Monday, September 10, 2007

The Maginot Line, Quick Reaction Forces and Economy

In April 2005, I wrote a piece about the feasibility (or lack of) of developing a "Maginot Line" along the US border with Mexico or Canada. I disagreed then and still disagree with such conservative notables as Michelle Malkin and others who simply call for "securing the borders" by building fences. Not only do I believe that it can't be high enough, long enough or strong enough, I also believe that it would cost more than anyone can possibly comprehend or want to spend, even in this time of war.

Finally, I thought then and still do that it would also produce the wrong kind of attitude among people. "Fortress America" would give people false perceptions of security just as the once touted "Maginot Line" gave the French a false perception of defense right before they were over run in five days by the Nazi War Machine. War had changed by the time that the Maginot Line had been created and implemented. War was now "blitzkrieg": mobile, fast and devastating.

I wrote in 2005:

Strategic failures were in both tactics and incompleteness. First, it gave the French a false sense of security. The idea that they could hover behind their walls and no enemy would dare to attack through formidable lines of artillery.[snip]

The tactical problems with the line was the biggest problem. Warfare had left the fortress and trench war of WWI. It was the age of maneuver warfare. Tying up large forces in stationary fortresses that could be circumvented or directly over ran depleted the French forces. Worse yet, the French relied on these fortifications to give them time to call up and mobilize reserve forces, never considering that the fortifications could be over ran in a matter of hours or circumvented within 5 days.

Other issues included under staffing of the fortifications and moving forces from less "threatened" areas to other more important areas, consequently simplifying the identification of weak areas for attack by the enemy.

Here in lies the problem with Fortress America.

Tactically, Fortress America, loses the tactical ability to "maneuver" and respond to threats, ties up forces and resources. Trying to determine strategically where forces and technology would be distributed to the best use is nearly implausibly fantastically insane.

My suggestion was to throw out the "Maginot Line" and start using tactics that have been successful in Iraq including UAVs, helicopters and intelligence gathering through living and working with people who live in the area of the border. It's not just people in Iraq or Afghanistan who need to feel secure in order to provide information. In border towns, the coyotes and drug smuggling gangs are seriously dangerous. Most people who live in border towns have to worry about reprisals, too. Thus, not only do we have to "secure the border" we have to secure the population.

Today, I read a report that seems to have been taken straight off the pages of this blog. I wrote:

The integrated warfare tactics the military is using in Iraq to control areas are the tactics we require in border control.[snip]

Updated forces would need many more helicopters, UAVs, tactical patrol equipment and quick response teams on call at a moments notice.[snip]

Information from the CBP indicates that they are doing some work within border towns to try and become familiar with people, help them with problems, even so far as looking for government and private resources to help in developing the towns and their infrastructures. Very similar to what we are undertaking in Iraq and what is working to assist in intelligence gathering.

I believe that this needs to be updated and upgraded. Even considering that the residence of these towns are American citizens and that border security seems to be the watch word of the day, it is still not something that is being re-enforced daily with these citizens. Further, just as dangerous as Iraqi "insurgents" coyotes running illegals are equally dangerous, particularly in the Mexican area where it is deeply rooted in organized crime.

Bullet-proof helicopters play key U.S. border role

As he sets the aircraft down in a swirling tornado of dust and debris, two agents in military style fatigues and flak jackets jump out and swiftly round up all but two of them, illuminated by a laser from the drone. From alert to arrest, the operation has taken 17 minutes.

Welcome to a little known double act between spy planes and fast, military helicopters that is blazing a trail for the future of U.S. border security in a remote desert wilderness south of Tucson, Arizona.[snip]

Silent and cloaked in darkness as it wheels miles above the desert, the spotting system cues elite tactical teams in Black Hawk helicopters to race in and carry out arrests, often many miles from the nearest highway.

"The UAS says 'hey, this is what we see, we need you to come and grab it,"' said Rouviere, who alternates between flying Black Hawks and overseeing the Predator's flights from a military base in southern Arizona.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection currently have two drones in Arizona. Plans are underway to expand the fleet to six by the end of 2008, extending patrols to the U.S. Gulf Coast and stretches of the northern frontier with Canada.

Then there was this report about El Paso.

EL PASO -- Leaders of this sunny desert city peppered Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff during a recent visit with complaints about trade-crimping border-crossing delays, unwanted calls to enlist local police in enforcing immigration laws and recent deaths of immigrants at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents.

I wrote in a lead up piece to the Maginot Line that any border control would have to take into account legitimate commerce:

Must not interfere with commerce because we operate on "just in time" (JIT if you're familiar the term) inventory and even a two days to a week of shut down could put us behind 2 months in product.

The El Paso report goes on to say:

Now North America's fourth-largest manufacturing hub -- after Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth -- El Paso and Juarez's surrounding state of Chihuahua have 270,000 manufacturing jobs, three times as many as Detroit, in 400 maquiladoras, or duty-free factories, economic development officials said. About 78 percent of residents are Hispanic, and 25 percent are foreign-born. Families send breadwinners across the bridge daily to work, and children to study.

And El Paso residents are not happy about it the crackdown because it could interfere with commerce, workers (who can legitimately cross the bridge everyday to work) and families who are integrated.

What this means is that the "intelligence" part of the border control must take precedence over simply "patrolling", interdicting or arresting people. We must be more selective in who we target and why. The border enforcement agents must be able to be more flexible in their dealings with people.

"If we take it to a point where the application of these laws in order to more secure our borders slows down commerce from Mexico into the U.S. . . . we'll all feel it throughout our economy," he said.

Who do we really want to stop coming through these borders? Certainly, potential terrorists. We want to stop coyotes or smugglers who prey on people and sometimes lead to the deaths of innocents who are left in the desert or killed because they can't pay. We want to make it unprofitable. We also want to stop drugs and criminals from coming across.

The only way that is going to happen is by the cooperation of the local citizens and those "illegal", otherwise law abiding workers that could give us real time info on the worst smugglers and drug runners. We aren't going to get that by messing with their commerce or their families or leaving any sort of impression that border patrol agents are more dangerous than the gangs of drug and human smugglers. "Illegal", otherwise law abiding workers aren't the kind of problem that the other types of "illegals" are to our national security or even our economy.

So, I recommend, again, that we re-look at how we deal with the population and take a book out of successful counter-insurgency doctrine currently used in Iraq. Put more border patrol agents there. Have them live in the communities. Don't harass just anybody, but make a concerted and public effort to find those who are preying on the innocent and weak even if they are "illegals". Border Patrol agents need good publicity showing them taking care of people, even "illegals". They need to be seen as "facilitators" of the public good, not the bad guys.

Some people are going to tell me that this isn't plausible or necessary. They are going to say that "illegal is illegal" and they should all go. Well, before they can all "go" you have to find out how they get here and you aren't going to find that out if they all clam up or run because they figure they are at risk just as much as the really bad guys.

Advocates for immigrants here are asking whether agents have been given permission to shoot first and ask questions later, and whether the increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and the detention of more immigrants have overwhelmed the government's ability to train and oversee officers. If so, there could be "a very disturbing trend starting," said Kathleen Walker, an El Paso lawyer serving as national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Let me remind people that "perception" is everything even if it is an image that is not "reality" as we know it. We can claim, as Chertoff does, that smugglers and others are getting more violent because we are more successful. Does that float in Iraq? Even in Iraq, even those who would not outright support the insurgency, people were highly concerned about the treatment of "regular" Iraqis. Even those who had some interaction with the insurgents and may have lent some sort of support, direct or forced.

We really have to look at it that way, even in the US border town of El Paso.

During his two-day trip to El Paso last week, Chertoff acknowledged that he is pushing a new way to get things done at the border, while insisting that he knows that a "one-size-fits-all blanket approach" will not work. "Piling on security by just putting a lot more things on the border" won't resolve the situation unless the United States also cuts down demand for illegal workers in the interior and creates a legal channel of temporary workers, he said.

There was a huge outcry when the "temporary workers' cards" were punted about by the administration and many republicans. The bi-partisan immigration law earlier this year was struck down. It certainly had a lot of problems, but, I disagree with a knee jerk reaction that very nearly insists that immigration or foreign workers should be eliminated. Many will want to deny that and insist they look forward to increased "legal" immigrants. However, the ability to process "legal" immigrants under our current laws and processes are so archaic and time consuming that it seriously damages such cross border trading towns as El Paso and can have a pretty significant impact on our overall economy.

Many republicans tried to rally people with the cry that illegal immigrants do the jobs that "Americans won't do" and they talked about service industries and fast food restaurants. That is not where we need workers. We literally need hundreds of thousands of workers to re-vive our manufacturing commerce and, yes, even insure wage inflation remains at a lower average and steady. High wage inflation means that goods and services inflate at the same rate. We need to maintain our wages and work force in order to compete with such countries as China and India. While we may understand that China and India's work conditions are much poorer than the US, it doesn't mean that we have the ability to change that.

We cannot control their laws. We can control from where and what we buy. The only way that becomes "American" is if we truly have the ability to manufacture here on a scale that has not been seen since the 1950s. Americans, according to a recent report, want to take "thinking" jobs, not jobs that they work with their hands. That's not McDonald's and lawn service. That is factory work making tires, door knobs, clothes, packaging food, etc, etc, etc.

Our current unemployment rate is 5.4%. That leaves about 15 million "employable" Americans "unemployed". Yet, the over all number is no indicator of how many Americans are without a job for long terms or forever. The true indicator is how many jobs are created and how often the unemployment rolls rotate. That number is about another half of that 5.4%. Further, "new jobs" are created that often exceeds the number of "new" unemployment claims in a given period.

That means that there are literally not enough "legal" workers to fill those positions. That also means that wages go up as companies compete for skilled and unskilled labor. It also means that companies will search in other places outside of the US for this labor in order to maintain profitability. Or, that we need a better method of bringing in temporary "legal" workers to bolster this ability as well as be able to provide an accelerated, legal path to "legal" citizenship.

If we do not compete with such markets as China and India or any number of upcoming nations with huge populations willing to work for half or less of that of an American worker, we will soon be irrelevant. That is a much greater threat to our ability to protect our nation than any illegal alien (non-mass murdering terrorist).

No economy, no money, no military.

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