Column: Risk Management

Walls of Delusion

By: | October 1, 2015 • 3 min read

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

“Game of Thrones” is the most-watched series in HBO history and a worldwide phenomenon. It is a story about seven noble houses who fight a civil war over who should be king, all while the kingdom is threatened by a paranormal danger brewing in the North. To defend against this rising threat, a colossal wall over 700 feet tall that stretches 300 miles was constructed and is defended by the honorable Sworn Brothers of the Night’s Watch.

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Yes — I watch Game of Thrones. The storylines are compelling, it is brilliantly produced and I enjoy escaping to a world of fantasy.

Sadly, building a colossal wall to defend against rising threats isn’t just fantasy anymore. I thought I was dreaming when I read that Wisconsin governor and Republican candidate for president, Scott Walker, said that building a border wall stretching 5,000 miles between the U.S. and Canada is a legitimate idea and worth exploring. New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown argued a while ago that borders need to be fortified to prevent people infected with Ebola from reaching the United States.

Has “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin inspired the two Scotts and other Republican candidates? What is going on? Did I miss the punchline of this joke? Is Canada the rising threat of “wildlings” from the North?

The notion of a Canadian-U.S. border got a lot of laughs on social media but what is more concerning is why do we seem to be regressing to medieval risk management techniques? What is next — a moat that surrounds the wall? Drawbridges? Princesses in distress to be saved by a knight in shining armor named Donald?

I seriously hope that we collectively think fortressing the United States of America is not the best risk management solution in our modern day.

Why do we seem to be regressing to medieval risk management techniques? What is next — a moat that surrounds the wall? Drawbridges? Princesses in distress to be saved by a knight in shining armor named Donald?

It has been 26 years since the Berlin Wall fell, the iconic barrier that enclosed West Berlin from 1961 to 1989. We spent years breaking down that barrier.

Consider the Peace Walls in Belfast, Northern Ireland, or the barriers separating Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

Greece, Spain and Morocco have spent hundreds of millions of euros fortifying their borders.

The Moroccan Wall of Western Sahara is a 1,680-mile-long structure.

The walls surrounding the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are double fences, equipped with anti-climbing mesh.

Hungary is now racing to finish a 110-mile razor-wire fence to strengthen its border with Serbia against the flow of refugees from Syria.

These countries attempt to fortify their borderlines, erect barriers, build the walls higher and higher to lower the risk of “invaders” but do walls even work?

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Experts say, not really. Ruben Andersson, author of “Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine Migration and the Business of Bordering Europe,” said that, “Where there’s a wall, there’s a way.”

The “numbers are not going down. People will find a way,” even risking their lives doing so, he said.

Tens of thousands of deaths have been reported. Migrants reportedly storm walls en masse to overwhelm border guards, allowing several thousand migrants from Africa and Arab countries to get over the walls every year.

Clearly building walls is not a novel idea. But the human condition is also not new. I truly believe that if someone builds a 20-foot wall, someone else will build a 21-foot ladder.

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