Can Trump’s Wall Really Work?

Again, these are not pretty solutions, and won’t stop a determined anything from scaling it. No one is reasonably expecting it to cut off 100% of either crime related to the south of the border sources or illegal immigration. There will still be novel solutions to ever-growing problems, however, like the Great Wall of China, the main source of exploitation for both crime and illegal immigration en masse, being a largely unchecked and unenforceable border between the US and Mexico will be removed from the options for those attempting to break US laws of entry. In some places, tunnels will be dug, but for the 170,000 people who entered the US illegally in 2015 to try to pop out of a single hole in the ground… it’s going to be noticed. Across more than 2,000 miles of open border? Not so much. A person with enough desire and motivation can scale a line of Hescos just as easily as anything else. Whether we’re talking about a massive wall taking years, or a few piles of really elaborate sandbags, it serves as a very strong barrier to slow people down and prevent the movement of much larger goods, such as large amounts of drugs, weapons, or vehicles carrying even more. While you might be able to get over such a wall, the time it took to get a huge backpack filled with this sort of contraband is enough that someone watching a camera feed will probably say, “Hey Joe, you see that down at mile marker 87?”

Some will even be able to overcome the massive walls planned out, but the vast majority will be turned away, attempting to try their luck through some fraudulent means at border checkpoints. Given that we will then have the manpower to check these resources, that too will become tougher to execute. So it won’t work for 100%, but we have every reason to believe that a 95% reduction in illegal border crossing and south of the border originated international crime is completely possible. That’s great news. That’s the point of this wall, and by all evidence we have, there’s nothing to say it couldn’t do the job.


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It Doesn’t Need to be Pretty

There are also numerous avenues on how to approach the building of such a wall beyond just the extreme assumptions of building the most expensive variant of proposed walls across the entire border. We can even look to implementation set up in Iraq and Afghanistan for such examples. If you’ll look at my profile picture, you’ll see what are called T-barriers.

Also called Bremer Walls and Jersey Barriers, these are large and freestanding concrete slabs are cheap to build, transport, and install. They essentially fit together like massive Lego bricks with a notch fitting two together that is mirrored on the opposite side so that an infinitely long chain can be created able to bend around objects or buildings and adjust with the terrain that is impossible to destroy without heavy machinery. They’re like legos for big boys.

In Iraq, we used them for two reasons. You can see behind me, that they were lined around our prefabricated living units. This was because the walls were able to absorb the blast of an incoming mortar, small missile, or random rocket-propelled grenade, which might come our way and endanger the thousands of Marines inside. The second way we used them was during the “Surge”, a change in tactics to our counter-insurgency efforts where, overnight, entire city blocks could be quarantined off with these units. This allowed Marines and soldiers to wall off whole neighborhoods within hours, allowing few points of entry and exit that could be manned and checked while teams searched house to house for weapons, contraband, or other signs of enemy activity. Just as quickly, the walls could be moved or removed to clear other parts of the city.

I want to be clear, that like the Great Wall of China example, there is nothing stopping someone determined from getting over one of these walls. A ladder could do it. What they do, however, is prevent the free flow of large numbers of people, and more importantly, a large amount of cargo to pass freely. You might be able to sneak over the wall yourself, and you might even be able to get over with a rifle, but there is no way you are going to be able to sneak an entire team with heavy weapons, rocket and bomb parts, and other logistical considerations over the wall clandestinely. That’s what the T-barriers did. They broke up the enemy’s ability to move and, in my mind, had a major part in the story of how the United States successfully quelled the insurgency around 2007… not that anyone heard about that.

All that to say… I’m a big fan of these simple impediments. They saved a lot of lives.

Even more humble is the HESCO barrier. These ingenious little devices are little more than 21st-century sandbags, literally. They are large canvas bags supported by a metal frame which be broken down and stacked by the hundreds when unused, taken out and unfolded where they will be installed, and then just have sand, dirt, rocks, or anything dumped in them.

Installation of these barriers is even easier than that of the T-barriers requiring little more than two unskilled technicians, a truck, and a lot of dirt.

Importantly, I’ve seen these things stacked four high, making a wall of about twenty feet. Interestingly, it can be filled with dirt excavated in other areas of the construction project. These “insta-forts” are able to be installed, and just as importantly, taken down, in a matter of days, rather than weeks, months, or even years and at a fraction of the cost of what most are assuming such a wall would cost. Granted, this is not a solution that will last a thousand years, but it will get the job done in many of the areas where a massive wall isn’t required, but some impediment is.

This is why the same technology (yes giant bags of sand and dirt still count as technology) is used in the United States civilian side to protect against the sudden threat of flooding.


Continue to the next section.

The Wall

We’re Not the Only Ones Doing It…

So now let’s ask, can it be done?

The best places to look for that answer is where others are attempting similar feats. Case in point, Saudi Arabia.

Along the Northern border of Saudi Arabia, bordering Iraq, the Saudis began plans to build a series of walls and fence works in 2006. Construction was expedited after the invasion of Iraq’s Al Anbar and Nineveh provinces in 2014 by Islamic State forces, where construction began around September of that year. The project calls for some 1000 km long stretch of varying degrees of fortified walls, fencing, and some areas manned with remotely operated UAV surveillance.

From the Independent Journal Review

“…consists of 78 monitoring towers, eight command centers, 10 mobile surveillance vehicles, 32 rapid-response centers, and three rapid intervention squads, all linked by a fiber-optic communications network.” [3]

Also is Israel’s southern border which, in the words of Israel’s Prime Minister, worked out pretty well.

 In fact, looking across the world, we see that the concept of building border walls is not a new idea propagated by the Americans, but one in which more and more countries are attempting to take advantage.

Continue to next section…

Why We Need the Wall

Bringing us back to the contemporary, what would “success” for the US Southern Border Wall be?

The first thing that has to be accepted is that the scale of illegal immigration from Mexico is staggering with huge effects on the United States.

Likewise, according to the same Pew Research centered, illegal immigrants currently account for some 3.5% of the US population.[1] With regard to Mexican immigration, this is most readily felt in parts of the country where few people go, the small towns. There is a map created which represents every person on the US census as a color-coded dot – One Dot Per Person for the Entire U.S.

Zooming out shows the map as apparently completely blue, but when you zoom into many areas, such as my town highlighted with the arrow above and shown below, you see the homogenous blue zones suddenly become remarkably racially diverse.

Why my town, as well as so many towns, become suddenly homogeneously blue as you zoom out, I don’t understand, but I do understand that this is a mostly invisible issue to many who do not live in small towns like mine, nor are the externalities of it. Those externalities include that the low wage low skill jobs that employed the majority of the population are gone. There are still people doing them, but much of the work for people starting their careers have shifted to immigrant and often illegal labor. Secondly, is the impact on the schools. In my town, the population has shifted from 5% Mexican population in the 1970’s, to around 50% today. In general, this isn’t a problem except when we factor in for illegal immigrants. I’ve polled Mexican-American students at the school who volunteer that they believe at least 25% of the students are living in the United States illegally. By that, we can estimate that some 8 to 10% of the students of the school are not legally supposed to live in the town or the country for that matter. These students do have access to the same education and the same resources but are not bearing the same tax burden. For small towns like mine, having 10% of the students not contributing to the tax base is devastating to the educational standard provided, with ripple effects that can be felt for generations. This, along with many other factors, is part of why Oklahoma education is facing an existential crisis.

Likewise, let’s look at some numbers from the US Federal Sentencing Commission in 2015. Illegal immigrants accounted for 37% of all federal crimes, discounting all immigration-related federal crimes, this accounts for 14% of all federal crimes. In that remaining category, they accounted for 75% of drug possession, 30% of kidnappings, 21% of national defense crimes such as exporting arms, munitions or military equipment, and providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations, 18% of drug trafficking, 10% of money laundering, and 5% of all murders. [2]

I want to be clear, this isn’t saying that Mexicans are bad people or even that all illegal immigrants are bad. I don’t even believe the majority are guilty anything more than knowingly attempting to subvert our immigration laws, but all of these crimes… should not be able to happen at all. We simply must accept that the United States would be better off with fewer people selling drugs, fewer kidnappings, and fewer murders, and if an easy to prevent much of that is tougher enforcement of immigration law, then great.

Similarly, the economic burden placed on our rural labor force and education systems should not be happening at all.

That is how we will be able to measure if the Southern Wall will be a success. If it can dramatically reduce the influx of illegal immigration as well as the crime coming through or dependent upon an open Southern border, then it will be a success.

Having established that, let’s ask first if there is evidence to support the building. San Diego built their own wall and saw perhaps the best proof we need.

The wall in San Diego reduced illegal immigration apprehensions by 95%.

Back then, Border Patrol agent Jim Henry says he was overwhelmed by the stream of immigrants who crossed into the United States illegally just in that sector.

“It was an area that was out of control,” Henry says. “There were over 100,000 aliens crossing through this area a year.”

Today, Henry is assistant chief of the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector. He says apprehensions here are down 95 percent, from 100,000 a year to 5,000 a year, largely because the single strand of cable marking the border was replaced by double — and in some places, triple — fencing.

San Diego Fence Provides Lessons in Border Control

Furthermore, let’s look at the national level implementation in the US. Most illegal immigrants to the US actually came over in the 1990s when apprehensions reached a staggering 1.6 million per year.

Policies beginning around the time of 2000 halted much of the illegal immigration into the US but just as much was the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which saw the construction of 653 miles of reinforced fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Due mostly to this, US Border Patrol now is forced to make far fewer apprehensions. Extending the 653 miles would further reduce the need for US Border Patrol agents to make what still amounts to a quarter million apprehensions a year.


Continue on to next section.

 

Could Trump’s Border Wall Work?

It’s worked before.

In fact, studying the purpose of the Great Wall of China serves well to explain what success for the Southern Border Wall would look like.

At that time, the threat came from populations to the north that wasn’t set on invading and overthrowing China, but from small raiding parties looting borderland villages. Militarily, a raid is an attack which isn’t meant to occupy territory but to inflict some harm on an enemy before retreating back to a safe location. In this way, the harm that was visited upon the Ming Dynasty could come from literally anywhere along the empire’s northern border. Without warning, some independent tribe of anywhere from 15 to 200 soldiers could show up and ransack a borderland village or even a small city. They could take with them slaves and treasure, preventing development in the region and representing a constant drain on the empire.

So there are two possible solutions to this problem. You either dedicate an army, literally a whole army, to the entire border that could respond with reasonable force to any possible raid attempt, or, you build some static defense that could prevent the majority of such attacks. In the case of China, the solution was the northern border wall, a static option. Could a determined foe scale the wall? Sure, but the wall prevented the main tool necessary for these raids from getting over — the horse. By denying that tactical necessity, it no longer became profitable for the types of raids to occur. No longer did the region suffer from the raids, but also, the types of people who would do the raiding also died off. At the same, the army that was saved was allowed to be redeployed to other areas, sometimes to expand the borders of China, sometimes to protect them invasions themselves. To say the least, the Great Wall of China was necessary to providing the culture with much of the stability and security to become the cultural centerpiece of world history it is today. Eventually, the wall was overcome by a determined force from the north, but it still bought the Chinese more than 1,200 years of security after it was built.

Not too shabby.


Continue on to part 2

Does the Trump-Saudi deal indicate that Saudi Arabia is going to build a strong military?

Saudi Arabia actually spends a greater share of GDP on their military than the United States does.

I’ve written two answers that should help people who haven’t been paying attention come to a certain realization that Saudi Arabia and most Arabian Peninsula countries have been working to create powerful and modern militaries for many years.

“The USA led the rise [in military spending], but it was not alone. Of those countries for which data was available, 65% increased their military spending in real terms in 2009. The increase was particularly pronounced among larger economies, both developing and developed: 16 of the 19 states in the G20 saw real-terms increases in military spending in 2009.

— Sam Perlo-Freeman, Olawale Ismail and Carina Solmirano, MilitaryExpenditure Chapter 5, SPIRI Yearbook, June 2010, p.1″

This graph shows the % change in military spending over the last decade. On the right you can see how these amounts measure against one another, but the bars to the side are what are most important. They show long term pattern of growth and answer the question, “Which nations are most dedicated to growing their military?”

Many nations, such as China and India, are staying even with the %GDP spending and the growth in military spending shows a somewhat even with the economy. Others, however, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia show significant spikes even as the world at large, including the US, is showing a pattern of reduced military spending. The US? Why yes, check the bottom graph and several more throughout this post. Military spending in the United States has gone down significantly over the past few years even during a time when we were and are still involved in two different wars. What is interesting is, despite the narrative, though the US is leading the others in military reduction, it doesn’t seem to be determining how much they spend since the reduction in its spending is not matched by a proportional reduction in military spending overall worldwide.

Note the blue line, that’s the US. Since 2010 it has steadily been reducing its military spending in relation to GDP. Meanwhile many other nations have not. I used Russia and Saudi Arabia as two important examples because of how much their priorities seem to be changing and also given their precarious political situations presently.

Jon Davis’ answer to Why does the US government spend so much on military?

To fully appreciate the gravity with which Saudi Arabia wants to be a center for military strength, not just in the Kingdom, but throughout the Middle East, a person needs to also understand that they have worked together with other Arab-League nations to form a single pan-arab military force to combat the growing threats they perceive to Arab nations from terrorism and other nations, as well as creating a force capable of force projection, an important factor in international politics.

The Middle Eastern Cold War is Getting a Bit Warmer – Announcement of Joint Military Force by the Arab League by Jon Davis on The Defense Quorum

The recent news over the weekend is surrounding the announcement of a pan-Arabic defense force lead by the Arab League. The announcement came from a two day summit in Cairo, consisting of important world leaders from the 22 member states of the Arab League. The summit resolution said the newly unveiled joint Arab defense force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups. Egyptian military and security officials stated that the intention is for the proposed force to consist of up to 40,000 elite troops backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor. The force would likely be headquartered in either Cairo, Egypt or Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

There are many questions surrounding the nature of this military confederation, many of them appearing here on Quora – Arab League Joint Military Force Announcement (March 2015). As of right now, though, there are still more questions than answers. Not much is known as most of the plans for the joint military force have yet to be made. The Cairo summit informed the AP that there will be a Chiefs of Staff meeting within the next month and a plan presented within the next four months for the implementation of the force. Whatever is delivered at that time will determine the scope of operations going forward.

So for several years Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in its military assets and even working to create defensive works to defend against attacks and clandestine smuggling networks to their north.

Yep, a wall.

So yeah, sorry you missed the news. Saudi Arabia is preparing to be the center of a major military force in the region, most likely to counter the influence of terror, not only in the form of ISIS, but also much more so, from Iran. Due to the build-up of Iran and its funding of various terror networks across the region (to which The Iranian Quds force, for example, is in large part directly responsible for the Civil War in Yemen, among others) Saudi Arabia and many Arab countries feel that their survival relies on defense. They are also the most situated to combat terrorism in the region, far better than the Americans. So yes, they are very much building a military, and no, Donald Trump did not just come up with the idea to fund them or supply them with weapons.

The Guardian: Obama administration offered $115b​n in weapons to Saudi Arabia: report

The Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over its eight years in office, more than any previous US administration, according to a new report.

The surge in sales is in part to reassure the Saudi monarchy of US backing in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal with Tehran, which raised fears in the Gulf that Washington would tilt more towards Tehran in its foreign policy.

“I think that though the Obama administration is not thrilled about the Yemen episode; it feels it can’t stay out of it, because of the need to reassure the Saudis,” Hartung said.

His report found that since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia, half of which are accounted for by deals that are still in the pipeline.

“There are $57bn in sales in formal agreements so far, which is also head and shoulders above other administrations,” Hartung said.

The report comes as concerns about the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and their implication in potential war crimes in Yemen have split MPs on parliament’s arms control committee.

Arms sales over the eight years of the Obama administration have also included combat aircraft, attack helicopters, bombs, air-to-ground missiles, warships and military training. A division of Northrop Grumman is involved in a $4bn train-and-equip programme for the Saudi Arabian national guard, which has reportedly played a key role in the Yemen intervention.

That report came out in September of 2016, before Donald Trump was even the President. So the answer by another writer on this issue, that Saudi Arabia was using weapons against Yemeni children, well if he didn’t dispute that when President Obama was doing that, then the argument loses it credibility. As far as 100 billion dollars being too much, well, $115 billion is more.

Frankly, there is much to dislike about Saudi Arabia. I’ve been a leading critic of them throughout my writing, from the barbaric traditions they allow in their culture, to their absurd apathy to Syrian refugees, but collateral damage is not murdering young children. It is the cold, hard, ugly, miserable truth that war is not a clean affair, but the fastest way to stop it is for one side to so totally dominate that the other sues for peace and comes back to the negotiation table. Saudi Arabia is positioned to bring peace to the region culturally where American military solutions fail. Does it mean that we empower a nation we often find appalling? Yes. But we have greater influence to introduce reforms when we control the source of their power than if we allow the Saudis to crumble and the entire region descend further into anarchy.

Does the Trump-Saudi deal indicate that Saudi Arabia is going to build a strong military?