Most people in Westeros seem to believe that building the Wall in the north of the continent was a good idea. The Wall kept the Whitewalkers outside major population areas and allowed a relatively weak force – the Night Watch – to protect the realm, the argument goes.
However, the Wall worked both ways: while it did offer some protection to the living, it also allowed the Night King to raise an army in secret, gather his resources for decades – if not more – and hide his true capabilities. Without the Wall, the Night King would have been confronted much sooner – before he had a huge army and an ice dragon to help him out. Without the Wall, Whitewalkers could have wandered around the continent posing a danger – but also making it clear to everyone that they exist. Once the wall was erected, it became easy to downplay the threat they presented. Westeros now confronts a huge invading army that should never have been allowed to form in the first place.
The Wall acted as a barrier to both trade and ideas. The wildlings, who were forced to live north of the Wall, developed mature political institutions, laws and ideas – like a form of democracy and belief in personal freedom. Without access to the resources of the Realm, however, they were forced to engage in constant warfare; their political ideas and their experience in combatting Whitewalkers could not penetrate the Seven Kingdoms. The Wall created hostility between peoples who could have been natural allies.
The Wall created the illusion of safety – but as nobody knew how it was built this safety has always been relative. Still, having the Wall as protection allowed rulers in Westeros to starve the Night Watch of resources and concentrate on fighting one another – rather than the real enemy.
In the end, all walls break down. Once the Night King is defeated, the next rulers of Westeros should concentrate on trying to integrate and modernise, rather than cordon off the northern part of their continent.
Author: Dr. Csaba Tóth, Director of Strategy at Republikon Institute, a liberal Think Tank based in Budapest. He is also author of two books on Science Fiction and Politics.