By Brent L. Sterling
A number of nations, conspicuously Israel and the United States, have been increasingly attracted to the use of strategic barriers to promote national defense. In Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?, defense analyst Brent Sterling examines the historical use of strategic defenses such as walls or fortifications to evaluate their effectiveness and consider their implications for modern security.
Sterling studies six famous defenses spanning 2,500 years, representing both democratic and authoritarian regimes: the Long Walls of Athens, Hadrian's Wall in Roman Britain, the Ming Great Wall of China, Louis XIV's Pré Carré, France's Maginot Line, and Israel's Bar Lev Line. Although many of these barriers were effective in the short term, they also affected the states that created them in terms of cost, strategic outlook, military readiness, and relations with neighbors. Sterling assesses how modern barriers against ground and air threats could influence threat perceptions, alter the military balance, and influence the builder's subsequent policy choices.
Advocates and critics of strategic defenses often bolster their arguments by selectively distorting history. Sterling emphasizes the need for an impartial examination of what past experience can teach us. His study yields nuanced lessons about strategic barriers and international security and yields findings that are relevant for security scholars and compelling to general readers.