Border walls have a history of thousands of years, at least as far back as the Great Wall of China. Numerous countries have constructed border walls to protect the people and defend the nation.
President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S. southern border aligns with the inauguration oath, in which he swore to protect the country, as well as with historical precedents all over the world.
What will a border wall protect and defend against? Today, the threat has shifted from mainly barbarians on horses to gunrunners, drug smugglers, human traffickers, MS-13 gang members, and other criminals. Today, they come to make money and mayhem to the detriment of American citizens and legal residents.
A border wall protects and defends citizens and legal residents. Of course the modern border wall has controlled openings to let in legal immigrants, commerce, and travelers.
New Tech, Old Tech
No new technology can take the place of a tall, strong wall or other immovable physical barrier. New technology can have glitches or software bugs, and what if hackers or a power outage intervene to halt operations?
The Great Wall was built during different eras and with different materials, from rammed earth reinforced with dried reeds to bricks and mortar. Legends say the white mortar was made partly from the ground-up bones of men who had died during construction.
The Great Wall is roughly 20–30 feet tall, and the more recent sections were wide enough for five horses or 10 men to walk side by side.
Of course China is not alone in building border walls. Historian David Frye wrote an article last year, “The History of Civilization Is a History of Border Walls,” which is excerpted from his book “Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick.”
Frye reminisces about his time on an archeological dig at Hadrian’s Wall in England, built by the Romans to protect and defend the empire from outsiders to the north. He lists the following countries in history that built barriers: “Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Britain, Algeria, Libya, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Peru, China, and Korea, to give only a partial list.”
Modern walls or barriers have proven effective in drastically reducing illegal immigration, cross-border fighting, and crime, writes Michael Rubin, former Pentagon official, in the Washington Examiner.
He cites places like Greece and Turkey, India and Pakistan, and Morocco, where Spain has the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. All have used border barriers effectively.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
These days Americans would do well to remember the line “Good fences make good neighbors,” which comes from the poem “Mending Wall” by American poet Robert Frost.
Some say that the poet was being ironic, that in fact he meant the opposite, but the whole poem has many layers of meaning and is open to interpretation. Indeed most people have not actually read the whole poem, but know only the line “Good fences make good neighbors.” The line survives in our national memory because it stands on its own with the ring of truth.
Border walls, fences, and barriers have a long tradition in the world. Not because they gain political advantage, but because they work to protect and defend nations. Today we can supplement and enhance a wall’s impact with new technology, but drones, infrared cameras, and so forth cannot replace a physical barrier.