Trump’s Folly: the Delusion of a Working Wall

Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country. It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL

Just a typical Donald Trump tweet, filled with hyperbole and random capitalisations. The threat of invasion looms ever closer, it seems. The President’s obsession with building a country-wide wall along the Mexican border to ‘stop immigrants’ has not diminished since he ascended to the highest seat of power.

His plan is not a novel one; Hungary and its Eastern European neighbours have erected barriers topped with razor wire to stem the tide of refugees arriving from the Middle East for instance. But the idea sits uneasily with what America is supposed to be: the land of the free, the land of immigrants?

There is symbolic potency in Trump’s grand vision – however muddled – but what will it actually achieve? Looking at history, the omens are not promising for the President and his chest-thumping brethren.

Trump inspecting prototypes for his wall

The East-West Divide

Never has a physical barrier carried such ideological weight as the Berlin Wall. Constructed almost overnight in 1961 by the Soviet-backed East German government, it became the defining symbol of the Cold War: Capitalism vs Communism. Good vs Evil.

It was perhaps also the greatest propaganda misfire of the Soviet regime. As soon as the Wall went up those yet to decide on their allegiance in the Cold War – and you had to pick a side – veered towards the West. How could you physically separate a people? It looked like a horrible retribution for World War Two (WWII).

That more than 5,000 defectors successfully crossed into West Berlin during the existence of the Wall also speaks to its strategic failure. When the first boulders were hauled down in 1989, the world rejoiced.

The ultimate symbol of division: the Berlin Wall

One can imagine parallels with a Trumpian wall; the brutal eyesore, the separation of families, the ideological statement of exclusivity and isolation. One can also imagine it being hauled down; ad hoc, with ropes…Saddam Hussein in Texas. 28 years is a long lifespan to emulate.

If Trump really is seeking to avoid the ideological and symbolic connotations – and it’s difficult to see how he can – then what of the practical elements? Will his wall dam the flow of illegal immigrants, of drug traffickers and fugitives from justice?

The Chinese Experiment 

From the 7th century BC until the heady days of the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese embarked on an engineering marvel that continues to wow visitors to this day. The Great Wall of China stretches some 13,000 miles, specifically built to prevent invasion from the windy steppes to the north.

It was not built as a single entity, rather in stages and as it was required. In addition to its primary purpose of defence, the Great Wall helped control the flow of trade, administer taxes, emigration and immigration. Trump must be an admirer.

But policing a 13,000 mile stretch of property had its obvious logistical difficulties, even for a country as populous as China. The invaders were not repulsed – indeed the Mongols would conquer China and create a dynasty – and as sections of the Great Wall fell into disrepair and the costs of reconstruction became increasingly prohibitive, the border pores opened up.

The beauty of China’s Great Wall draws 70,000 visitors per day. How many will visit the ruined facade of Trump’s monstrosity in 50 years’ time?

Trump’s Wall

Trump’s wall will be a tenth of the size and, if he gets his way, he’ll have the money and manpower to ensure that its construction is sturdy and its posts constantly manned.

But so what? Border guards can be bought, as they are now. Who can truly stop corruption when the riches of the Cartels are in play? The costs of loyalty will be astronomically high, the endemic paranoia of Trump’s administration always likely to fear betrayal.

Trump sees his wall as a symbol of American power and prestige. Some would argue that China’s Great Wall demonstrated a civilisation of incomparable strength, at its zenith, with the resources and the tenacity to engage in such an undertaking.

But a wall is essentially a defensive measure. It is a sign of weakness, particularly where America is concerned. There are no armed invaders lurking on the borders. Should such an unlikely scenario ever occur than the US military could destroy it without even having to travel to the national boundary.

Trump’s proposed wall is far from unanimously popular: protests of sprung up across the country

Ultimately it is a move of insanity; an expensive, divisive, symbolically damaging and egocentric waste. Yes, illegal immigration is a problem to be tackled, as is the trafficking of narcotics. But this should never happen. It makes no sense. History should warn him. His wall will be torn asunder by the next generation. It is not America. It is foolish and angering and it will fail in every sense of the word.

I leave you with Luc Besson:

It’s always the small people who change things. It’s never the politicians or the big guys. I mean, who pulled down the Berlin wall? It was all the people in the streets. The specialists didn’t have a clue the day before.

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Who Needs ‘Degrade and Destroy’? Tunisia Seeks Shelter Behind Moat and Sand Wall

With the US-led coalition attempting to ‘degrade and destroy’ ISIS with a combination of air power, logistical support and slow-moving training of indigenous armed forces, Tunisia has taken a different approach to tackling the growing terrorist threat.

Prime Minister Habib Essid has announced intentions to build a wall of sand, accompanied by a moat, along his country’s 160km border with Libya. An almost failed state rife with factionalism and militia violence, Libya has become a hotbed of terrorist activity and there is already a strong ISIS presence there. The man responsible for the recent massacre at Imperial Marhaba Hotel, Sousse trained with Islamic militants in Libya and the Tunisian government is understandably wary about repeat attacks.

À SOUSSE, UN MASSACRE EN SEPT MINUTES
Blood-stained steps at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel after the Sousse Massacre Photo: Reuters

Some may be sceptical about their response, yet it is a military defence that has been replicated for millenia. The most famous walled barrier, China’s Great Wall, had its inception in the 8th century BC, eventually reaching a peak some 22,000km in length. Effective against the nomads of the Eurasian steppe, it even proved a formidable barrier to the rampaging Mongol Hordes, who otherwise routed the armies of the Ming emperor in the Middle Ages.

Walled fortifications along borders have certainly shaped history until the present day. Think of the Berlin Wall and its manifestation of an ideological divide. Even currently, the Israeli West Bank Barrier (still under construction) delineates the Jewish homeland and has come to define the stark territorial division in the Middle East.

A stretch of Israel's West Bank Barrier Photo: Justin McIntosh
A stretch of Israel’s West Bank Barrier
Photo: Justin McIntosh

The decision by the Tunisians to also dig a moat is interesting, for such barriers have fallen out of fashion for the purposes of defence, accruing rather more frequently for architectural purposes. Still, these too are a primitive line of preliminary protection. They are known to have existed throughout the ancient world, particularly across Egypt, Nubia and Assyria.

Perhaps, though, moats are most synonymous with the medieval castles of Europe. No movie about the kings and queens of England is complete without a scene of a castle besieged, the drawbridge being pulled back to leave the enemy horsemen stranded on the opposite side of the watery channel. Of course, the siege potential was always an issue for the medieval monarchs. If an opposing army could win control of the area surrounding one’s castle then, no matter the impenetrability of the moat and the walls, the occupiers could easily be starved into submission.

The imposing moat at the medieval Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England Photo: Tim Hoare
The imposing moat at the medieval Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England
Photo: Tim Hoare

In this respect, the Tunisian endeavour makes more sense, for we no longer live in the days of pitched battles and mass encirclements of enemy positions, at least not for long periods of time. ISIS, or any other terrorist entity, is not going to surround Tunisia until the inhabitants perish. Rather, it will seek to breach any wall and recruit those from within.

That said, moats went out of military fashion because of the invention of effective artillery in the Middle Ages, which negated the need for hand-to-hand combat. ISIS has artillery in abundance and so the question of a Tunisian moat and sand wall must be brought into question.

Indeed, it seems more a symbolic statement that the country’s leaders will not allow its borders to become as porous as those of other states in the region. Being a fairly small country, this aim is not unreasonable. A wall and moat will necessitate extra manpower along the Libyan border and this, at least, will provide greater opportunities for screening entrants and preventing militants from crossing into sovereign territory.

In this respect, the resurrection of an age-old tactic does not seem so mad.