Control of its borders is the sine qua non of a sovereign nation-state that intends to remain self-determinant. And here control means the ability to determine who comes and goes across its borders. No known nation has ever had 100% secure borders, in other words all borders are porous to some extent. It is then the level or rate of porosity that is the operational measure of border security and control. In this piece I want to present some thoughts about America’s border porosity and its continued sovereignty.
Finally, within the theater of international relations, a liberal nation-state can neither formulate nor put in practice a coherent, consistent, and compelling foreign policy that serves to protect its national interests. A nation culturally disjointed will find itself equally politically fractionated to the point where its visible foreign policy becomes moot or simply disappears in the eyes of the international community (e.g. under the Obama administration), or is such that its operational effectiveness is compromised because internally it lacks a sufficient plurality of support. In either case the nation so disabled loses.
The uncontrolled ingress of aliens who don’t share the nation’s cultural and political values, and who will not assimilate with the indigenous population, cannot help but change the very nature of that nation. And more emphatically so the higher the experienced rate of legal and illegal ingress. As discussed before in these pages, each nation, depending on its size, wealth, and cultural integrity, has a maximum ingress rate of unassimilating newcomers it can tolerate in order to remain socially stable. Exceed this rate, and soon the cracks begin to appear in a country’s social fabric. Despite America’s size and wealth, our cultural and political incoherence has given rise to internal divisions that make us vulnerable to a lower number of unassimilating entrants than we were able to absorb in the past. And this effect is exacerbated by illegal entrants who then become fugitives in furtive ethnic communities who have a low assimilation rate.
Our country now stands divided more than it has been since before the War Between the States. At least half of us – the right-leaning half - want to see America continue the paced cultural evolution it has enjoyed essentially since its formation over two centuries ago. And we want America to remain sovereign and strong in a Westphalian world order of independent sovereign nation-states. However, the other half of us – the left-leaning half - is working for a different world order in which America pulls back to ‘international peerage’, joining with other similarly-minded nations into a new globalist union as envisioned in the United Nations Agenda 21 proclamation. The latter destination involves the dissolution of the Westphalian order, and imposition of a global government, no doubt begotten from the loins of the UN.
In the interval the US elected its new president on his promises to restore a constitutional SCOTUS, reinvigorate the economy, lower taxes and regulations, eliminate Islamic terror, fix our illegal alien and immigration policy problems and, in the process, regain control of our southern border (‘build a wall’). Most of us understood the wall metaphor to mean that the southern border would be reinforced to limit its porosity to illegal entry. However, several factions not supportive of the Trump presidency have fastened on to the notion of the wall as a 30+ foot high concrete barrier that is contiguous from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. No one, including Trump, believes such a structure will by itself reduce our border’s porosity.
We are not surprised that the lamestream media and leftwing politicians gleefully lambast the wall per se, and lose no opportunity to point out its existential shortcomings. What does surprise us more is the length to which right-leaning outlets such as Reason magazine (here) and the CATO Institute (here) have gone to publish serious analyses of the wall’s cost and resulting performance. Recently they have been joined by OCI, a Washington based consultancy that advises would be government contractors with their proposals.
OCI advises its clients and other potential contractors to not bid on building the wall. And their detailed arguments summarize those of the other wall opponents who also miss the mark. Let me repeat, no sane individual who understands the nature of our porous border problem proposes building the now iconically touted contiguous wall. Border porosity can and will be reduced to tolerable levels by employing a combination of sensor, interdiction, and apprehension technologies and techniques as appropriate to the various regions and terrains through which the border passes.
To substantiate its recommendation OCI offers a surprisingly naïve “historical perspective” on why border walls don’t work (here). Their main argument is that throughout history ‘walls’, especially unmanned walls, have been ineffective against military assault. Here they list and cite the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall, the Leonine Wall, and the Berlin Wall (for some reason they omitted the Maginot Line debacle). The Berlin Wall cum Iron Curtain is a different case the efficacy of which they miss entirely.
To begin, in the combat arms of the Army and Marine Corps we learn the use of ‘walls’ or fixed field fortifications (FFF) in defense. We are taught their different types, how and where to build them, and how to fight with them. The main takeaway drilled into every trooper is that FFFs only work when they are manned – unmanned FFFs aren’t worth a warm bucket of spit, because they also bestow unwarranted confidence. The main utility of FFFs is that they multiply what is sometimes termed as the defender’s ‘combat factor’ – it takes fewer troops behind an FFF to successfully fend off a larger attacking force because there you are stable, barricaded, and firing from defilade while the attacker must maneuver and fire in the open.
This explains away the failure of the unmanned OCI cited walls. But what OCI along with others miss completely is that the proposed upgrade of our southern border 1) will not have to defend against an attacking military, and 2) will be 'manned' with human and automated sensors, and appropriately positioned fast response teams to interdict the illegals. They are comparing apples and oranges when they misuse these arguments against the border improvements proposed by the Trump administration. And their arguments collapse completely when we consider the history of the only comparable ‘wall’, the Berlin Wall, or more properly the Iron Curtain that ranged from the Balkans to the Baltic.
Contrary to the implied ineffectiveness of the Iron Curtain for containing the escapees from communism, that manned edifice was extremely effective. During its tenure from 1948 until travel restrictions were eased in the later 1980s, the number of successful crossings was minuscule. The number was so small in fact that individual escapes and attempts were reported and heralded in the western press. The Iron Curtain was built not to defend against an attacker from the west, but to prevent the escape of small numbers and individuals from the east bloc.
According my lights, I have maintained that an acceptable porosity level for our southern border would be anywhere below 15,000 illegals annually. That is a number that the United States can easily absorb and/or eventually find and deport depending on what the law then allows. And to build and maintain a border with that level of porosity should neither break our budget nor give rise to a socially destabilizing ingress. And its effectiveness would then permit the prudent modification of our immigration policy that will serve our national interest, and the development of laws that support a spectrum of responses to resident illegal aliens that range from deportation through legal residence permits to naturalization.
To illustrate a systematic way of thinking about the inter-relation of factors that bear on the relationship between sustained national sovereignty and border porosity, I offer the influence factors diagram (IFD) shown below.
IFDs were introduced to RR readers here and then further explicated here and here. The main thing to keep in mind when reading IFDs is that a plus sign (+) by an arrow head means that the influencing factor and the influenced factor tend to increase and decrease together. And a similarly located minus sign (-) means that the influencing and influenced factors tend to move in opposite directions. In IFDs as in the realworld this gives rise to two kinds of loops – reinforcing/destabilizing and cancelling/stabilizing.
In the above diagram I have indicated the operation of three reinforcing or destabilizing loops in red, and the one stabilizing loop in green. The bottom line of the IFD indicates that it is only a congruent immigration policy congruent with a low porosity border that switches the reinforcing cycles in our favor. And there is no chance to design and enforce an effective immigration policy without FIRST implementing a low porosity border.