In a Nov. 7 Middle East Forum essay, Michel Gurfinkiel states the obvious: Border walls work. Israel operates 342 miles of barriers to protect itself from the savage conflicts that engulf its Muslim neighbors. And China maintains a 1,000 mile fence along its North Korean border to keep millions of starving and terrorized Koreans from pouring into Manchuria.
Yet despite the loss of American life to illegal aliens and violence along the Mexican Border, nearly a year into the Trump presidency, there is still no effective and consistent barrier along the 1,989 miles of America’s border with Mexico. Why?
A big reason is that too many of President Trump’s appointees in the White House, the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense are men and women who rose through the ranks during the three last administrations that focused instead on interventions into Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and, more recently, sub-Saharan Africa. None of them was ever inclined to protect the United States from the nexus of criminality and terrorism in Mexico.
Since 2001, the U.S. government has invested far more resources to protect Afghan and Iraqi citizens from their own ethno-religious, tribal, and criminal conflicts than it has invested in securing its own borders. And, though few in the administration will admit it, no amount of courageous work by the Border Patrol will suffice to secure our southern border.
A different approach is always required; one that designates the Department of Defense (DoD) as the lead agency for security and surveillance of the border. This would more properly assign to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the task of apprehending and deporting aliens.
How would this work? The land border with Mexico (excepting selected mountainous areas) might be secured by a double concrete-and-steel barrier that is under persistent surveillance 24 hours, 7 days a week and overwatched by armed rapid response teams.
Our maritime frontiers might be secured with persistent surveillance backed by armed rapid response teams.
The obvious choice to man the border and supervise construction is the United States’ regular Army. From roughly 1846 to 1948, America’s border with Mexico was guarded by the regular Army of the United States. When 19 Americans were killed and Columbus, New Mexico was burned by Mexican insurgents under Pancho Villa in March 1916, 100,000 U.S. Army National Guardsmen were mobilized to relieve the regular Army and secure the border with Mexico.
Today’s regular Army is filled with soldiers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains that have secured Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and Iraq’s border with its Syrian and Iranian neighbors. Like their predecessors that secured the Cold War inter-German and Czechoslovak Borders, these Army veterans have both the technical expertise and the personal experience with difficult rules of engagement to rapidly secure the border with Mexico.
Naturally, the logic of this approach would collide with the contemporary use of Army forces to secure other peoples’ borders from the demilitarized zone on the Korean peninsula to Iraq and Syria.
Washington ignores the truth that a large U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army presence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East between 2001 and 20017 could not prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking power in Egypt, Iran from dominating Iraq, Syria from imploding, or anarchy from breaking out in Libya and Yemen. It didn’t work in the Middle East. But it would work in America.
Without a wall, Washington cannot halt the flow of violence and criminality into the United States from Mexico and Central America. The extreme character of criminal violence and corruption in all areas of Mexican society — much of it driven by a “War on Drugs” that ignores the role of consumer demand in the U.S — makes the wall imperative. A truly secure border will reduce cartel access to the American consumer and benefit Mexico.
A border wall would also address Mexico’s internal struggle with illegal trans-migration. Inside Mexico, Latinos (along with some Muslims from the Near East and North Africa) move routinely through Mexico to its porous border with the United States. Sealing off America’s southern border would eliminate the incentive of many aspiring illegal migrants in South and Central America to move north through Mexico.
In sum, as Michel Gurfinkiel notes, “individual freedom and achievement are the Western world’s most cherished values.” But these values will not survive if mass immigration from countries where the rule of law is non-existent destroys them.
• Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel and decorated combat veteran, is the author of “Margin of Victory” (Naval Institute Press, 2016).
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