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.
Plainly, it is not only Israel that has been put in jeopardy by Obama’s destructive meddling, but the U.S. too is suffering a serious erosion of its sovereignty under the seemingly inexplicable policies of an apparently inscrutable president. As Preston noted, it is difficult to say what motivates Obama. Is he simply out of his depth, a foolish and unprepared chief executive who has absolutely no idea of statecraft and no understanding of the geopolitical forces constantly at work in the international arena? Is he a driven but ignorant idealist who scarcely touches the real world even at a tangent?
Or is he, on the contrary, fully aware of what he is doing? Does he harbor a covert and possibly ominous purpose, predicated on the subversion of the nation state itself? The two most robust Western democracies, founded on strong constitutional principles and justifiably proud of their national heritage, are the United States and Israel. These are the two countries that have been in the forefront in the war against Islamic supremacism. These are the two Western countries that have insisted on preserving their historical identity and the only ones that have maintained the approximate population replacement ratio of 2.1 children per family. And these are precisely the two countries whose firm and necessarily unseverable perimeters Obama is aiming to weaken. After all, in making for a nation’s cohesion and even for its survival, a frontier is not an extremity. The hinterland is part of the citadel. In dismantling the periphery, one hollows out the center. It’s really quite simple. Cede the Golan to Syria and yield, de facto, the southern portions of Arizona, Texas and California to Mexico and the grand design of national disintegration will be largely achieved.
The Westphalian consensus that produced the concept of the nation state appears repugnant to Obama, who acts as if he were bent on creating a post-Westphalian structure of supra-national loyalties that has a lot in common with the Islamic notion of a world-supervening Caliphate and the Marxist conviction of the withering away of the state. It is a Utopian project that is no less sinister for all its presumed visionary impetus. “We have a chance,” he intones in his initial speech, “to pursue the world as it should be”—a fantasy, as Raymond Ibrahim observes, “entirely unprecedented in human history,” and one that has done incalculable harm to human welfare.
Has the man gone to too many movies? Does Obama see himself as the head or the principal mover of a Star Trek-type Federation in which individual nations become a thing of the primordial past? Has he bought into that adolescent fiction? Or has he succumbed to the indoctrination of his mentors, leftist ideologues like Frank Marshall Davis and Saul Alinsky? Does he view the Republic of Venice as the future of both the United States and Israel? What Hill says of Rousseau may also be true of Obama, espousing “the critical aim of delegitimizing the state, the international [i.e., the Westphalian] system, and the civilization they serve.” Or, in the last analysis, is he incapable of distinguishing the border that divides the imaginary from the real, the dream from the fact, theory from practice and ego from world?
Who can say? But one thing is certain. The United States and Israel are the world’s two most muscular democratic and national entities. The former is being invaded from the south and the latter is being parceled out to its enemies, a symmetrical process manifestly abetted by the current occupant of the White House. It is no exaggeration to regard America and Israel as the bulwarks of Western civilization now under attack on many different fronts. And for reasons that remain at least partly ambiguous, the president of the United States is complicit.
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