Up the Wall
Americans are not enthusiastic about walls. As children we memorize these lines from Robert Frost: “Something there is that doesn’t like a wall, that sends the frozen groundswell under it,…”
But walls can and do serve useful purposes. They are handy for penning up violent people who would do harm to the innocent. We call them prisons. We put our loved ones inside walls guarded by locked doors, sensors and other security devices. We call them homes.
Along our southwestern borders, we are beginning to erect walls designed to canalize the flow of illegal aliens to places where the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has a better chance of, if not stopping, at least monitoring the torrent of Mexicans seeking access to stoop-labor and other entry-level jobs.
Thus, it seems rather hypocritical to criticize the Israelis for trying to wall out the suicide bombers who attack their homes, who blow up their school children on buses, who blow up their eating places and their community markets.
Actually, there are two kinds of walls: Those that wall people in. And those that wall people out.
The Berlin Wall was designed to wall in those who wanted to leave East Germany and other nations that fell under Soviet rule following World War II. The same was true of the Iron Curtain. Those were bad walls.
But, depending on your point of view, there are good walls as well. The Great Wall of China was designed to fend off Mongol invasions. But the Chinese could not garrison their wall with sufficient troops. So, it wasn’t particularly effective.
The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall to defend what is now northern England from incursions by the Scots. The Romans invested Hadrian’s Wall with sufficient soldiers, to include their families. Generations of Romans were born and raised along Hadrian’s Wall, making it a living defense mechanism.
It served the Roman Empire well until the Emperor Constantine decided to move the seat of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople and the Romans slowly lost interest in the far northern reaches of their empire. At the same time, the Romans raised in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall were becoming anglicized. Hadrian’s Wall fell into disuse.
Not all “good” walls succeed. For example, the Maginot Line was designed to keep Germany from overrunning France. But, by invading France via Belgium, the Wehrmacht simply bypassed the Maginot Line. Later, the Germans tried to stop the advance of General Patton’s Third U.S. Army with the Siegfried Line. That didn’t work either because linear fortifications can be breached by the application of superior force at key locations and/or by vertical envelopment (airborne or air mobile operations).
Diplomats don’t like walls. Walls keep the lambs on one side and the lions on the other side. Diplomats see walls as a permanent manifestation of the failure of diplomacy to get the lions to lie down with the lambs and not eat the lambs.
The Israelis are well aware of the history of walls. From bitter experience they know their Arab attackers seek their total and complete destruction. Forget that lion and lamb business. Thus, the Israelis are willing to pull back from the borders established at the end of the Six-Day War of 1967 and wall in a much smaller and much more secure Israeli landmass. Rest assured, the Israelis will invest their Wall with sufficient troops.
Logic would suggest the Palestinians would greet the Israeli pull back and the chance to create a larger Palestinian state with glad cries. Forget logic. Their objective is the death of every Jewish man, woman and child. So, the Israeli Wall is an abomination to the Arabs who prefer Jewish blood to a peaceful settlement.
Moreover, the Israeli Wall offends our Arab-loving State Department and the hundreds of U.N. bureaucrats whose job security depends on a continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Literally and figuratively, the Israelis are driving them up the wall.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – novels about terrorist attacks on Colorado’s water supply and on the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2004. William Hamilton.