Apples & Oranges
“The world has only one border. It is called humanity. The differences between us are small compared to our shared humanity. Put humans first.” Nadia Murad
“Building a wall won’t solve our border security challenges.” Pete Buttigieg
“The people that work the border will tell you that physical barriers, backed up by men and women, is what we need to secure the southwest border.” John F. Kelly
Looking at global security events is part of my daily battle rhythm. I consume a lot of information so that I can provide the best researched intelligence to you each week. Frankly, the pace of geopolitical news is staggering even though you may not see it on the surface. That is why this publication is called, “More than Meets the Eye.” I am not interested in just rehashing what everyone else is writing. I try to uncover what is not being talked about and why.
It seems to me that mainstream media has one goal at present: to assist in the demise of the current US administration. They may believe they are doing the world a favor, but as they push their agenda they marginalize over half of their constituency. They neglect as well, many other critical stories that are unfolding on a minute by minute basis.
The situation in Northern Syria is dire. The circumstances in the Iranian and Persian Gulf have not even begun to subside. Two nuclear powers, the Indians and the Pakistani’s had a large exchange of border hostilities over the weekend. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is of biblical proportions right now. The Venezuelan humanitarian crisis is about to rock the South American continent, perhaps the entire western hemisphere. The impact of the Brexit situation will be felt globally. The Russians are loving the confusion as it distracts the Western nations from looking in their direction as they continue to try to undermine the global balance of power through cyberattacks and diplomatic wrangling. North Korea continues to develop, under the radar, its own nuclear delivery capability. China is arresting and mercilessly persecuting Christians right under the noses of the global community.
So there you have it. The world as we know it is under duress. I’d like to write about a less ominous topic this week, though a subject that holds within it a powerful more than meets the eye element. Did you know that there are currently over 77 border walls across the globe? All are designed with one end in mind, to keep people out. Where are all these walls? How could they possibly exist in a world that so openly speaks of walls as an infringement on human rights? Is the current US administration the only leadership advocating walls? Do they work? Are we asking the right questions? Are we even having the same conversations concerning walls, or are we talking “apples and oranges?”
Where are all the walls? According to the organization, Migration Policy Institute, there weren’t even five on the planet at the end of World War II; a figure which had risen only to 15 when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 before jumping to nearly 77 today.
Surprisingly, the largest of the walls are found throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. This should not surprise us, since many of these countries are hotbeds of competing jihadist movements or migratory pools, or both.
There is a 2046 mile long wall between secular but Hindu-dominated India and Muslim Bangladesh. Some 1674 miles of walls surround Uzbekistan, 868 miles lie on Saudi Arabia’s borders, 744 miles on Iran’s Eastern borders, and 434 miles on Oman’s borders. Jordan is completing a 310-mile fence on its Syrian and Iraqi borders; Tunisia a 124-mile fence along its Libyan border.
China built a 940-mile fence along the China/North Korea border. In southern Africa, a 744-mile fence separates Botswana from Zimbabwe. In Central America, a seashore fence cuts Guatemala from Mexico.
All told, there are 13,523 miles of border walls in the world today. That is a distance of almost half way around the earth. That is a lot of concrete, a lot of wire and a lot of money spent on putting up walls. It is a reflection of how much value governments around the world place on walls. It is impossible to calculate how much money is being spent on putting up these structures of protection, funds that could (some could argue, should) be spent on humanitarian assistance, medical research, housing, basic hygiene, food and clean water. The waves of reality never cease to crash upon the shores of the human condition.
I find it interesting that the growing opposition to walls, or barriers, exists. National border walls lag significantly behind the surge of walls, fences, gates and security checks that we experience regularly within our own borders. One only need visit an airport to understand what I mean. That long serpentine queue that people are channeled through like cattle in line for a vaccine, is little more than a wall. I remember a time when I was younger when there were no security checks at airports.
Some of us may recall when there were no security checks on domestic flights, and when security checks on international flights amounted to no more than passport or customs control. Today, it is properly unthinkable not to be checked, and screened, and profiled, even for a short domestic shuttle between two neighboring cities.
The prevailing concern is not a diminishing amount of freedom, rather it is the primal desire for individual and collective security. The 9/11 attacks on New York City was an assault on all of us. It changed the way we carry out so many different forms of business and recreation. I went to a conference recently in Oklahoma City and was required to stand in a long meandering line, waiting only to be screened and wanded before entering into the conference hall. Walls exist everywhere. The dangers of the world are causing, especially Western societies to spend vast amounts of wealth on walls. It is not difficult to see that this is a step back for human civilization, but a deeply seated necessity.
It is easy to see that home security and border walls are simply two sides of the same coin. The true question is: How much do border barriers help to alleviate the burden of security within borders? The answers are still being shaped for us.
The matter of security is just one side of the “apples and oranges” conversation. We can see that walls channel people so that we get a more granular look at potential violent offenders. But the other side of that discussion is just as difficult to understand. Do border walls deter unauthorized migration?
According to the Department for Homeland Security, walls work. When it comes to stopping drugs and illegal aliens from crossing our borders, border walls have proven to be extremely effective. Border security relies on a combination of border infrastructure, technology, personnel and partnerships with law enforcement at the state, local, tribal, and federal level. For example, when we installed a border wall in the Yuma Sector, we saw border apprehensions decrease by 90 percent. In San Diego, we realized on Sunday that dilapidated, decades-old barriers are not sufficient for today’s threat and need to be removed so that new, up to 30 foot wall sections can be completed.
The common objection to the “work or does not work conversation” is the understanding that all border walls are a powerful symbol of exclusion: “We” are going to keep “them” out. And, by doing so, “we” are going to protect our people, our way of life, our society and economy from the threat that “they” represent.
There appears to be two primary arguments as to why the walls are being built. In the end it all comes down to perceptions of security, but the arguments are as diverse as there are shoes at a local shoe store. Some argue that walls will stop the massive movements of people, whom the economy simply cannot sustain. Is that a valid argument? Will walls stop unwanted immigrants? Will they negatively impact an economy if not stopped?
Many arguments center on the fact that without walls there will be an onslaught of unwanted criminals, terrorists and jihadists. If they are not stopped, they will be admitted into our countries without documentation and will upon arrival to their new nations commit nefarious acts of violence.
I would suggest that these two arguments, both variations on xenophobic themes, are two significantly different discussions. It has led to an “apples and oranges” approach to discourse. Politicians are having two different discussions, especially in the US as neither side has been able to articulate their arguments coherently, because of the “apples and oranges” nature of their positions.
This week I read many arguments framed around the assumptions that walls do not work, never have and never will. Just as zealously there are arguments presented, framed around propositions that argue that walls work, always have and always will. How could smart people look at the same data and with just as much vigor argue conclusions that are absolutely opposite? —Both groups are probably right based on their starting points. Both are probably wrong based on the fact that they may be asking the wrong questions.
What is the point of walls? Will they keep out invading armies? That does not appear to be the case today. Is it to stop unfettered and unauthorized immigration? Is it to stop would-be terrorists? The accurate question seems to revolve around the desire of a society to maintain order by knowing who lives in a country, who pays taxes, who receives social benefits and who contributes to that system.
It is generally understood that the presence of walls does to some extent, work. They, if nothing else channel the flow of people to a place of record. In the end, terrorists will avert this recording process and find other ways to enter so that they can carry out their nefarious intents in a covert fashion. Walls do deter their wholesale invasion. Whether or not they deter terrorists; that evidence is still pretty thin.
What can be done to help walls be more effective? Clearly, putting up walls without the resources to monitor them will prove to be an expensive and ineffective undertaking. We need more broad approaches in order to deal with immigration.
In my opinion, walls can be effective if two significant things happen. Robert Warren, a former demographer with the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, has estimated that since 2008 there have been more people simply overstaying their visas in the US than there have been illegal border crossers. We have an immigration policy problem. There is a need to clearly indicate the reason for the process being received, not only in the US, but in the entire developed world.
Xenophobia needs to be set aside.
There should be a much clearer understanding of why peoples are coming and how they can be assisted, either by admitting them or by denying them entry. It is important that the process be simple. It is not okay to just open the borders with no rules. There must be rules and everyone needs to respect them. I don’t travel to Europe and pick and choose which rules I will obey and which ones I won’t. No society can survive if everyone is doing whatever they want.
There is a definite need for developed countries to engage in dialogue at a national level around what the rules will be to become a citizen of any given country. Democracy will never work if most of us do not agree to follow the laws that our elected officials legislate. If we do not like the laws, we need to vote to change them. Just giving in so that everybody who has entered illegally can now be legal is not the answer.
There is a need for a better national dialogue based on honesty, integrity and compassion. Only then will we as nations be able to handle the global conditions of mass movements of people. These are problems that are modern in nature. We as humans must adapt so that we can co-exist with one another, no matter what disasters, natural or man-made are thrown at us.
How can you and I make an impact on the matter of human movement while remaining compassionate, yet reasonable in this rapidly changing world?
- If you know any illegal immigrants, help them. Invite them into your home. Love them. Assist them with becoming legal. I think we cannot overstate the importance of assisting immigrants with the understanding that becoming legal is imperative. None of us can go to any country we desire and then disobey their laws.
- Call your congressman/woman about immigration policies. Advocate for us to re-look at them. Let’s find a way together to help those who genuinely want to come here to make a significant contribution to our society so they can do it legally.
- Vote. We have no basis to complain about anything in our government if we do not vote. I may be old fashioned enough to believe that my vote counts. I will refuse to sit around and do nothing to help those genuinely in need of our help. Not voting is tantamount to saying you do not care about your fellow citizens nor do you care about those who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Vote.
Keith Parks once told me, “Change is not an indictment of the past. It is a maximizing of the present.” If we are not careful we will find ourselves parroting mainstream drivel. The position of mainstream media is that whatever the current administration does is just wrong. If it pulls troops from Syria, it is wrong. If troops stay, it is wrong.
Having worked throughout the world most of my adult life, I can assure you that the world of certainty in which we try to live in is an illusion. There are only a few things I have found to be absolutely certain: God’s love and my propensity to run from it.
Take a look at this article on the current administration’s unfolding decisions to perhaps continue with a US presence in Syria and why.
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: email@example.com
I have categorized several of my citations as either, “walls work” or “walls do not work.” I want the reader to see how diverse the opinions are and how they use the same evidence to come to their opposite conclusions.
Walls work… https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/12/12/walls-work
Walls work (spmetimes), do not work other times…https://thefederalistpapers.org/opinion/do-border-walls-work-heres-the-proof
Walls work… https://thefederalistpapers.org/opinion/do-border-walls-work-heres-the-proof