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World of Walls

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Said Saddiki

Introduction

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1In the past physical walls and fences surrounding territorial space, towns and villages were viewed by ancient nations from a defensive perspective, as a fortification to defend their territorial sovereignty and a rampart to protect themselves from the outside attacks. Dramatic changes in both military doctrine and technology in the last century led to a decline in the strategic and tactic importance of borders as a line of defense. Although one of the key aspects of the traditional notion of sovereignty was the right for states to control exclusively the movement of people across territorial boundaries and to expel undesirable aliens and immigrants, nowadays this authority has come into question not only because of increased globalization, but also because of great intellectual efforts to re-theorize the notion of the nation-state and its components, including the concepts of sovereignty and national borders.

2The means and systems used in border control developed throughout history have depended on the evolution of the military and security industries. In recent decades, border-control systems have developed dramatically along with a rapid growth of both authorized and unauthorized cross-border activities, including the flow of people, goods, ideas, drug, weapons, capital and information. This increase in physical-border barriers contradicts the trend for some globalist and trans-national perspectives that envisage a “Borderless World”, “A World without Sovereignty”, “The End of Geography”, “The End of the Nation-State” and so on.

  • 1 Peter Andreas defines “clandestine transnational actors” (CTAs) “as non-state actors who operate a (...)

3Although the construction of border barriers has confirmed security concerns and strengthened the position of sovereign states as realists have emphasized, transnational non-state actors — the primary these walls and fences were erected to exclude — have seriously questioned state-centered theories. The gap between theory and practice has widened enormously after 9/11, when transnational non-state actors, or what Peter Andreas has termed “clandestine transnational actors”,1 became not only the main rival of nation states but also a major threat to security, whereas interstate wars have declined steadily since the beginning of the third millennium.

  • 2 James N. Rosenau, “New Dimensions of Security: The Interaction of Globalizing the Localizing Dynam (...)
  • 3 Kenichi Ohmae, The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy. New York: Harp (...)
  • 4 Saskia Sassen, Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization. New York: Columbia Universi (...)
  • 5 Peter Andreas, “Redrawing the Line”, p. 84.

4At the same time, globalists have announced that the territorial border is going to become progressively blurred and eroded due to the combined pressures of the growing presence of transnational non-state actors and the interactions between globalization and information and communication technologies (ICTs), a sphere often theorized in terms of virtualization of trans-border and trans-national flows. James Rosenau has argued that this shift in perception occurring in the post-Cold War era is “diminishing the competence and effectiveness of states and rendering their borders more porous and less meaningful”.2 In a similar vein, Kenichi Ohmae, in his well-known book The Borderless World, confidently announced that “while everyone living on this earth is to one degree or another already living in an interlinked economy, at the same time, we all continue moving further toward the reality of a world without border”.3 In contrast, Saskia Sassen notes that, despite a growing consensus among developed countries to facilitate the flow of goods, information, and capital, when it comes to regulating the movement of people, “the national state claims its old splendor in asserting its sovereign right to control its borders”.4 Although globalization has diminished the traditional military and economic functions of borders, it has also created more border-policing work for nation-states5 which now spend millions of dollars annually to fortify their national borders.

  • 6 Anna Feigenbaum, “Concrete Needs no Metaphor: Globalized Fences as Sites of Political Struggle”, E (...)

5Anna Feigenbaum identified what she called “globalized fences” by four commonalities: first, they serve transnational security functions, particularly in the post-9/11 era, when transnational actors are perceived to have become the greatest threat to the nation-state. Second, they are contracted through multinational companies. Third, they are built with materials imported from different nations. Finally, they integrate ‘virtual’ and physical technologies. Advanced digital and virtual technologies work in conjunction with human patrols, communications devices and physical barriers.6

  • 7 Élisabeth Vallet and Charles-Philippe David, “Introduction. Du retour des murs frontaliers en rela (...)
  • 8 Ibid., p. 113.

6The growth of the walls has taken different paths in the post-World War II period.7 Only nineteen walls and barriers were built between 1945 and 1991, and seven walls were added between 1991 and 2001 to the thirteen that survived the Cold War. The erection of border walls pauses briefly after the Cold War, but the post-9/11 period has seen the return of the wall as a political object and instrument.8 Twenty-eight walls have been erected or planned in the post-9/11 period.

7Modern international barriers are defined according to their specific contexts and functions which are reflected in their various designations: security, military, defensive or anti-terror wall; fence or barrier and so on. Opponents of such walled borders adopt their own terminology which reflects how they perceive these barriers. Separation, shame, apartheid, or political/ideological walls are widely used to criticize fencing policies.

  • 9 Ron Hassner and Jason Wittenberg, “Barriers to Entry: Who Builds Fortified Boundaries and Are They (...)
  • 10 Roland Freudenstein, “Rio Odra, Rio Buh: Poland, Germany, and the Borders of Twenty-First-Century (...)
  • 11 Mike Davis, “The Great Wall of Capital”, in Border Culture. Ilan Stavans (Ed.). Santa Barbara: Gre (...)
  • 12 Évelyne Ritaine, “La barrière et le checkpoint: Mise en politique de l’asymétrie”, Cultures & Conf (...)
  • 13 Ibid., p. 20.

8These barriers reflect the economic disparity between countries in many levels. Firstly, building states are significantly richer than target states.9 Secondly, some border barriers (U.S.-Mexico barrier and Spanish fences in northern Morocco) embody what is called the “frontier of poverty”10 or “The Great Wall of Capital”11 that dramatically separate the global rich from the rest of the world. Thirdly, a large number of these border barriers were built to prevent irregular immigration from lesser-developed countries. On the two sides of the wall, there is always a significant potential imbalance of power, as well as asymmetric confidence.12 Walls are never built against an equivalent power. When the targeted country is considered reliable, the fortification of the common border is adopted bilaterally. For example, the government of the United States collaborates extensively with Canada to control its northern border, while it imposes a border fence with Mexico.13

9The current border barriers can be sorted geographically. Asia, as the most fenced continent, contains almost twenty border barriers: India-Pakistan; India-Bangladesh; India-Myanmar; Pakistan-Afghanistan; Myanmar-Bangladesh; Iran-Pakistan; Iran-Afghanistan; Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan; China-North Korea; Malaysia-Thailand; Uzbekistan-Afghanistan; Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan; Uzbekistan-Kirgizstan; Bruneieastern Malaysia (Limbang); South Korea-North Korea. In the Middle East, Israel has fenced off its entire de facto border with Palestinians and Arab countries adjacent to Palestine. In the Gulf, because of security and immigration reasons, most of the countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, have tried to fortify their borders: Israel-West Bank; Israel-Gaza Strip; Israel-Egypt; Israel-Jordan; Israel-Lebanon; Israel-Syria; Turkey-Syria, Egypt-Gaza Strip; Saudi Arabia-Yemen; Saudi Arabia-Iraq; Saudi Arabia-Oman; Saudi Arabia-Qatar; Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates; United Arab Emirates-Oman; Jordan-Iraq; Kuwait-Iraq. In Africa, there are more than eight border barriers: Morocco wall in Western Sahara; Spain-Morocco (Ceuta); Spain-Morocco (Melilla); South Africa-Mozambique; South Africa-Zimbabwe; Zimbabwe-Zambia, Botswana-Zimbabwe; Mozambique-Zambia. Europe, because of the advanced regional integration process, has not witnessed a growth in border walls after the end of the Cold War. Instead, separating walls in Europe have been dismantled (e. g., the Berlin wall and the Belfast wall). Today, there are only a few physical border barriers in Europe: Greek-Turkish Cyprus; Russia (Abkhazia)-Georgia; Gibraltar-Spain; Hungary-Serbia; Hungary-Croatia, although some new ones have been built in recent times in response to the refugee ‘crisis’. In North America, because of irregular immigration flows, the United States fenced off its borders with Mexico and Canada. Latin America is almost free of physical-border barriers except for those erected by the U.S. between Guantanamo and Cuba.

  • 14 Julien Saada, “L’économie du mur: Un marché en pleine expansion”, Le Devoir (27 October 2009), htt (...)
  • 15 Ibid.

10The growth in border barriers all over the world has created a huge security business. Private companies account for the bulk of this growing market. The major armament and defense companies are at the heart of the border-security market, but firms specializing in communications, surveillance, information technology or biometrics also take a significant part in this new multi-billion-dollar market.14 Israeli companies are the most famous in this area. Since 2002, exports of Israeli technology in border security services increased by 22 percent each year, and there are about 450 Israeli companies specializing in securing territory.15 The major international companies that claim the lion share of this market include Boeing (American multinational aerospace and defense corporation), Elbit Systems (Israeli defense electronics manufacturers and integrators), Magal Security Systems (Israeli company operating in more than 75 countries worldwide), Amper (Spanish multinational group), Indra Sistemas (Spanish information technology and defense company) and EADS Group (European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company).

  • 16 Évelyne Ritaine, “La barrière et le checkpoint: Mise en politique de l’asymétrie”, p. 21.

11Even if their primary objective is to secure the border, physical barriers are seen by some targeted countries as a unilateral attempt to demarcate common borders, especially when it comes to occupied or disputed territories that can be turned to de facto boundaries (e. g., the Israeli barriers, the fences of Ceuta and Melilla, the Indian fence in Kashmir, the India-Bangladesh border and the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan border). So, although in some cases it can be argued that the reinforcement of a nation-state’s borders is based on security requirements, recent history has demonstrated that states hide their real goals behind security issues. Since almost all border barriers are erected by unilateral decision — with few exceptions (e. g., the U.S.-Canada border and the Malaysia-Thailand Border), they are always disputed, even when they are built on a national boundary or on private property.16 Targeted countries always emphasize that border-security policies should be bilateral and a result of cooperation.

12This book consists of five chapters. The first, “Israel and the Fencing Policy”, examines aspects of various separation barriers built by Israel since its inception in 1948 and evaluates their effectiveness in order to show whether such a policy makes Israel more secure.

13The second chapter, “Border Fencing in India”, provides an overview of the complicated characteristics of India’s borders with adjacent countries and deals with the Indian strategy of fencing borders with some of its neighbors. Despite the diversity of India’s border-fencing projects, security concerns are the top priority of the border-control systems.

14The third chapter, “The Fences of Ceuta and Melilla”, investigates the controversial aspects of Ceuta and Melilla’s fences as the EU southern border and highlights the changing roles of the two enclaves’fences. The barriers of Ceuta and Melilla provide a fitting model to examine the gap between governments’stated purposes and hidden objectives.

15The fourth chapter, “The U.S.-Mexico Border Wall”, analyzes the relationship between the U.S. immigration policy and border-control systems at a time when militarizing and fencing of the southern border remain the cornerstone of the U.S. strategy to keep unwanted immigrants out of its territory.

16The last chapter, “The Wall of Western Sahara”, focuses on the military wall built by Morocco in Western Sahara. The chapter presents the status and prospects of the Sahara sand wall (or “berm”), as well as a glance at the Western Sahara issue. Although the Sahara wall was built, at first, in a specific context and for a specific military goal, today it embodies the lingering disputes arising from a long-term and ongoing conflict — the Western Sahara issue that continues to threaten the stability of the Maghreb region.

Notes

1 Peter Andreas defines “clandestine transnational actors” (CTAs) “as non-state actors who operate across national borders in violation of state laws and who attempt to evade law enforcement efforts”. Peter Andreas, “Redrawing the Line: Borders and Security in the Twenty-First Century”, International Security, Vol. 28, No. 2 (2003), p. 78.

2 James N. Rosenau, “New Dimensions of Security: The Interaction of Globalizing the Localizing Dynamics”, Security Dialogue, Vol. 25, No. 3 (1994), p. 258.

3 Kenichi Ohmae, The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy. New York: Harper Business, 1999, p. xiv.

4 Saskia Sassen, Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996, p. 59.

5 Peter Andreas, “Redrawing the Line”, p. 84.

6 Anna Feigenbaum, “Concrete Needs no Metaphor: Globalized Fences as Sites of Political Struggle”, Ephemera, Vol. 10, No. 2 (2010), pp. 121–23.

7 Élisabeth Vallet and Charles-Philippe David, “Introduction. Du retour des murs frontaliers en relations internationales”, Études internationales, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2012), pp. 5–25; Élisabeth Vallet, “Toujours plus de murs dans un monde sans frontières”, Le Devoir (26 October 2009), http://www.ledevoir.com/international/actualitesinternationales/273594/toujours-plus-de-murs-dans-un-monde-sans-frontieres; Vallet and David “The (Re)Building of the Wall in International Relations”, Journal of Borderlands Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2 (2012), pp. 111–19.

8 Ibid., p. 113.

9 Ron Hassner and Jason Wittenberg, “Barriers to Entry: Who Builds Fortified Boundaries and Are They Likely to Work?”, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Toronto, Canada (3–6 September 2009).

10 Roland Freudenstein, “Rio Odra, Rio Buh: Poland, Germany, and the Borders of Twenty-First-Century Europe”, in The Wall Around the West: State Borders and Immigration Controls in North America and Europe, Peter Andreas and Timothy Snyder (Eds.). Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000, p. 174.

11 Mike Davis, “The Great Wall of Capital”, in Border Culture. Ilan Stavans (Ed.). Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2009, p. 27.

12 Évelyne Ritaine, “La barrière et le checkpoint: Mise en politique de l’asymétrie”, Cultures & Conflits, No. 73 (2009), p. 21.

13 Ibid., p. 20.

14 Julien Saada, “L’économie du mur: Un marché en pleine expansion”, Le Devoir (27 October 2009), http://www.ledevoir.com/international/actualites-internationales/271687/l-economie-du-mur-un-marche-en-pleine-expansion

15 Ibid.

16 Évelyne Ritaine, “La barrière et le checkpoint: Mise en politique de l’asymétrie”, p. 21.

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