M.A.D. Border Security

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.

The border….crazy.

What’s it like at our southern border? You hear so many stories that sound so lacking in compassion. Depending on their politics, critics of our immigration policies either portray the border patrol and the Trump administration as heartless and cruel, or not forceful enough. For a truer perspective, Sophia Lee spent weeks interviewing migrants and riding with the border patrol. She reports in World Magazine.

To Border Patrol, the massive spike of family apprehensions at the border creates plenty of opportunities for criminals to take advantage of the chaos and dysfunction. Many migrants arrive with no birth certificates or ID, so Border Patrol has to call their country’s consulate to procure their biographical information—and at times, the supposed parent has no relations to the child. “That’s scary,” Carbajal said. “Are these kids kidnapped? Rented out? What if drug cartels are taking advantage of these kids and our laws?” Sometimes, the children unwittingly put themselves in danger. In one case that Carbajal worked on, a 17-year-old girl from Guatemala showed up with two younger siblings, ages 4 and 7. She said she had a 45-year-old male contact in New York whom she had met on Facebook—and when Border Patrol ran the man’s records, several child molestation charges came up. Out of sheer desperation or foolish naïveté or both, the girl had been willing to travel thousands of miles to seek refuge from a man she had never met.

Anatomy of a wall

Not so simple, is it? It’s easy to sympathize with the migrants, at least those fleeing gang and cartel violence, and corrupt politicians and police. Some say that the United States is guilty of having fostered those conditions, through CIA-driven overthrow of unfriendly but supposedly less corrupt governments, and meddling in the politics of the less well-governed Latin American countries. Others say that the Democrats want to undermine our border security and invite hordes of potential democrat voters in to violate our immigration laws and suck up our tax dollars in free services. There are probably some elements of truth in both sides. The one argument I totally disagree with is the one that says “immigrants have a right to get into the United States because we are all immigrants.” I have previously made my objections known. I believe that we need an effective and orderly way to admit immigrants, and that our present system is not working, and cannot work with such unsustainable chaos along our southern border. What about a wall? More of Sophia Lee’s report continues.

The San Diego Sector of the border runs for 60 of the 1,933 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border along deserts, shrubby hills, a beach, and heavily populated towns. Currently, about 46 of those 60 miles have some sort of physical barrier between Mexico and the United States.The first walls were built in 1999—6-foot-high metal panels made up of donated Vietnam War scraps that weren’t meant to prevent people from jumping over but to prevent vehicles from speeding through, cutting down on high-speed vehicular chases that resulted in deaths and accidents. Border Patrol later put barbed wires on top of those panels, but people still managed to push it off the top, throw a thick rug over, and then hop across.

Then in 2007, under the Bush administration, Border Patrol built another set of walls out of steel mesh and barbed wires on top, but people cut giant squares and U-shaped holes out of the mesh with cordless power tools. Almost every section of those walls has distinct square-shaped patches. Border Patrol plastered more barbed wires up and down the mesh walls, but that hasn’t stopped people from crossing through.

Next came the 18-foot-high steel bollard wall built last November under the Trump administration, hardly the concrete blocks Trump had originally envisioned. These steel bollards are far more effective: Inside each hollow bar is cement to prevent people from trying to pry the bars apart, and on the top are large, smooth steel plates to prevent people from climbing up the bars and hopping over. Two inches of space separate each bar, wide enough so border agents can see through, but narrow enough that the average man wouldn’t be able to lop his arms around and climb it. In addition to the physical barriers, Border Patrol has installed stadium lights and cameras and motion sensors in certain areas, as much as its budget allows.

I have previously discussed the problems with any wall. My post of yesterday about prisoner transport was testing the waters about some ideas I have about controlling the migrant flow. That’s next.

Now I know I’m old.

say it ain’t sooo….

After Jerry Garcia left, or retired from The Grateful Dead, he helped form a bluegrass band with a hilarious self-deprecating name: Old And In The Way. That aptly describes how I felt last night when I discovered just how old my favorite crush when I was younger, is now. Remember the Avengers, that British series about two elegant spies, Mrs. Peel and, and, and I seem to have forgotten the man’s spy name. Bowler hat, cravat, umbrella/sword cane, jolly good upper crust accent and manners, played by Patrick MacNee……Well, actually who cares, HE wasn’t my crush. If you’re a man, cisgender man that is, reading this, and you are old enough to have seen the original Avengers, you are saying, “enough foreplay, get to the crush, the luminous star of the series, the sexiest, most elegant woman….Diana Rigg!

Watching Game of Thrones last night, there was something naggingly familiar about Olenna, the matriarch of House Tyrell. She was kind of funny, kind of commanding, but certainly not very unattractive, probably never a great beauty……Then the credits rolled. I was not only in shock, I suddenly felt really old. Diana Rigg played Olenna! Sure, makeup can make someone look older as well as younger, but it wasn’t makeup, it was the ravages of age! I saw her without makeup too. She has two chins! Oh, kill me now. Aging is just evil. It doesn’t help matters that I suffered a stroke three years ago and have not recovered my balance, but at least I had my fantasies of Diana Rigg. Well, that’s done.

I decided that while I’m reminiscing, I might as well listen to some Old and In The Way, on Amazon music. I never paid much attention to Mr. Garcia, and discovered he died in 1995, at age 53, of the accumulated effects of drug abuse and heart problems. I am 72, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain. Old and In The Way reconstituted a few years ago, without Jerry, but renamed themselves Old and In The Gray. This July, I am going to California to attend a concert of ELP Legacy, Yes, and Asia. Carl Palmer, the sole surviving member of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the original ELP, formed ELP Legacy with two young musicians, and also helped form Asia, an English Progressive Rock band, with Steve Howe of Yes. These are the bands I am going to hear. I hope they can all get up on stage without too much assistance, and I hope that the performance will not be interrupted by any strokes or heart attacks, either by the bands members or old codgers like me in the audience. Just in case, I bought performance cancellation insurance for an additional $8. Aging is a bitch!