The Walls of Mighty Empires, a Brief History

It was with a combination of amusement and amazement that I watched the ‘press event’ held in the White House this morning.  The Trumpster insisted that he was willing to shut down the Federal government if congressional leaders failed to appropriate funds to build what he thinks will be an impenetrable barrier wall on our southern border. Looking beyond the obvious political unreality, I would like to share with you some information illuminating the absurdity of the president’s claims for the usefulness of building this monstrosity.

Quoting from the book Invisible Armies by Max Boot:  “In 2059 BC, the empire of Ur in southern Iraq erected a "Wall Facing the Highland" to keep nomads our of central Mesopotamia.  This construction project wound up running over time and over budget because its builders were constantly harassed by Amonite nomads ("tent dwellers . . .[who] from ancient times have known no cities"), and in the end it could not provide lasting security any more than could the Great Wall of China or the Morice Line erected by the French in Algeria in the 1950s.  In 2005 BC the Elamites, "the enemy from the highlands", sacked Ur, turning the great city into a ruined mound. They left "corpses floating in the Euphrates"and reduced the survivors to refugees who, according to the Mesopotamian tablets, were "like stampeding goats, chased by dogs."”

I would only add to that account that the Great Wall of China is the only man made structure on Earth large enough to be visible from space. It was built to protect the Han people of China from Mongolian nomads, which it was never able to do.  Around 1600 the Manchus went from raiding across the Great Wall to the outright conquest of the Chinese homeland, bringing an end to the Ming Dynasty, that had spent so much time and treasure to build the wall and reinforce it.  And let’s not even contemplate the uselessness of the Maginot Line in France, and the extensive and expensive Siegfried Line in Nazi Germany. They are best understood as manifestations of useless obsessions. Of course, that would require some reading of history, an activity reportedly eschewed by our Commander in Chief.

Michael Sarratt

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