So Donald Trump is promising to wall off the southern border. Whether you think this is a worthwhile endeavor or not depends on a great many things, but one strain of argument that has popped up is not so much that this is a bad idea, per se, but rather that it’s an idea beneath consideration, patently foolish and something no rational person would consider.
The response I have seen to this is very interesting and it often takes the form of “Israel has a border wall, why can’t the United States?”
What makes this question “Israel has X, why can’t we” so interesting is what it reveals, both about Israel and about the gulf between her and the other Western nations. It seems that Israel, alone among the Western nations, must engage in this kind of exercise in exclusion. Although England, at least, may soon be regretting the loss of their great moat against mainland Europe… The rest of Europe looks at such nationalism, such exclusion and shudders. Though, to be fair, European nations have more reason then most to rue forceful expressions of national pride.
This in turn fuels a feeling for some on the Right that Israel is the last truly Western nation, in the sense of being a nation that is distinctly modern and patriotic yet retaining its own cultural identity. In other words, that Israel is the last Western nation that is Western in the American sense. This would seem to be supported by the reviling of Israel in the most anti-American quarters of the Left, who despise Israel for precisely the characteristics that are admired by the right. The patriotism, seeing self-defense as a virtue and religiosity that the Right value are all characteristics far out of favor on the left.
Others will contend that a fence is useless, offering more picayune objections: citing tunnel infiltration and the abduction of Gilad Shalit. ‘Surely the wealthy Mexican cartels can surely replicate Hamas’ tunnel network?’, they declare. But this rebuttal would seem to miss the point; no one would seriously entertain the idea that condoms are useless because they have a (very small) failure rate. Yet to a certain kind of critic, the idea that the Israeli border walls are not 100% efficacious is the equivalent of them being useless.
In this way the Left is at least consistent: for years we were told that missile defense could never be practical. Which is true.. so long as you keep ratcheting up what constitutes “practical”. It’s also reminiscent of the attempt to ‘debunk the success’ of the Iron Dome system in the recent Gaza conflict.
This, I think, ties into the other reason the left find the question “Israel has a wall, why can’t we” so vexing: Israel has a wall because it retains a sense of self and a sense of sovereignty. European nations retain (with varying degree of success) distinct identities, but there is a terrible shame seen among the ‘elites’ in taking any pride in this. Israeli pride in Israeli identity is an uncomfortable reminder to many on the left, especially in Europe, of a time they want to forget.
There is also a rather amusing and circular argument and it goes like this;
“You can’t build a fence that won’t be scaled, or a wall that can’t be tunneled under.” Claims the opponent of a border barrier.
“Well,” goes the reply, “then we’ll put up X.” Where X is an ever increasing level of security, going from barbed wire topped fences to noveu-Berlin Wall affairs. As each new level is proposed, it is dismissed, until a point of security that everyone understands would be effective is proposed.
“Okay, may that would work,” admits the opponent, “but it would be sick. But I guess you want to see migrant children blown up by landmines/impaled on punji sticks/eaten by moat alligators?”
It’s a bit like the old example of a man that kills his parents then asks the court for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan. The opponents of a border wall insist that innocuous measures will be ineffective, and effective measures would be too terrible for civilized people to actually deploy… oh, and you’re a dope if you propose innocuous measures, and a bloodthirsty savage for proposing the measures opponents understand would work.
Catch-22: it’s a way of saying ‘yes’ to the question “does a sovereign nation have the right to refuse access to non-citizens?” while at the same time ruling out any way to restrict access.
It seems in the end what is really being discussed is: if a nation will not put its own citizens before non-citizens, if it will not show loyalty first to its citizens, what loyalty then does that nation deserve from its citizens?
In the contrast of Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, many Americans (especially on the right) see one leader that they feel, outside of any evaluation of competency, truly loves his country and is doing all he can for it. The other leader would be President Obama.