The Age of Walls: How Barriers Between Nations Are Changing Our World
New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018
Tim Marshall is a British journalist who had a long career with Sky News. In response to Trump’s win in 2016, he wrote a book about walls around the world and how these walls are affecting geopolitics.
The book starts with the biggest and oldest of all walls, the Great Wall of China. But before getting too deep into what Marshall says about that wall, I’ll be so bold as to add my own ideas first: Large walls such as the Great Wall of China exist in Europe also. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall across northern England and they also built the Limes Germanicus, a series of barriers and fortifications that protected Gaul from Germany. Before the combination of the welfare state and the heresy of worshiping non-whites, governments across Eurasia oriented their defenses to protect themselves from armed northern people with high IQs. Building a wall between the Laotians and Chinese or between Arabia and the rest of the Roman Empire wasn’t a priority.
Walls Won’t Help China
China built a wall to keep out the Mongolians. During the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao, the Great Wall of China was at risk of being demolished and its bricks repurposed, but the Chinese eventually realized the cultural value of the wall and changed tact — using the wall to draw tourists.
Of course, the Mongolians aren’t a threat to China today, but China has a number of growing intractable problems that seem to have little to no chance of being corrected by any sort of wall-building endeavor. The Muslim Uighurs, who live in China’s far-western Xinjiang province, are carrying out an insurgency and the Han Chinese — the core racial group of the Middle Kingdom — are oppressing them. The situation is dry tinder for a big fire. Additionally, China has a precarious grip on Tibet and has come into conflict with India in the Himalayas.
However, China’s biggest problem according to Marshall is their warped economic situation. The cities on China’s Pacific Rim have grown very wealthy while the interior of China remains as poor as it has ever been. The situation matches, to a degree, the situation prior to the communist takeover in 1949.
Marshall brings to light the fact that China has become incredibly unstable despite appearances otherwise. Beijing’s grip on the other regions is so tight as to be foolishly oppressive — there’s only one time zone in China despite its vast size. Meanwhile, China’s society rests upon a narrow economic reed. They must produce geegaws for American consumers no matter what the demand or profitability is. The Chinese government is barely keeping it together. Marshall published the book before the Hong Kong protests started in 2019, and the situation in the former British colony matches the trend that Marshall describes. China has a big wall, but its real problem is homegrown instability.
The border wall between the United States and Mexico started to get built by the Clinton administration. The border wall turned out to be considerably effective in some cases, but it moved smuggling and illegal crossings to different areas.
Marshall argues that Trump’s embrace of the border wall was a symbolic expression that was more related to the internal racial issues of the United States. To put it in my own words, those that support the border wall are those that support white interests, those that do not are the “civil rights” types and non-whites.
Marshall argues that the real conflict is not between whites and Hispanic immigrants (many of whom are white or are made white like George Zimmerman). Instead, the intractable conflict is between whites and blacks.
To put the situation in my own words, Trump’s wall is the physical manifestation of whites rejecting the racial settlement of the 1960s. In some ways, the wall is a misallocation of priorities. The real problems are the 1964 Civil Rights Act and legal immigration, especially from Asia.
Israel and the Walls in the Middle East
Israel has a famous wall too. In some places, the wall is a massive, turreted concrete barrier. Palestinians rightly complain that the wall tends to be built in such a way that the Israelis capture choice agricultural acreage.
The Israelis built the wall following the Second Intifada. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Palestinians launched a great many suicide attacks on Israel. Buses, pizza parlors, birthday parties, and any other place where people gathered were all hit. Suicide bombers were incredibly effective. A suicide bomber only needed a moment’s courage and they could self-direct to where they’d do the most damage.
Walls have grown up in the rest of the Middle East for the same basic reasons as in Israel. Mid-Eastern people are a danger to themselves and others. Jordan built a barrier between itself and Syria (and the Americans paid for it). In Iraq, the Green Zone is a walled paradise where everything functions as though it is a leafy Northern Virginia suburb; outside those walls is chaos. The Green Zone’s walls eventually grew to protect its supply routes in and out.
The dirt barrier between Kuwait is the only wall Marshall describes that I’ve seen personally. On the Iraqi side of this massive berm, armed American soldiers drive armored and sandbagged vehicles, the roads are crummy, and the people are desperately poor. Cross the berm into Kuwait and the dirt tracks of Iraq become an autobahn where wealthy Kuwaitis drive their expensive German-built luxury cars way too fast.
Of course, the walls in the Middle East exist because they hem in dangerous people. And in most cases, the walls work. Intemperate men can never be free; their passions build their barriers.
The Indian Subcontinent & Bango Bhoomi
India started to create a wall between itself and Bangladesh in 1982. Bangladesh is a poor country with the same poor intellectual and economic climate as most Islamic nations, so plenty of Bangladeshis are fleeing their own kind. Migration prior to the wall’s construction was big. It’s changed the demographics of the surrounding Indian states and is causing a great deal of disruption. Many in India believe in the so-called “Bango Bhoomi” plan. The basic gist of this conspiracy is that Pakistan is said to be sponsoring illegal immigration to widen Islamic control in parts of India. There is no proof of the plan, but demographic trends match the theory and Pakistan does sponsor Bangladeshi terrorist groups.
Part of the problem, too, is Bangladesh’s geography. It is a low-lying floodplain, so the place is a mess of high water. Rising sea levels threaten to consume parts of the country. This is where IQ and culture matters. Bangladeshi’s national IQ is 82 and the nation is saddled with a mind-closing religion. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, which has the same geographic and hydrographic issues, has reclaimed land from the sea since time immemorial and is highly prosperous.
India is also building a fence on its border with Myanmar. Pakistan started to erect a fence between itself and Afghanistan in 2017. Since the Northwest Frontier has always been problematic, long walls are likely to be the future, not the past. Even Iran is building walls along its border with Pakistan.
While Trump’s wall has created national debates, Morocco built a dirt berm like that between Iraq and Kuwait in the old Spanish Sahara colony. On one side of this wall, Moroccans have settled. On the other side are the Saharawi — the natives of the Spanish Sahara. They live in refugee camps and occasionally wage war against the Moroccans.
South Africa also has built walls between Zimbabwe and Mozambique since the end of Apartheid. Of course, the new South Africa is pretty dysfunctional, so migrants get in anyway. Many have been cruelly killed by South Africa’s native black tribes. South Africa has also become a nation with gated communities. Black-ruled nations can’t contain their criminals and many of South Africa’s towns are fortified.
The Return of the Walls to Europe
The most famous wall in Europe during the twentieth century was in Berlin. That wall wasn’t made to keep people out, it was made to keep them in. Eventually, the communists built a similar wall across all of Germany. (It fell apart, though.) The communist system was a farce from the beginning and Europeans returned to the freedom of movement that was taken for granted in the early nineteenth century.
The problem was the non-Europeans. Incorporating Romanians into the European Union is not a problem, but Romanian gypsies are. Free movement of the French is also not a problem, but the free movement of the Africans from the former Empire of France is. That fact is unspoken, though. What publically drives the EU’s instability are poor working-class migrants from Eastern Europe competing with the working classes in the West.
Nothing above compared, however, to the migrant crisis of 2015. The crisis was poorly managed and terrorists came with the migrants. The migrant crisis was so significant that the British voted for Brexit. The crisis accelerated the return of Europe’s wall. There is a line of fences to stop migration from Turkey at every international border between Hungary and Croatia. The British government has even funded walls to contain the migrants in Calais.
In Great Britain, Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke continue to influence culture. South of Hadrian’s Wall, the nation that would become England got Roman culture. Scotland and Wales, although very similar to the English genetically, have a different sense of themselves. No place in the United Kingdom has a need for walls quite like Northern Ireland. Peace Walls, erected after the Troubles petered out in 1998, have sprung up everywhere. Additionally, religious identification has collapsed among Northern Irish Protestants — but not cultural identification, perhaps. The situation there remains frail.
Marshall gives a good account of the further fractures in the United Kingdom. He argues that Islamic presence is less than what people think it is, but Islamic settlements in England are cut off from the rest of British society. Meanwhile, the British have divided into cosmopolitan “anywhere” people, “somewhere” people who have a sense of identity, and “inbetweeners.” Indeed, this conflict between Britain’s “anywheres” and “somewheres” has migrated to America and drives US politics as well.
Marshall remarks that the walls are here to stay and they are unsettling to pass through. He further argues that money must go from the places where it exists now to places that it doesn’t exist to keep down migration.
Personally, I have no way to know how it will end. But I’ll fight for my “somewheres,” and build a wall for my kith and kin.
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