Up Against The Wall
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall
It is not the strongest
of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change
When you believe in things
that you don't understand
Then you suffer
Superstition ain't the way
We approached this election as a people assaulted and insulted, both from within and without. The wall with Mexico was a campaign promise to give some succor to these bruised people.
Democratic institutions generally do not build walls, but rather, bridges. That said, border protection is a legitimate concern for any nation, and building a wall with Mexico became a campaign promise. And like all campaign promises, it provided a simplistic and easily-imaged solution.
Every president enters with some good ideas, but also some not so good. The wall may fall into the latter category. Not because a nation does need good border defense, but because there are better alternatives. Less iconic, but more effective.
This proposed wall is both a symbolic and actual gesture against the seemingly most porous point of entry, giving a sense of power to a people who have felt vulnerable and transgressed upon since the terror events of 9-11-01 (and probably before that).
But true defense in the 21st century is based upon mobility, and not static lines.
According to a Center for Migration Studies (CMS) 2017 report, illegal Visa overstays from all visitors to the United States (including those from Mexico) outnumber the "entries without inspection" (EWI) from across the Mexican border.
It is estimated that two-thirds of those who arrived in 2014 did not illegally cross a border, though the Department of Homeland Security does not release actual numbers.
A 2017 DHS report estimated 629,000 visitors to the United States — just over 1 percent of all travelers — remained in the country at the end of 2016 after overstaying their visas as students, workers or tourists. However, Mexico is still the leading country for both overstays and EWIs, with about one-third of undocumented arrivals from Mexico in 2014 being overstays.
The concept of a static line defense has become superannuated by the wars of the 20th century. No commander will do a static defense. Bataan taught that lesson.
Another challenge for a Democratic nation would be the fact previously mentioned at RAW, namely, that an obstacle is useless unless covered by fire. Are we willing to go all Berlin Wall on Mexicans?
Probably not, since even the most hardcore wall advocate must see that Mexicans are the ones building the United States these days. Heck, legals would probably be the ones building the wall.
In contrast, a mobile defense would be more realistic, for several reasons.
A mobile border defense would present a better cost/benefit ratio than would a fixed wall. The European precedents include Germany's Grenzpolizei (Bundesgrenzschutz) and France's Central Directorate of Border Police (DCPAF).
Why not get innovative with border protection and get the citizens on board with the project? To that end, why not have a draft for service in the Border Patrol?
In the tradition of VISTA or the badly-gutted Clinton initiative, Americorps, service in the border patrol could become part of a mandatory post-secondary service modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
This envisions Border Patrol service as a sort of quasi-military function (moreso than currently). A person need not enter the Army proper, but could spend one's entire career border patrolling. (However, the Patrol would have to maintain its quasi-military shroud, as an outright militarization of the patrol would be seen as an act of war by Mexico.)
Since defensive measures are always in-depth, what guarantees that the Mexican government will provide a depth of operations on their side to assist this proposed mobile defense? The politics would have to be groomed immaculately.
The United States would need the complicity of the Mexican government to identify the shifting areas of main threat, as the success of mobile defenses is based on that knowledge.
"Strong point defenses" could be emplaced around major U.S. border cities, with "zones of security", and discrete mobile forces could be garrisoned there to neutralize local penetrations and to provide local area security. This denies illegal immigrants their local active and passive support (without which they cannot thrive).
Traditionally, this border function was the purview of the Texas Rangers. In the military, this is "rear area protection" -- defending the border in depth.
The Wall is a simplistic image of unassailibility, but walls are made to be breached.
A multipolar, focalized and local mobile defense is the more 21st century answer to achieving border security.