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