Remember the term Mutually Assured Destruction? M.A.D.? The United States and the Soviet Union had huge nuclear arsenals, and the means to deliver nukes anywhere, and mutual distrust. under MAD, each side has enough nuclear weaponry to destroy the other side and that either side, if attacked for any reason by the other, would retaliate with equal or greater force. The expected result is an immediate, irreversible escalation of hostilities resulting in both combatants’ mutual, total, and assured destruction. The doctrine requires that neither side construct shelters on a massive scale. If one side constructed a similar system of shelters, it would violate the MAD doctrine and destabilize the situation, because it would have less to fear from a second strike. The same principle is invoked against missile defense. The payoff of the MAD doctrine was and still is expected to be a tense but stable global peace.
The primary application of this doctrine started during the Cold War (1940s to 1991), in which MAD was seen as helping to prevent any direct full-scale conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was also responsible for the arms race, as both nations struggled to keep nuclear parity, or at least retain second-strike capability. Although the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the MAD doctrine continues to be applied. Since the credibility of the threat is critical to such assurance, each side had to invest substantial capital in their nuclear arsenals even if they were not intended for use. In addition, neither side could be expected or allowed to adequately defend itself against the other’s nuclear missiles.
Is there any application of that doctrine to border security? When you read about the philosophy behind it, it seems perfect for satire, but it worked, didn’t it? Really really think carefully about how things were when Ronald Reagan was President just before the USSR broke up, or the brinkmanship of President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. How did war not break out? The real, underlying goal of M.A.D. was saving lives. While it seems counterintuitive to say the power to harm can save lives, I want to give you my favorite example. During the Vietnam war, a Marine Corps sniper, Carlos Hathcock, was probably our single most feared soldier by the enemy. He was so stealthy and so deadly that just the suspicion that he was overwatch of a base camp was enough to keep the enemy away. The normal bounty the Vietcong put on a sniper was $1,000-$2,000, but on Hathcock it was $30,000. “I really didn’t like the killing,” he once told a reporter. “You’d have to be crazy to enjoy running around the woods, killing people. But if I didn’t get the enemy, they were going to kill the kids over there.” Saving American lives is something Hathcock took to heart. One time just he and his spotter killed an entire company of NVA over a 5 day engagement, possibly saving many Americans. So fear of consequences, backed up by consistent actions in the past, or a realistic assessment of future actions, can and has forestalled greater unwanted consequences. MAD.
If you read my post yesterday about our southern border, you know that the situation is out of control, to no one’s benefit. I sympathize with the plight of the migrants, especially the families and the young children, and I also firmly believe we have a right to control access to our country and a duty to uphold both our laws and border security. I have in the past advocated direct military aid and assistance to those Latin American countries that need to suppress and destroy criminal gangs and drug cartels in order for their people to have more secure lives, as the best long term solution to massive migration. In the more immediate present, given the very low likelihood that any of those governments request our help or would be willing to accept it, how do we reduce the migrant assault on our border to manageable numbers?
Possible strategies, objections in italics:
1. Improve conditions in their home countries enough that very few would brave the hardships of trying to migrate to the United States. That would have to include rooting out corrupt officials, disarming or killing violent criminal gangs and drug cartels. Those criminals who give up their arms and surrender to authorities would be sent to work camps to grow crops, plant trees or do other useful manual labor. This would be my preferred solution. Governments in question not likely to cooperate. They may even want to get rid of their refugees.
2. Build physical barriers to entering that are even more difficult to surmount than what we have. Any visible physical barrier can be climbed over or tunneled under, but such efforts would result in more deaths and injuries; politically unsustainable.
3. Change asylum policies to include exclusions for asylum, like they do with insurance policies. Sample exclusions: anyone without proof of identity, like a birth certificate, which includes their country of origin; country of origin not on a list of persecution by religion, ethnicity or other systemic persecution of groups (that would exclude asylum requests from almost every Latin American country). They will come anyway. Virtually all asylum seekers will then be breaking the law.
4. Make all involuntary human trafficking punishable by death. If caught with victims, traffickers are hung or shot. This would help reduce immigration-by-trafficking and perhaps coyote activity, but politically unacceptable.
5. Use “area denial” technology and electronic barriers instead of or in addition to border patrol and physical barriers. Area denial tech has been used for dispersing violent crowds. It involves microwave beams which are extremely painful but usually cause no injury. While this idea is also likely politically unacceptable, because of the possibility of injuries caused by panic (the microwaves feel like you’re being cooked) and howls of protest that “innocent migrants are being attacked by our technology”, it’s also more likely to work than any of the above, because the uncertainty of knowing where the electronic detectors are and the fear that the “microwave weapons” can strike anywhere, anytime, without warning. Uncertainty is the basis of the effectiveness of the M.A.D. doctrine.
I can think of more objections to each strategy, and there are powerful vested interests that want the situation to remain as it is, or get worse. Politically, immigration from the south is as unlikely to be proactively dealt with as is the national debt. We’ll keep borrowing until we can no longer repay, and we won’t make the hard decisions about immigration until there’s a serious crisis, maybe even a “false flag” kind of terrorist attack. I didn’t list that as #6.