May 31 (UPI) -- That Western democracies are failing to govern is no longer news. Today, Brexit is an existential threat to Great Britain. That nation is so irreversibly divided over whether to "remain or leave" the European Union that obtaining an acceptable political solution may prove impossible.
Despite legislation preventing a "hard exit," that worst of all outcomes could occur. And Britain will still have to negotiate its future relationships with Europe. The prospect of both Scotland (again) and Northern Island voting to leave the United Kingdom in order to remain in the EU is not unthinkable.
That in America too many issues are politically intractable likewise is not news. The question is where this is headed for America and Americans. Social and cultural issues to include "guns, gays, God, gestation periods and greenhouse gases" could, if allowed to get out of hand, prove existential to national coherence.
The United States has a gun violence crisis currently manifested in attacks against houses of worships and schools. First Amendment advocates assert there are virtually no restrictions on gun ownership. For better or worse, the phrase "well-regulated militia" in the Constitution has been ignored in favor of "the right to bear and carry arms shall not be infringed." While the Founding Fathers intended that state militias were granted these rights to check and balance the federal government, this definition no longer seems to apply.
Fortunately, homosexuality has been decriminalized and is no longer outside societal norms. But gay marriage is still not fully accepted by many and could be an election issue in 2020 as one candidate is gay and married to another man. Extreme views of religion are becoming more coincident with partisan politics as evangelists and fervent Jewish supporters of Israel flock to Donald Trump's form of Republicanism.
The divide between a woman's right to choose and right to life is also unbridgeable. Those Americans who believe life begins at conception or at a stage when the fetus is viable outside the womb will not change their minds. Those who believe women have a fundamental right to choose likewise will not be convinced otherwise.
Another divisive issue could prove to be Greenhouse gases and climate change. Some believe that climate change and global warming are a hoax and not man made, instead reflecting changing weather patterns. Others see it as existential to society.
Could these issues challenge the construct of a United States? In 1861, the tension between the authority of individual states and the federal government led to their secession and a civil war.
Suppose higher courts, including the Supreme Court, ruled strict state anti-abortion or pro-climate change laws unconstitutional. And further suppose the affected states rejected or ignored those rulings. Would this not constitute some form of secession from the union?
And suppose states and the federal government could not reach agreement between enforcement and disobedience of the laws. If that happened, what recourse would the federal government have? Unlike 1861, use of the military would be highly unlikely, especially since each state has its own national guard.
In these cases, "secession" would take a different shape. As this president and his team ignore congressional subpoenas, states could simply dismiss federal laws, regulations and court orders. States could also sue the federal government with the expectation that it could take years to adjudicate each case.
Is this far-fetched? Possibly. But as Brexit has effectively undone the United Kingdom, legal challenges that reflect the more extreme sides of "guns, gays, God, gestation periods and greenhouse gases" are more commonplace. Whether or not these symptoms of political breakdown in democracies are coincidental, considering that they might be harbingers of greater discontent and disunity in America cannot be discounted.
Preventing the USA from becoming the DUSA no longer may be unimaginable. Tragically, America's politics could be headed in that direction. There is, however, a slimmer of hope. Last week, the Brookings Institution hosted Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs.
Introducing him was Brookings president, retired Marine Gen. John Allen. Both are among the finest generals this nation has produced. Dunford served as Marine Corps commandant and assistant commandant and relieved Allen twice, the second time as commander, International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan. Allen went on to become the president's envoy to the anti-Islamic State alliance.
Dunford's talk and answers to questions were masterful -- intelligent, informative and precise. His quiet confidence, thoughtfulness and modesty reminded the audience of the quality of the American senior military. Whether or not the Dunfords and Allens of today and tomorrow will help right the nation, knowing that people of this quality and caliber serve in uniform is comforting -- and perhaps redeeming.
Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud deBorchgrave Distinguished Columnist. His latest book is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Has Lost Every War It Starts." Follow him @harlankullman.