Vigliotti: Line in the sand — why borders matter 

Joe Vigliotti
Joe Vigliotti(Courtesy photo)

It seems strange that certain liberals who are concerned with Russian interference in American elections should be unconcerned with illegal aliens influencing American elections by voting in them.

The Mueller probe, the left says, is looking into alleged Russian collusion in the effort to protect the integrity of American elections and uphold American justice. Meanwhile, over the past few years, a number of left-leaning cities — including Maryland’s own College Park and, most recently, San Francisco — have given non-citizens the right to vote in various local American elections.


President Donald Trump has argued that this further underscores the need for voter identification, and he has renewed calls for increased border security. The simple truth is that borders do matter, especially if we are to actually protect America’s sovereign integrity.

Borders are the boundaries of nations, inside which unique civilizations exist freely and independently of one another. They symbiotically give rise to and are risen by society, culture, law, traditions — those very things which shape and identify a people. Borders exist even within nations, ranging from local jurisdictions to counties to states (and their equivalents).


It can be argued that the home is also a kind of border, and that a person is, himself or herself, the most local kind of border there is, as each human individual is given natural rights through God — rights that no one else may violate. A nation of laws which guards the rights of citizens is predicated in part upon borders of various kinds.

As we Americans have come to understand through our historical experience, from the citizen to the country, a series of borders exists primarily aimed with protecting rights and sovereignty.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was among those critical of President Trump's comments in Helsinki, and this has reignited a debate between some Republicans as to whether or not the governor should be supported (“Never Hogan”). But the debate misses many important points.

Clearly, those borders are not only defined by geophysical landmarks, walls, and map lines. Sometimes they are policies, such as the Monroe Doctrine, which was enacted to forbid foreign interference in the American sphere. Today, American borders extend into the digital realm and must there be protected and maintained as well.

This week, Facebook announced that it was shutting down some 32 political pages run by foreign operatives intent on influencing November’s midterms in favor of the American Left. This is an ironic development as many liberals have routinely argued that Russia favored Republicans.

But as I have argued in my column before, it does not matter who Russia is backing because Russia should not be involved at all. Russia is only helping itself by seeking to exploit American discord. If America is weak and internally fraught, it becomes externally unconfident and unsure, and so America cannot be a challenge to Russia’s aggression.

Any border is dependent upon the willingness of citizens to maintain it in any number of forms, ranging from the appropriate laws and policies to armed forces to technological deterrence to border enforcement agencies and practices. We cannot allow even this latest interference to go unpunished. Make no mistake: This is a violation of American sovereignty and must even be considered a digital invasion. Our response will indicate to our foreign adversaries how we will deal with such incursions, and this is how they will approach us in the future.

Reputation matters. History bears this out repeatedly, but one example will suffice. By 168 BC, the Roman Republic had become a force to be reckoned with throughout the Mediterranean world. But knowing that no Roman legions were near, and knowing that Egypt was riven internally, King Antiochus IV of the Seleucid Empire decided it was time to settle old scores and conquer Egypt. Antiochus did not expect any kind of serious challenge because of these factors, and so invaded. Rome, however, considered Egypt within the borders of its own sphere of influence, and would not stand for this.

The Roman Senate dispatched former consul Gaius Popillius Laenas — a politician — as an envoy to deal with Antiochus. Laenas confronted Antiochus and his army alone, ordering them to withdraw or face war with Rome. Antiochus, drawing on the political condition of Egypt and knowledge that Roman troops still had not arrived, said he would consider it and retire to discuss it with his advisers.

But Laenas had the reputation and the borders of Rome to protect, even if singlehandedly. He then proceeded to draw a line in the sand around King Antiochus, and told the king that a decision would have to be made before leaving that circle. If no such decision was made, Antiochus would be at war with Rome. The Seleucid king knew that Rome was not to be taken lightly, that a short-term victory would pave the way for his ultimate defeat. Faced with Rome’s reputation and Laenas’s conditions, Antiochus did not want to risk open war. He and his army retreated.

Reputations are hard-won and painstakingly constructed, but easily lost. Rome had a choice and made the more difficult decision to protect its integrity. The United States now has the choice to make in allowing foreign actors to interfere in American elections, and allowing non-citizens to vote in them. How do we rely on a reputation for law and justice when we do not bring justice to violations of our own laws? How can we expect others to respect our own interests and sovereignty when we do not respect them ourselves? Diplomatic pressure, sanctions, and enforcing laws are critical, here.

Respect for borders speaks to the respect one has for the people living within them. Protecting those borders also speaks to the respect those people have for themselves. It is time to be swift and serious about our lines in the sand — or else, who are we?

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