From the World Politics Review front page:
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, WPR asked six prominent commentators what feature of today's geopolitical landscape might not be as durable as we imagine. Thomas P.M. Barnett, Ian Bremmer and Alexander Kliment, Nikolas Gvosdev, Walter Russell Mead, and Jacqueline Newmyer examine The Next "Berlin Wall Moment."
Tom's piece is entitled the The Austin Accords of March, 2031
Historic treaty ushers in long-anticipated era of U.S. southward expansion.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Meeting in the New Texas statehouse on the 195th anniversary of Texas' declaration of independence from Mexico, official representatives from the Tejas Confederation, the Northern Alliance of Mexican States, and the United States government signed a comprehensive treaty that will immediately "re-admit" the Tejas states of El Norte and Gulfland to the American union, and submit to Congress formal pleas for new statehood on behalf of all five Northern Alliance members -- Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon.
Tom's comment about the piece:
Previous to being offered this job, I had run a bit of scenario work past Judah Grunstein at WPR, so when he asked me to pen something and told me what the others were already working on, my mind was already leaning toward just a straight-forward future-headline approach to the problem, vice a piece stuffed with conditional language and a list of causal factors that supported the hypothesis. So I ended up with a piece that is a total zebra among these well-built horses. Of the group, I find myself most easily attracted to the Bremmer/Kliment piece on state capitalism and the CCP-loses-legitimacy bit from Newmyer (especially the line: "As a primary matter, we should recall that China's Communist Party elites are the heirs of a dynastic system famously characterized by cycles, in which the legitimacy of a ruling house could vanish in the space of a generation.").
Again, I just felt it would be easier for the reader to grasp what we were fishing at by presenting him or her with a fait accompli, and since all the current talk about gangs, drug lords, Mexico-as-a-failed-state, etc., seemed to me to provide more than enough imaginative momentum to a downstream scenario that broke a lot of china--from today's perspective, so why not simply describe that journey and let the reader judge the plausibility?
As for describing an Hispanic president: I figured from the Berlin Wall moment perspective, we saw four elections and then an African-American won, so projecting ahead another four (Obama reelected, then Petraeus for 1-2 and an unnamed third president following him for 1-2) meant I could do the same sleight of hand regarding an Hispanic. The "soft border" concept comes, naturally, from the whole Af-Pak-India cluster (Pashtun to the north, Kashmir to the south), and then I toss in the Cuba scenario from past Esquire use, and run with the scenarios of state division so favored by many thinkers. In short, I wanted to respect the forcing function suggested by Robb's global guerrillas while showing the adaptability of nation-states.
I wrote the piece over two days: Day one got me the news story and the outline of the phases (imagined as a box inset alongside the piece), and day two saw me fill in the phases, which required a lot of recalibration for the storyline to hold enough water.
Overall, a very fun piece to write and hopefully a fun one to consider as a reader.