Bad Things That Haven't Happened

In the spirit of getting a random discussion going: what’s a big-deal bad thing that you have confidently expected to happen for some time, but for whatever reason just hasn’t happened yet?

For example: lots and lots of people have been assuming for some time that a really horrible war would break out between India and Pakistan. But it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe, God forbid, it will one day, but so far it hasn’t. And the longer it doesn’t, the more interesting becomes the question as to why it hasn’t, and how we should re-think our understanding of that conflict.

So: what bad things have you been expecting for some time that still haven’t happened?

Here are three of mine:

- The Ukrainian civil war. It remains very surprising to me that Ukraine has managed to stay together as an independent and unitary state. Its eastern provinces and the Crimean region are very Russian-oriented, but the bulk of the country has wanted to escape Russian domination for a couple of generations at least. It has very little history as an independent political entity, having spent most of its history as part of the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, then part of the Russian Empire, then part of the Soviet Union, and poorly developed political and economic institutions. And it’s not like the neighborhood isn’t full of secessionist groups who try to escape newly independent countries and rejoin the former metropole – Ossetia in Georgia, Trans-Dniestria in Moldova, the Krajina region of Bosnia. So I’ve confidently expected for some time that things would come to a head, and there would be a civil war precipitated by the secession of the eastern provinces to rejoin Russia. There’s been a great deal of instability in Ukraine over the years, but nothing remotely approaching the level that I expected.

- The return of the German far-right. Austria has one. The Netherlands has one. Belgium has one. France has one. Hungary has one. Why does Germany not have a substantial far-right party threatening the established political order? (No, the Free Democrats do not count; it’s the right-most portion of the established political order, not a fringe populist party threatening the order from the outside.) Perhaps it’s because Germany was so thoroughly crushed upon losing World War II. Perhaps it’s because Germany has genuinely reckoned with the Nazi legacy in the way that, say, Austria has not. But I never expected it to last. I always assumed that the post-Cold War order matured, Germany – with so many problems similar to its neighbors – would begin to develop a commensurately similar political complexion, including a threatening far-right party that scared the bejeezus out of everybody. I had assumed that this party would, ironically, develop out of the left-wing SPD simply because of the ossie connection, but regardless, the point is it hasn’t really happened.

- The implosion of North Korea. Maybe this isn’t exactly a “bad thing” since North Korea suffers under one of the most evil regimes on earth, but the implosion would also bring enormous suffering, which is why it makes the cut. What accounts for the extraordinary stability of this mad, horrible regime? Once Kim Il Sung passed into the domain of heroes and legends, how did his little brat maintain control? And how is the system still holding together now that the brat himself is likely incapacitated at a minimum, if he hasn’t actually joined his father? Why have we not seen anything resembling a succession crisis such as frequently plague autocracies? Why hasn’t the constant flow of people out of North Korea into Manchuria provoked some kind of popular unrest? I’ve been expecting the regime to collapse for years now, with predictably horrible humanitarian consequences that nobody seems to be able to prepare for in advance even when they are entirely predictable, but it hasn’t happened.

So: what are your entries? What bad thing have you been confidently expecting any day now for years, but it just doesn’t happen?