Wall Will Protect U.S. And Mexico
President Bush is determined to stay the course in Iraq, but he is willing to change course on U.S. border security.

Sometimes flexibility is both rewarded and required.

The president has long been reluctant to address border security. That reluctance has been found in both parties. Republicans like the idea of cheap labor coming in. Democrats savor the prospect of more Democrats coming in. The bipartisan elite has been bewitched by the idea that America is an "open" nation where anyone can become a good American simply by coming here - legally or illegally.

The working and middle classes have been left out of this lofty view. Illegal immigration tears at the social contract, which is based on the idea that all Americans are legal participants in the civic life of the nation.

It is impossible, for example, to eliminate poverty in America if new poor people keep coming in from elsewhere.

Sept. 11 changed the naive view that all foreigners are automatically positive additions to the commonweal. But even after border control and homeland security became an obvious matter of life and death, Washington was little interested in safeguarding the frontier against unknown intruders.

It was left to activist groups, including the Minutemen in Arizona, to call attention to everyday acts of trespassing and property damage along the U.S.-Mexican border, as well as to the larger threat to American identity.

Eventually, Republicans in Congress, and Bush himself, have gotten the message, sort of. Earlier this week, the president was talking about a wall - part physical, part "virtual" - across the southern border.

But Bush still clings to a "guest worker" provision, which puts a huge hole in that new wall. Why? Perhaps "W" is trying to court Hispanic voters, perhaps he is appealing to business, perhaps he is simply stubborn.

The political current is running against him.

On Tuesday, reacting to Bush's proposal, Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado, the political spearhead of the grass-roots rebellion against open borders, likened the White House plan to "putting lipstick on a pig."

Bush's proposal would be "amnesty," a human spigot, Tancredo snapped.

Twisting the rhetorical knife, Tancredo accused his fellow Republican of being "Clintonesque" on immigration - that being the ultimate insult in the GOP lexicon.

Here's a prediction: Tancredo will win.

A wall will get built with none of Bush's holes. It will be part physical barrier, part electronic surveillance, part get-serious law enforcement.

And it will work, because while walls might not be politically correct, they are effective. Walls keep people and property secure, they keep nations secure.

Of course, walls work both ways, protecting folks on both sides.

The United States spent much of the last century crossing the border at will, as it actively interfered in Mexican politics.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to occupy parts of Mexico, as part of his larger goal of bringing democracy to the world.

Amid other invasions, too, of Haiti, Nicaragua and Panama the 28th president declared, "I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men."

What Uncle Sam got instead was a lesson in backlash across the region. Mexico, for example, nationalized American oil assets in 1938.

Today, America has abandoned its dreams of remaking Latin America by force.

The forthcoming wall symbolizes our new realization that Mexicans should keep to their side, and we to ours.

The border barrier is coming just in the nick of time; in recent years, Mexican politicians have openly proclaimed their goal of "reuniting" their country, through immigration, with the southwestern United States.

The larger point is that no nation can survive if its identity is indistinct. No politician, not even the famously proud and stubborn George W. Bush, can survive if he gets crosswise with nationalistic and patriotic common sense.