The political and economic advantages that lead people to seek asylum in the West are the result of territorial jurisdiction. Yet territorial jurisdictions can survive only if borders are controlled. Transnational legislation, acting together with the culture of repudiation, is therefore rapidly undermining the conditions that make Western freedoms durable. The effect of this on the politics of France and Holland is now evident to everyone. And when we find among the “asylum seekers” the vast majority of those Islamist cells that have grown up in London, Paris, and Hamburg, we begin to recognize just how much the political culture of the West is bent on a path of self-destruction.
Boundaries are necessary for the flourishing of humanity. Simply to reject them on account of their seemingly arbitrary character is an act of evasion. Western society’s estrangement from borders is not a progressive step forward – rather it expresses a crisis of nerve in relation to holding the line. Western society has embraced the evasive tactic of non-judgmentalism. Now it must relearn the value of making distinctions. It needs to overcome its reluctance to make judgments of value, and stop being afraid to hold the line. In this context, it is essential to reject the idea that borders between nations are simply an artificial prop, unworthy things designed merely to keep people out. Borders are essential for the maintenance of national sovereignty, which is so far the only foundation that humanity has discovered for the institutionalization of democratic accountability. Without borders, a citizen becomes a subject – subject to a power that cannot be realistically held to account.
Borders are a substitute used by less fortunate lands for the sea and the mountains behind which happier countries shelter. No great civilization has grown and endured except behind the shield of ocean, mountain, or desert.
How different Poland’s history would be if it had a few dozen miles of deep salt water between it and its neighbors. How much trouble might be saved if Israel were an island. Countries with cliffs and churning, white-flecked seas for borders tend not to be partitioned or carted off into captivity, especially if they have the sense to build navies.
It is considered impolite to mention it these days, but Britain’s defiance of Hitler in 1940 owed more to the Channel and the North Sea than it did to the RAF. Salt water was our ultimate weapon, and our sensible respect for it made us hesitate, to Stalin’s fury, to launch any invasion against Hitler’s coastline. D-Day was a very near thing, even with the vast resources, the careful preparation, the brilliant deception. If the weather forecasters had gotten it wrong, the invasion fleet would have been scattered and the Red Army would have liberated Paris sometime in 1946, before driving on to the English Channel to ponder the future. At least it would have stopped there . . .
If a country has no sea, it must come up with a substitute. And that substitute is the guarded border. As a safe Englishman, I have never resented or decried these odd and often expensive structures. I can quite see why people want them.