Since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War, the conception of “Westphalian sovereignty” has been understood to mean that individual nation states control the sovereignty of their borders, without meddling by neighbor states, and that separate states stand on some degree of equal footing by respecting each other’s borders. For over 350 years, the system more or less worked, as endless wars have been fought to maintain borders and re-establish borders compromised by aggressors, e.g. the Sudetenland in World War 2.
However, globalization, the development of regional political entities (the EU), the rise of international institutions (the UN), and the development of non-state actors (al Qaeda), have challenged the Westphalian paradigm. Today, porous borders pose the greatest threats to states by facilitating political upheaval, economic chaos, and worst of all, terrorism, as on 9/11.
The effects of a porous border policy magnify the weaknesses of a leader by revealing the consequences of his ineptitude in ways other failings cannot. President Obama has countless such problems, but three border conflicts clearly illustrate the consequences of his incompetence, and the effects at home and abroad.
First, Ukraine. In the fall of 2013, Ukraine, a small light for freedom in a sea of post-Soviet political darkness, stood on the precipice of NATO membership. Vladimir Putin read the political tea leaves and disliked what he saw. After taking the measure of President Obama, no doubt an emboldening experience for the former KGBer, Putin sent his special forces, the Spetsnaz, into Eastern Ukraine to foment insurrection.
President Obama, asleep at the switch amidst the false confidence of his Administration’s pathetic “reset,” watched Russia make a mockery of Ukraine’s borders as it strolled into the Crimea and annexed it before NATO knew what was happening. Since then, Ukraine has been under siege by Moscow and has been subject to military and economic assault. Putin sets the agenda as statesman provocateur, while the president lamely sends the world’s most feckless diplomat, the wind-surfing John Kerry, to scold Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. To no one’s great surprise, Lavrov politely ignores Kerry.
Second, Iraq. President Obama conveniently withdrew troops to match the political calendar so he could boast about ending the “dumb war.” He is the only one looking foolish now, as the stability Iraq enjoyed at Obama’s inauguration has given way to sectarian civil war. Hard fought American gains from the surge were lost in mere days as cities with familiar names – Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah – fell back under terrorist control.
After quickly and easily overrunning Iraq’s fledgling army with weapons recently provided by the American taxpayer, ISIS promptly declared the existence of an Islamic caliphate. Reaching from Syria almost into Baghdad, the succinctly named entity, “The Islamic State,” renders non-existent almost overnight Iraq’s western border with Syria. In response, the president lamely sends 500 military advisers to protect the Americans who haven’t been evacuated. Faint echoes of Benghazi, or Saigon, can be heard.
Third, Mexico. Seeking political domination through an increased Latino vote, and not trifling with that annoyingly inconvenient co-equal branch of government called Congress, the President has by executive order re-written existing immigration laws, granted de facto legal status to millions of young illegal immigrants, and encouraged an open border.
Not surprisingly, Central America heard the message loud and clear. Hundreds of thousands of people, including children as young as ten, have made the dangerous trek through Mexico and across the border to the United States. If you travel as a family, the rumor goes, Obama will allow you to stay.
To accomplish this journey, many immigrants rely on the drug cartels for passage, to which they pay upwards of $7,000 per person for transport. The money is apparently not much of a deterrent, however. “This year, Border Patrol agents across the Southwest have detained more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, with a particular concentration along the Rio Grande border in Texas, according to federal records,” reports the Los Angeles Times. The president’s actions have separated families, created a humanitarian disaster, brought violence and crime to the border areas of Texas and Arizona, and empowered the cartels. Quite the record.
Americans understand failure when they see it, and they are seeing it aplenty across the world. Or, if you live in El Paso, Texas, Murrieta, California, or Nogales, Arizona, in your own backyard. Unsurprisingly, a clear majority of respondents in recent New York Times/CBS News and Real Clear Politics polls disapprove of the president’s handling of Iraq and foreign affairs generally. It’s not difficult to imagine even worse poll results for his handling of the immigration disaster unfolding along the country’s southern border.
An America incapable of rising to meet the challenges of globalization at home and abroad produces only one result: a more dangerous, dysfunctional world. There is no back-up to America, no plan B, no other indispensable nation. Turkey will not root out radical Islamic terrorism in the Middle East. Mexico will not secure America’s borders. Americans know this, and they are increasingly willing to take action where Washington will not.
After outraged citizens of Murrieta, California turned away buses of illegal immigrants headed for a federal immigration processing facility there, Murrieta’s mayor Alan Long stated, “Murrieta expects our government to enforce our laws, including the deportation of illegal immigrants caught crossing our borders, not disperse them into our local communities.” Americans might not vote to send troops to Ukraine or Iraq, but they know when fecklessness abroad begins to take root at home. The time is coming when Americans will no longer put up with their government’s refusal or unwillingness to protect them and America’s sovereignty by securing our borders. Perhaps, God willing, that time is already here.