Minor economic collapse with the a strong unifying leadership
Let's say a similar scenario evolves. In this case, for whatever reason, a strong political leadership comes together.
Maybe a political crisis occurs, and the President steps down, and a new leadership rises. This would be volatile. Let's say that something comes to light that casts doubt on our elected president's past.
Our country is polarized by an equal measure of Democrat and Republican members. We would be at a stalemate save one factor. Some Republicans are liberal and join ranks on occasion to enact legislation. Other Democrats are conservative and break ranks on occasion to enact legislation. Such polarity is also reflected in our populace.
We are polarized by religion. Some liberal religious leaders may side with the President using Romans 13. Other conservative leaders may say precisely the opposite, reminding folks of the Colonial religious leaders' sermons on opposing government. Other religions may side with whichever one will benefit them the most and offer security.
We are polarized by race. Part of this is blurred by a mix of our ethnicity and personal identification. Some people will support one side based upon racial and ethnic identification.
We are polarized by wealth. A great deal of money is concentrated in very few people, many of who are empowered in government or run industry. The sides they chose will be an initial factor. Anyone with wealth that doesn't have hard assets and a secure means to defend them, may see a change in their status.
If there is a constitutional crisis, where we are unsure of the legitimacy of our leadership, people will generally choose the side that they most identify with, and that they feel will offer them the best chance of survival i.e goods and services.
Since no side will have enough political clout, in the absence of wealth, whomever the military sides with will determine the outcome. That is the way of history.
There is a very good chance that a coalition government could form. Such governments usually tear themselves apart by bickering.
Military leadership doesn't respond well to power vacuums. A strong leadership might evolve as a “temporary” military government. The defense industrialists will support this, as will most industries in critical infrastructure. Critical infrastructure leadership is hard-wired to support continuity. A weak coalition government that acts in divisive impotent ways will very likely be subdued.
If a constitutional crisis doesn't unfold, the President may rise to the occasion. He may appeal to patriotism, but without a unifying focus, and such an appeal will fail.
A need for order, a strong military power, and a loss of economic might, could all be spun into rhetoric that persuades the populace, military, and divided leadership to go to War. Read your history books. You know the countries that might become our “enemies”. You know the language that is used to persuade the populace. You know the temporary economic benefits of defense spending.
This is a very likely outcome based upon any murmurs of War as a solution. Watch all the political action committees, their communications, and the media giants.
Most War cannot exist without dehumanizing the enemy. A mind-shift must be created to enable soldiers to kill them. The same mind-shift must occur for the populace to support it. Thoughtful and intelligent folks who have read history can see through propaganda.
The greatest enemy to a country is seldom without. It lies within based upon personal choices made, often financial, and fear.
Few countries can wage war in such a way that allow them to prosper financially and become more secure. Most often it bankrupts countries, and their leadership either transforms, or social upheaval happens.
If Middle Eastern countries are the target, most likely they will be overthrown, but only if total war techniques are employed, such that we have only rarely seen after the 20th Century. A complete mind-shift will have to occur that allow the most effective, but brutal dehumanizing tactics and strategy. That medicine is probably worse than the illness.
A shift to a different currency for oil backed transactions may be considered an declaration of economic warfare.
Empires that sacked cities, transferred wealth back to their own main urban population centers, and annihilated the enemy are the only ones who have used this technique successfully. Their leaders are very often supplanted by their own lieutenants. Their enemies also nipped at their heels, cutting off supplies, and destroyed them.
A target that has stronger deterrents with catastrophic effects cannot be fought using conventional warfare. While they may at first not use their strongest weapon, if they are losing, their resolve and focus will change, and they WILL use their strongest weapon rather than lose them.
Enemies without natural resources to steal after the war are not economically viable as targets. What would be the point?