If this kind of logic seemed compelling to Frost, it must have seemed compelling to the multiplicity of contemporary nation-states that chose to build security fences or walls on all or parts of their borders. As with Frost, so with them, intrusion matters. Moreover, the frequency and intensity of the intrusion experienced must, as well, have dictated the urgency of the construction. After all, whatever the form of the intrusion – wandering cows, international terrorism, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration – the consequences can be damaging.
Many states today face the same kinds of opportunity-cost decision-making associated with wall and fence building. The technologies associated with providing national security may have changed over the many years, but the decisions taken by modern states to erect barriers – walls, fences, earthen mounds, barbed-wire carpets, moats, etc. – to wall out, as Robert Frost put it, are based on much the same opportunity-cost reasoning.
Nevertheless, terrorist-targeted states are obliged and expected to protect their populations as thoroughly and efficiently as resources allow. And among the counter-terrorism policy options available – total war, land mines, occupation, targeted assassinations, economic sanctions, counter insurgency, and security fences – the security fence option appears to some states and in some circumstances the least harmful and most cost effective counter-terrorism strategy
So the question begs: is there an appropriate combination of national security and border openness associated with any intensity level of terrorist activity? And a companion question might be asked: is there any situation where the matter of choice afforded the state on the issue of border openness/national security dissolves into no choice? That is to say, is there a degree of national security below which a state simply cannot accept?
That issue of challenged sovereignty is anything but marginal.11 Nick Megoran estimates that approximately 25% of the world's land borders are disputed and over 70% of international conflicts are directly linked to these unresolved border issues.12 And since most of the internationally recognized boundaries are in Europe and North America and they make up no more than 5% of the total length of landed boundaries, for the rest of the world, and especially for Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, unsettled border issues loom as latent destabilizing agents to states’ national integrity.13
And yet, by 1991, only 3% of the world's land borders had been equipped, according to Michel Foucher, with walls, electronic devices, or barbed wire fences.14 Given these border-related circumstances, the potential for massive construction of state security fences worldwide cannot be dismissed as insignificant.15 If terrorist activity becomes a more widespread phenomenon, the opportunity costs of not having a security fence in place may become, for the many states with troublesome borders, simply prohibitive.
Aside from its Kashmir problem, India has border issues with Bangladesh and Myanmar. Its border with Bangladesh is perhaps the most complex anywhere in the world, cutting across rivers, ponds, forests, agricultural fields, villages, and even houses.28 Its porous nature has allowed terrorists in Bangladesh to move freely in either direction across that border.29 India's concern is that Bangladesh is either incapable or unwilling to confront these terrorist groups with more than perfunctory force. India also regards the massive illegal Muslim immigration from Bangladesh – estimates are as high as 20 million – as a national security concern, insisting that such immigration threatens to alter the demographic balance in its northeastern and southwestern border districts, creating thereby a potential challenge to its national integrity. India's response was a 2500-mile security fence. While there are disputed areas along its path, Bangladesh's principle concern is that the fence – launched in 2000 and still under construction – violates the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement, which disallows any defensive structure within 150 yards of the demarcation line.
What seemed reasonable for Israel, India, and Saudi Arabia seems reasonable for other states that also confront issues of encroaching populations, drug-trafficking, and terrorism. The paths taken by some of the security fences built by these states likewise intrude upon disputed space.
And while Morocco opposes those Spanish security fences, it constructed its own 1675-mile security fence in Western Sahara. At stake for Morocco is its claim to Western Sahara, challenged by the Polisario Front, the politico-military wing of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Morocco's fence separates the 75% of Western Sahara held by Morocco from the 25% controlled by the SADR.43
The USA also faces illegal immigration, cross-border narcotics and arms traffic and looks to a set of security fences along its border with Mexico to address what it perceives as a national security threat. Although 640 miles of fence have been completed – 108 miles of it along the 262-mile Arizona–Mexican border – the fence idea still remains a highly controversial issue in the USA.50
The key variable in this border openness/national security model is the intensity of the terrorist activity function. The measure of intensity is influenced by the number of civilian casualties inflicted on a targeted population over a specific period of time, the frequency such terrorist attacks occur, the terrorist technologies employed, and the specific targets selected. The targeted state's response to changes in intensity is reflected in changes in its border openness. Given a specific degree of national security the state is willing to assume, the state accepts a corresponding degree of border openness. The model shows that when the intensity function shifts to a position where no degrees of border openness is consistent with even minimally acceptable degrees of national security, the state is obliged to seal its borders completely. This border sealing takes the form of a security wall or fence.
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