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A Memorial Day Meditation On Mesopotamia, Mexico And The Border Problem
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May 25, 2003, 05:00 AM
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On this Memorial Day, our thoughts are with our 145,000 troops in Iraq.

Unfortunately, as we`ve all learned since their great victory, the Department of Defense civilian brain trust made no realistic plans about what would happen in Iraq after they got their money shot of the toppling statue.

"Hey," the American Enterprise Institute refugees in the Pentagon reasoned, "We`re The Proposition Nation, right? So, the Iraqis will love us for our propositions, and then … uh … well, they`ll live democratically ever after. Or something like that!"

I realize I`m being unconservative. After all, as we`ve been informed repeatedly over the last year, the essence of true conservatism is no longer Burkean prudence. Instead, it`s having the government plunge wildly into situations it knows next to nothing about based on abstract ideological theories.

At least one outcome of the war, though, was quite predictable: our current border problems with Syria and Iran. Contraband and people have been smuggled in from Syria. Iran has been allegedly whipping up ethnic tensions within Iraq in an attempt to grab political power.

But UPI`s Richard Sale has reported (May 2) that Karl Rove vetoed an attack on Syria, since it didn`t fit in his meticulous plan for the President`s re-election. And the Washington Post`s Glenn Kessler has just revealed that that the Administration now plans to push by indirect means for regime change in Iran.  ("U.S. Eyes Pressing Uprising in Iran," May 25).

Of course, all the border transgressions that the Administration is so concerned about in the Middle East happen every day on our frontier with Mexico.

Drugs, illegal immigrants, and Mexican political influence flow northward. Mexican-American murderers escape southward.

But, that`s the nature of borders. They tend to be trouble.

The best solution to the Border Problem is to not have any borders. Instead, try being surrounded by oceans.

You`ll like it. There`s a reason that Australians have traditionally called their country the Happy Land. The U.S., of course, has been blessed with oceans on two sides.

In contrast, our new Mesopotamian satrapy, which borders six countries, is in a tough neighborhood. 

The next best solution:  have a neighbor like Canada—civilized, prosperous, and peaceful.

Of course, not all Americans are satisfied with Canada`s untoughness. In a cover story in last November 25th`s National Review, Jonah Goldberg concluded that, to make Canada less wimpy, the U.S. should blow up Toronto`s 2,000 foot tall CN Tower.

(Jonah later claimed he was being "sarcastic," as if this was all some dry Andy Kaufman-type put-on. But, that`s not Jonah`s style of humor. He telegraphs every joke like Krusty the Klown, with an elbow in the ribs and a pie in the face. On November 15, four days after this article came out, NR announced that Jonah was relieved of his editorship of National Review Online and kicked upstairs to Editor-at-Large. Does that mean Mr. Buckley still provides some adult supervision now and then?)

Unlike Jonah, I`m not calling for America to stage military assaults on either of our neighbors. Clearly, though, the close parallels between our new troubles with Syria/Iran and our traditional troubles with Mexico are not coincidental.

There are three general ways to deal with the Border Problem.

  1. Conquer the country on the other side. There are a number of difficulties with this, but the major one is that it often doesn`t solve the Border Problem—it just shifts it outward, diluting the forces available to pacify the occupied lands and making them more vulnerable to infiltration, thus requiring the conquest of even more countries later. (See the history of Duchy of Muscovy over the last half-millennium for many grim examples.)

  1. "Good fences make good neighbors." Build a fence. That`s what the Israelis did around the Gaza Strip. It has almost completely shut off the influx of suicide bombers.

    Another example: If you`re an old-timer, you might remember the endless brouhaha in the 1970s over the Western Sahara. When Spain pulled out in 1976, the King of Morocco sent 350,000 civilians, Camp of the Saints-style, into that God-forsaken hellhole to seize it before the locals could vote in a U.N. referendum on their fate. Algeria then organized the Polisario guerillas to sneak in to Western Sahara, driving armed pick-up trucks. They soon had the Moroccan Army on the run. Morocco, though, struck back by building a thousand-mile wall of sand. Not too high tech, but enough to defuse Polisario. (Here`s War Nerd`s amusing account of Morocco`s border wars.)

    So let`s build a fence along the borders with Syria and Iran. This would have two good effects:

    A. Making additional wars less necessary.

    B. Providing an excellent precedent for building a fence along our Mexican border.


  1. "Diplomacy" i.e. carrots and sticks to persuade the bordering country to change. Secretary Powell has announced that he can get Syria to reform without war. If true, that would be nice.

    But a far more important—and far more promising—candidate for American-induced reform is Mexico. We need Mexico to get its act together so that Mexicans can make a decent living at home rather than having to sneak illegally into the U.S.

Mexico`s problems, severe as they are, are not as dire as the Muslim Arab countries. But Mexico has a much greater impact on us.

Recently, Mexico has made respectable progress in building a manufacturing base and in opening its political system to competition. (Also, Mexico`s rate of inbreeding is very low, so its people aren`t as foreordained as Iraq`s to be nepotistically corrupt.)

Further, a few Americans actually know something about Mexico. Do you know anybody who has ever even been to Syria?

Unfortunately, Mexico`s manufacturing economy is now being hammered by competition from China. And that country, 1.2 billion people with an average IQ higher than the average Americans, is only going to become a stronger competitor.

Mexico needs reform, which means it must assault its ancient traditions of corruption and elite favoritism and mobilize the talents of all its citizens, instead of sloughing its poor off on the U.S.

(Here`s my 2002 UPI interview with the celebrated Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto on how Mexico could prosper.)

Helping reform Mexico would cost us money. But just a fraction of the $75 billion the Bush Administration has requested for Iraq would go a long way in Mexico.

Further, we could use smaller Central American countries like Honduras as test cases.

A billion dollars would buy a lot of carrots in Honduras.

Ultimately, our attempts to reform Middle Eastern societies will falter. The locals know they are on the other side of the Earth from the U.S. They believe we Americans are likely to get frustrated and go home, as we did in Lebanon in 1983. So, they think, why cooperate more than the minimum?

But The U.S.-Mexico border is forever.  We`re stuck with it – and we have to do something about it.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]