Europe Rediscovers Borders

Screenshot 2015-09-15 06.56.27Good fences make good neighbors, after all.

We have had some fine foreign-affairs thinkers in our time: Henry Kissinger, Richard Pipes, Daniel Pipes, Norman Podhoretz. But as a feckless European leadership tries to figure out what to do about a flood of Middle Eastern refugees (at least some of whom probably are not refugees but ISIS infiltrators), take a minute to appreciate that underrated American foreign-policy guru, Robert Frost:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down. I could say “Elves” to him, But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather He said it for himself. I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

One has to admire the Burkean conservatism at work there: Confronted with the poet’s idealism, the flinty atavistic old farmer, ever mindful of the proverbs of his fathers, sets about rebuilding the damaged stone fence because it is there. Frost, it is worth noting, wrote “Mending Wall” some years before G. K. Chesterton (both men were born in 1874) published his famous advice to never knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place.

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