The joke’s on them. Don’t the Saudis know that massive border fences do nothing to enhance domestic security and are, in fact, counterproductive? Well, I guess they’ll find out soon enough.
According to reports, the Saudi Kingdom is fed up with defending against ISIS raiding parties that routinely cross over the Iraqi border. In order to stave off these assaults, the Saudis are going to build a massive, 600-mile long border fence across the length of the country’s border with Iraq.
But that’s not all. The fence will be double layered with a concertina wire barrier in no man’s land. It will be equipped with underground movement sensors and fiber optic cables which are connected directly to authorities in Riyadh. On the Saudi side of the fence, 240 rapid response vehicles will patrol the border along with helicopters that will support those manning the 38 communications towers and 32 military response stations strategically placed along the fence.
Unfortunately for the Saudis, they seem unaware of the cultural baggage associated with erecting a border fence.
In Up Against the Wall: Re-imagining the U.S.-Mexico Border, authors Edward Casey and Mary Watkins unpack the social stigmas associated with constructing barriers.
Quoting the political scientist Wendy Brown, author of the 2010 book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, Casey and Watkins make the intellectual argument against self-defense.
Brown also argues that walls function as “national psychic defenses, as prophylactics against confrontation with our own ills or as projections onto others” (ibid., II4-115). They apply a “political-economic logic that converts the “poor, the colonized, and the exploited” into aggressors. To place obsessive attention on to supposed dangers at its borders diverts attention from the dangers within a society. In addition, such walls act to undermine a sense of being at home in the world. For the migrant, anxieties arise from displacement, exclusion, and insecurity, from being seen as a criminal intruder; for the citizen, the mentality of walls feeds a sense of oneself as in need of protection from external and internal threats, fostering, “a subjectivity that is defensive, parochial, nationalistic and militarized.”
Only someone many hundreds of miles from a dangerous border could write these words, but they are resonant within the academic establishment. For the Saudis, all the lamentations of the professorial class don’t matter one bit when the alternative is an unsecured border with an army of unspeakable brutes on the other side.
Of course, these academicians were not talking about Saudi Arabia. They were talking about the United States, and would perhaps be loath to hold the Saudis to the same standard they hold Americans. Not due to chauvinism, of course, but the “othering” to which the Arab world has been subject by Orientalizing Westerners for generations. Or some other similar nonsense.
All the professorial ruminations in the world cannot undo the simple truth that walls work.