We could use a security wall like Israel's

July 14, 2005

Tuesday's suicide bombing in Israel should not obscure a fundamental fact: Walls work.

Walls are not perfect, but if they are robust enough, they mostly succeed in keeping dangerous people out of the homeland. The U.S. should get the hint and start building its own walls, before it's too late.

The bombing in Netanya that killed four Israelis was only the third lethal suicide bombing this year. By contrast, in 2002 there were more than 50 such atrocities. Israeli officials credit much of this reduction to the ongoing construction of a high security wall, which may someday run along the entire Israeli-Palestinian border.

Facing 2 million hostile Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel's government had little choice. Eventually, the wall is expected to completely separate Israel from the West Bank.

Of course, this solution is far from perfect. The wall could leave a million or more Palestinian Arabs on the "inside," as well as many thousands of Israeli settlers on the "outside."

But from an Israeli security point of view, it is surely the best available solution. And although the Palestinians hate the wall, one could argue that it will save some of their lives too, because every time there's a suicide bombing the Israelis inevitably retaliate, using troops, tanks and airpower.

So in this case, good fences make good neighbors - or at least better neighbors. The Israelis and Palestinians are unlikely to be friends any time soon, but if as many as possible are separated by a security barrier, the danger to both sides will diminish.

One might ask: What are the implications of the "wall solution" to Great Britain, in the wake of the London attacks? The latest news suggests that the killers were British citizens of Pakistani descent who were angered, one presumes, over British policy toward the Muslim world. If so, one might sadly conclude that the British are still paying a price for their colonial adventures of centuries ago.

Yes, Britain gave Pakistan its independence in 1947, but one residue of the imperial relationship is the relative ease with which ex-colonials have been able to enter the United Kingdom. And that should provide a cautionary lesson to Americans: If the United States ever fills up with Iraqis in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom, we might anticipate future trouble on the home front if we continue to be involved militarily in the Middle East.

For Britons, and perhaps for Europeans overall, the enemy is already inside the gate. Their close proximity to the Muslim world, combined with porous borders and a mostly multicultural ideology, has left the entire continent unwalled, vulnerable to terror.

So now to America. Mercifully, we don't have the security problems of either the Israelis or the Europeans - yet. Which is to say, the time to act is now. We need a defensible perimeter, perhaps a physical wall, to protect our northern as well as southern borders.

U.S. authorities should be able to identify everyone coming into this country. Terrorists may already be in our midst, but we can at least cut off the pipeline of new ones. The wall is working for the Israelis, albeit after hundreds of fatalities that might have been prevented if it had been built earlier. As for America, a wall could prevent an unfathomable number of fatalities here on our own soil.

Walls are not the only solution to America's looming homeland security crisis. We should also develop some system for figuring who's in this country - and who shouldn't be in this country. The most obvious solution is a national ID card, combined with a serious rethink of immigration-law policy and enforcement.

And oh yes, mandatory English-language "patriotic assimilation." Anyone who lives here as a citizen - and there shouldn't be many noncitizens living here permanently - ought to know this country and love this country.

These are some of the steps we must take for our protection, to ensure our national survival.


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