Good fences make good neighbors

(Author’s note: yes, this is the piece I alluded to yesterday in my “throttling back” piece. I figured what the hell, better late than never.)

Last Saturday, the inimitable Austin Bay discussed the rise in violent incidents along the US-Mexican border, with Mexicans using military vehicles and ordnance in their attempts to bring people, drugs, and lord knows what else across the US border. As usual, Austin hits all the right points with his usual brilliant analysis, but I think I can see a couple of points that might have missed.

First, the story says the attacks are by gangs using stolen military equipment (and, in some cases, uniforms), but I have my doubts. I would not be a bit surprised if the gangs had gone beyond buying equipment and were actually hiring actual soldiers to do their work. It’d be cheaper and more efficient in the long run, and the Mexican military doesn’t exactly have a sterling record for integrity.

Second, the “flavor” of the attacks seem a bit familiar. They have yet to reach the level of the almost-daily attacks on Israel’s borders, but’s that’s largely because of the nature of the invaders. They’re not looking to kill and conquer, but to make a buck. Their motive is not violence in and of itself, but money. They put profits ahead of prophets. As such, it’s not in their interest to be overly violent.

Regardless, the basic principle remains the same: Israel needs to control its borders, to regulate who enters and what they bring with them. As do we. That is a basic right of any nation, and a fundamental obligation of any government. A nation is defined by its borders, and maintaining them is essential to preserving the state.

Israel’s solution was radical, but seems to be working. The separation barrier (I reject “apartheid wall,” as an overwhelming percentage of it is a fence, and “apartheid” is just plain wrong) has greatly reduced the terror attacks in Israel.

Now to dismiss a few other standard arguments.

Critics often cite France’s Maginot Line as a fortified border effort that failed. That failed because France only fortified their border with Germany. They didn’t take into account the idea that Germany would bypass their border and invade by the Low Countries — just as they had done in World War I. Would-be illegal aliens lack other options; our sole southern border is with Mexico.

Another argument is that the issue is a law-enforcement issue, not a military one, and the military should not be involved in it. This one holds great power with me; the distinction between military problems and criminal problems is one that I think crippled the Clinton administration’s response to the growing Al Qaeda threat, which culminated in 9/11. I also have the libertarian deep-seated fear against using the military as police.

But securing our borders IS a military matter, when the nation is facing an invasion. And it’s becoming more and more clear that this is a form of invasion, complete with military-grade weaponry and equipment.

Perhaps it is time to consider using the National Guard to enforce our border laws. Or to declare certain well-trafficked border areas as military weapons ranges, where every now and then things just randomly blow up. Or just build a solid wall, with security monitors and cameras and the like.

The great poet (and my fellow New Hampshirite) Robert Frost knew the wisdom of such things.

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Just how bad is Boston's crime problem?
Kinda gives me hope for my own dotage...


  1. LJD February 14, 2006
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