In his recently published Grand Strategies, Charles Hill reflects on the reason that the Republic of Venice, a vast commercial, naval and diplomatic power stretching across the eastern Mediterranean, ultimately failed to become a modern state, meeting an ignominious end in 1796. Its failure, Hill explains, was owing to “its inability to define and defend the first principle of sovereign statehood: clear borders.” By extrapolation, it is equally evident that a sovereign state, no matter how long it has been established, will begin to falter and break down when it is no longer willing to clearly demarcate and vigorously defend the boundaries that give it its character. A state requires plenary consolidation if it is to preserve its unity and coherence as a functioning polity—a lesson now being relearned by several European countries inundated with North African refugee claimants in the wake of the “Arab Spring.”
As for President Obama, his problem—one of many—is that he has no clear sense of borders and what borders imply for the continued existence of the nation state—unless, of course, it is precisely the concept and reality of the nation state he wishes to undermine. “Either Obama has no idea what he’s doing,” writes PJM Tatler editor Bryan Preston, “or he does know what he’s doing. I’m not sure which possibility is the more disturbing.” The jury is still out on the nature of the president’s ulterior purposes, but the effect of his policies, whether intended or not, cannot be evaded.
In his May 19 speech on the Middle East, Obama called for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 (actually, pre-1967) borders, that is, the 1949 cease fire or Armistice Lines recognized by the principal framers of UN Resolution 242 in the aftermath of the Six Day War as impermanent and subject to negotiation. Were these temporary lines—the “Auschwitz Borders” in then foreign minister Abba Eban’s memorable phrase—to become internationally recognized borders, Israel would immediately find itself once again in an untenable position. In the context of modern warfare, it would become frankly indefensible. Lord Caradon himself, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations and one of the chief architects of Resolution 242, stated in the Beirut Daily Star for June 12, 1974, that “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” Similarly, Caradon’s colleague, Undersecretary of State Eugene V. Rostow, writing in the American Journal of International Law, explains in his discussion of 242 that Israel was “certified by the Security Council” to remain in the captured territories and “would not be required to withdraw without a prior agreement of peace.” Obama appears wholly oblivious to original documentary intent.
Moreover, as far back as 1967 and Resolution 242, it was already obvious to the American Joint Chiefs of Staff (who prepared the Pentagon Map of the region), UN Ambassador Arthur Goldberg and Rostow himself that the “minimum territory needed by Israel for defensive purposes,” as specified by the Map, included the Golan Heights and the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria—considerations that the present road map does not embrace and the president does not accept.
Indeed, as Robert Spencer points out, Obama has gone even further than attempting to turn Israel into a rump state. In positing a “contiguous” Palestine, he envisions cutting Israel in half to allow for the geographical harmonization of Gaza and the West Bank, thus depriving Israel not only of defensible borders but of anything that resembles a viable border in the first place. “Not only will [the Palestinians] not be pacified,” Spencer writes, “they will be emboldened…to move in for the kill.”
In fact, Obama has not simply demanded that Israel revert to the “1967” borders or the so-called “Green Line” but that it permit itself to be vivisected along the lines of the 1937 Peel Commission Plan or the Woodhead Partition recommendation of 1938, transforming the country into a scattering of small, exposed territorial morsels entirely at the mercy of its enemies. (The United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 comprised only a modest improvement upon these cartographical abbreviations.) The very idea of a border would then become entirely meaningless and the later Mandate plan to dismember the country to the advantage of the Arabs will have been realized. There would then be two tinier Israels, neither of them with a very long lease on life. Despite a few mollifying remarks concerning the inadmissibility of Hamas at the peace table, delivered during Obama’s meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 20, and the politically expedient softening of his stance in his May 22 speech to AIPAC, the presidential shearing is likely to persist.
However, Obama’s border confusion—or agenda—applies not only to the Jewish state but to his own country as well. It is now obvious that Obama has no credible intention of defending his own southern border from the ongoing violence of the Mexican drug cartels, the infiltration of Islamic terrorists across undefended terrain and the flood of illegal immigrants sluicing into the U.S. on a daily basis. The president has claimed that the border fence authorized by Congress is “now substantially complete,” but according to reports, the “varying levels of operational control,” whatever that means, cover a mere 44% of a 2000 mile border and just 15% may be classified as fully controlled. The rate of entry for these illegals is estimated at 700,000 per year, swelling the eight to twelve million (as per the Department of Homeland Security) and perhaps considerably more already in place, sufficient to change the demographic profile of the country.
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