Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Wall

Let's talk about China's Great Wall for a change.

What began as defensive structures mostly made of earth, stone and wood, eventually expanded into the longest man-made construction ever erected. Stretching over 4000 miles, it effectively tried to separate China from the rest of the world on it's weakest side: the north. I guess, when Qin Shi Huang woke up one morning in 220 BC with the idea that he had to connect those several shattered pieces of earthen fortification mounds into one big wall to keep possible invaders out of his newly unified country, he had no clue how that would be resounding through the ages. From Hadrian's Wall to the Berlin Wall, governments, emperors, cities have been building walls throughout history as a way of defense ... and they still do.

The latest addition is now likely to be contributed by ... Iran.

Quetta, March 1: Iran has started building a concrete wall along its border with Pakistan, from Taftan to Mand, to stop illegal border crossings.

According to reports received here, the wall will be built from near the border town of Taftan, about 700km west of Quetta.

"The Iranian authorities started work on the wall about a month ago," according to Barkat Ali Khan, a Pakistani border town administration official.

"The concrete wall will be 10 feet high and 3 feet wide," he said, adding that hundreds of workers could be seen building the wall.

He said that the Iranian authorities appeared to be in a hurry to complete the project.

"I think they want to seal the border with Pakistan to stop illegal crossings from both sides and check drug smuggling," Mr Barkat said, adding that the wall would be up to the Mand area in the Turbat district of Balochistan.

Pakistan and Iran already fenced their border at different points a long time ago.

Lest we forget, let us also remind some of the other, most notable, fine examples of new walls competing for a star in "Qin's Hall of Fame":

From the BBC' website:

US President George W Bush has signed into law a plan for 700 miles (1,125km) of new fencing along the US-Mexico border, to curb illegal immigration.

Mr Bush said the US had not been in control of the border for decades.

Illegal immigration is expected to be a major question in next month's US mid-term elections.

Mexican officials have opposed the fence, with outgoing President Vicente Fox calling it "shameful" and likening it to the Berlin Wall.

About 10 million Mexicans are thought to live in the US, some four million of them illegally.

An estimated 1.2 million illegal immigrants were arrested last year trying to cross into the US via the border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

It gets very interesting when you look at some of the numbers as are provided here:

But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has said a wall running the length of a border would cost too much. A 2,000 mile state-of-the-art border fence has been estimated to cost between four and eight billion dollars. Costs for a wall that would run the entire length of the border might be as low as $851 million for a standard 10-foot prison chain link fence topped by razor wire. For another $362 million, the fence could be electrified. A larger 12-foot tall, two-foot-thick concrete wall painted on both sides would run about $2 billion. Initially it was estimated that the San Diego fence would cost $14 million -- about $1 million a mile. The first 11 miles of the fence eventually cost $42 million -- $3.8 million per mile, and the last 3.5 miles may cost even more since they cover more difficult terrain. An additional $35 million to complete the final 3.5 miles was approved in 2005 by the Department of Homeland Security -- $10 million per mile.

That reminds me of one of the latest articles of one of my favorite columnists, Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, on the situation in Iraq where he made the following assertion:

A major global consulting firm has reviewed Iraq's state-owned enterprises and estimated that it would cost $100 million to restart all of them and employ more than 150,000 Iraqis—$100 million. That's as much money as the American military will spend in Iraq in the next 12 hours.

Talking about getting the priorities right !

Now here's another formidable contender (from Wikipedia):

The Israeli West Bank barrier is a physical barrier being constructed by Israel consisting of a network of fences with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by an on average 60 meters wide exclusion area (90%) and up to 8 meters high concrete walls (10%).[1] It is located mainly within the West Bank, partly along the 1949 Armistice line, or "Green Line" between the West Bank and Israel. As of April 2006 the length of the barrier as approved by the Israeli government is 703 kilometers (436 miles) long. Approximately 58.4% has been constructed, 8.96% is under construction, and construction has not yet begun on 33% of the barrier.[2]

In November 1989, the world was cheering them on, as the Berlin Wall came down and the people from the east crossed the separation line for the first time as human beings instead of as machine-gun targets. The fall was heralded as the end of the Cold War and the demise of Communism.

After that, it went quiet for a couple of years, but it seems construction fever on walls is now back with a vengeance. These constructions are prone to frustrate and humiliate those on the "wrong side" of them and we all know how a caged in creature may react. As for those on the "right side", they may one day wake up, realizing that the idea that they are better protected by the mere presence of such a wall, is just such an urban legend as the fact that China's Great Wall can be seen from the moon. In the end, China's wall didn't keep out the invaders: the Manchu's, the Mongols before them, ruled over China for centuries, not so much because the brickwork was not resistant to the attacks, but because at a certain moment someone from within opened the gate and took the lid off Pandora's box.


Avi said...

makes me wanna watch pink floyd ;-)

Baylee said...

Good post.