North America beyond NAFTA? Sovereignty, Identity, and Security in Canada-U.S. Relations. (1)
Golob, Stephanie R., Canadian-American Public Policy
In basic geometry, we learn that the perimeter is the sum of the length of the sides enclosing a geometric space. It is about as linear a concept as one could imagine, a mere matter of locating a space, measuring the length of the straight lines that define its outline, and adding it all up. In the natural world things get a bit more complex, with land masses segmented and defined by rivers and mountain ranges that do not lend themselves to the linear calculus of geometry. Still more complex, of course, are political boundaries, which are the legally and militarily enforced lines in the sand that set off a centrally-governed, territorially-contiguous political community (what we political scientists call a 'state') from its neighbors.
Once we recognize the invented nature of these political boundaries, even in those states which claim transcendent historical attachment between people and territory, we see that the perimeters, or the borders, of the state are designed not only to keep external enemies out, but to define who and what is worth defending within those barriers, and why that particular state has the legitimate right to do so. Rather than adding up the length of the sides of a geometric space to determine its value, the border-as-perimeter of a state is measured in less concrete terms that add up to state legitimation, such as sovereignty (autonomy from outside meddlers), security (from invasion) and identity (within the community and in contrast with outsiders). To paraphrase R.B.J. Walker's seminal work in this area, the state justifies its primary role in the international system and its monopoly over the use of force at home by mediating between the 'inside' and the 'outside' (2), and that mediation occurs -- literally and s ymbolically -- at the border.
This view of the international system of states as one of fortified units geared both internationally and domestically for continuous defense -- individually and in strategic alliances -- has been challenged in the immediate post-Cold War years by those proclaiming the rise of a community of 'liberal democratic states' that were no longer arming against one another, but rather opening their borders for economic (and, in