The Truth About the Border Wall

The day after I published my earlier post on how the President can respond to the shutdown by calling Nancy Pelosi’s bluff, he took my advice. The Democrats’ response lends credence to my theory that a prolongation of the shutdown is politically advantageous to the Democrats as long as the public generally blames the President.

I am not a fan of Trump, as a cursory browse of my “Donald Trump archives” will show. But in this battle, I support the President. In an article that recently appeared in The Hill, Ford O’Connell clarified exactly what President Trump is and is not asking Congress to do. Specifically, O’Connell pointed out, the President is not asking for a continuous border wall across all 2,000 miles of America’s border with Mexico. Rather, he is asking for money to improve and expand the highly effective fences that already exist along more than 650 miles of the border. Prominent Democrats (Schumer, Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, to name a few) all voted to support these fences.

The border wall in Yuma Arizona resulted in a 90 percent drop in illegal traffic in that area and was supported by Democrats like Obama.

Why did so many Democrats support the existing 650 miles of fencing and barriers in the most dangerous parts of the border (for example, in Yuma Arizona)? This question isn’t hard to answer when we reflect that these barriers resulted in a 90 percent drop in illegal traffic in that area. Before the Yuma wall was erected, the area was averaging around 800 illegals a day. Contrary to right-wing caricatures, Democrats do actually favor border security. The current opposition to Trump’s plan to expand and improve existing barrier structures is purely political, having been fueled by the President’s incendiary rhetoric and angst about his alleged racist motivations.

From O’Connell’s article:

“Of course what Pelosi and Schumer won’t tell you is that the U.S. currently has more than 650 miles of physical barriers and fencing on its southern border. They also won’t tell you that several prominent Democrats including Schumer, Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden voted for it as senators in the name of better border security….

If the Democrats were to come to the table right now and talk comprehensive immigration reform and DACA, so long as it contains additional physical barriers along the southern border, the White House has signaled a willingness to move forward on that front, provided that it enhances border security.

The White House is ready to deal. And even though federal government workers will eventually receive back pay, the White House doesn’t want to see them suffer. The questions for congressional Democrats are simple: Do they really hate President Trump more than they love border security? Do they care more about illegal immigrants than American citizens? Only time will tell.

Of course nothing is impenetrable or foolproof, but the fencing in Yuma, Arizona, is a great example of what works. Since its construction in 2005, it has yielded better than a 90 percent drop in illegal traffic. Similar numbers have been registered at other physical barriers in San Diego, El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona, since their construction.

Even former Obama Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan, who was removed by Trump, concedes that physical barriers work and that more need to be constructed to make the southern border stronger.

Contrary to the media hype, President Trump is not advocating that one continuous wall should be built on the nearly two-thousand mile U.S. southern border, but that the current barriers be extended by a few hundred more miles. He is also asking for more immigration judges, law enforcement officers, detention beds and additional border technology, among other items — common sense stuff when it comes to stronger border security.”

 

 

The Simple Shutdown Solution: Trump Should Call Pelosi’s Bluff

UPDATE: Two days after posting this, the President took my advice, effectively calling the Democrat’s bluff. Can anyone still take Nancy Pelosi’s sophistry and word-games seriously?

There appears to be no end in sight on the stalemate about how to resolve the government shutdown.

The issue is not that Pelosi can’t budge because of genuine concern about the impact a $5 billion border wall will make on the economy. Everyone knows that the economic cost of the shutdown is about to exceed the amount the President is demanding for his wall. So what is really going on?

Once we properly answer this question, the solution from the President’s perspective becomes breathtakingly simple.

What is really going on is that House Democrats want Trump to appear bad, and do not want themselves to appear weak after digging themselves into an intractable position. Consider that if the shutdown were to lead to starvation and social disaster (something that may be approaching sooner than you think), Pelosi may still be unwilling to compromise as long as Trump is getting the blame. Polls indicate that most Americans are indeed blaming Trump for the shutdown, which means that from Pelosi’s perspective the worse the situation becomes, the better it actually is, since more Americans will dislike Trump and vote Democrat in the next election.

Admittedly, this is a very cynical way of looking at things, and it flies in the face of what Pelosi has been telling the public. Officially, her line remains that she is the one who wants to transcend petty politics, that she is the adult in the room contending against a president who is, as she put it, “holding the American people hostage.” To fortify the impression that she is willing to compromise, democrats are passing spending bills they know the President will not sign. The narrative they are projecting is that the House majority are trying to end the shutdown in the face of a stubborn and immovable President.

So what’s the solution? Simply this: Trump should call Pelosi’s bluff. He should offer her a compromise on his terms but which still leaves him on top in the symbolic and psychological power struggle. For example, instead of asking for $5 billion to start the wall, maybe he could ask for $2 billion to start it, or $30 billion for general border security without the wall, or maybe a package that includes only $1 million for the wall and $9 million for ramping up general border security. That sort of thing.

Here’s why I think this is an obvious solution. If Pelosi responded by granting the President’s modified terms, that would be a huge symbolic victory for Trump. The wall could start being built; Trump’s base would love it and could point to it as one more example of shrewd statesmanship under the guise of bombast. We all know that Pelosi will want to avoid the impression of granting Trump even the most nominal victory on the wall, and so she would probably refuse even $1 million to get it started and reopen the government. But such a refusal would simply call her bluff and demonstrate to the public that Pelosi is just as stubborn and intractable as Trump. Moreover, her refusal might help to shift the blame for the shutdown over to House Democrats. “Gosh,” people will begin ask, “if even Trump is willing to compromise, why can’t Pelosi?”

To the extent that Pelosi has framed the border wall controversy in moral rather than prudential terms (for example, pronouncing that because the border wall is “immoral” the Democrats will never agree to fund it), she has effectively painted herself into a corner. Thus, if Trump requested something that was merely a nominal and symbolic victory for himself (say, requesting a million just to start the wall), then it would put Pelosi in a dilemma: she couldn’t meet Trump in the middle without being accused of back-tracking on her earlier statements, and yet to not agree to something that small would also powerfully demonstrate just what type of dispute this really is for her.

What type of dispute is this for Pelosi? From our earliest fights on the playground to the most complicated disputes within marriage, we all know that specific issues become important when they are emblematic of deeper power-struggles and principles that operate in the background, perhaps without being clearly acknowledged. This is just such a dispute: it is not about what Pelosi actually thinks is best for America (remember that the shutdown is about to exceed the amount the President has requested) but about winning her power-struggle with Trump, or continuing it as long as most Americans continue to blame him for the shutdown.

If this reading of things is correct, then it’s time Trump called Pelosi’s bluff by creating a lose-lose situation for her: if she refuses to grant Trump even a reduced proposal on border security, she is highlighted as the one unwilling to compromise; but if she does grant a modified proposal, Trump emerges as the symbolic winner of the power struggle. Then government can re-open and hundreds of thousands of workers can return to their jobs.

Help me publicize this simple solution to the shutdown by liking and sharing my post about this on my Facebook author page.

 

David Hendrickson on the Syria Withdrawal

Last Friday, David Hendrickson offered some extremely sensible observations about how the Syria withdrawal could (but alas, won’t) be skillfully managed to prevent unnecessary chaos and bloodshed. Hendrickson shows that a solution is entirely within reach yet requires two things that we are not likely to see from the current administration: (1) a certain level of policy sophistication and prudential thinking (2) a willingness to work with Russia. Read Hendrickson’s article about this published at the American Conservative. What is sad is that a lasting solution to the Syria problem is entirely within reach but is being eclipsed by other subversive political agendas.

If you want to learn some more about the political background between America and Russia that creates the context for some of the tensions Hendrickson is talking about, then I recommend the article ‘NATO Partisans Started a New Cold War With Russia‘, also published at The American Conservative.

Gun Control

Before I say anything, I want to be clear that (1) this post is neither for nor against gun control, (2) I support the right of American citizens to bear arms and have written in defense of the Second Amendment (see links at the end of this article).

With that proviso out of the way, I have a few comments about what the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, said about gun control during a recent interview.

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The Non-Conservative Mind of Donald Trump

A few weeks ago I got into a friendly argument with friends at church about whether President Trump is a liberal or conservative. I said that Trump was a liberal while my friends said that he was a conservative.

Today, as I went to vote in the midterms, I thought back to our conversation at church. I found myself wondering if perhaps Trump is actually “conservative” but in a new sense. Perhaps we are seeing a metamorphosis of what it means to be conservative, as the classic conservativism of thinkers like Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke recedes into anachronism.
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Europe’s Self-Abrogation

Robert Merry at The American Conservative has put his finger on the psychology behind Europe’s self-abrogation. His article, ‘How Europe Built Its Own Funeral Pyre, Then Leapt In‘, looks at the psychological and ideological context behind Europe’s current tidal wave of immigration, as well as the potential consequences of allowing so many immigrants who are openly hostile to European culture and historic values. Spend a few minutes today at The American Conservative reading Merry’s article.

The Republican Retreat to Identity Politics

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, there is a curious moment when the reader becomes aware that the animals who led the revolt against their human overlords have become the new oppressors.

Animal Farm is a uniquely human story. Even a cursory glance over the last half millennia reveals that empowerment has a strange way of enticing former liberators not merely to abandon their own principles, but to begin embodying the principles of their opponents.

We saw this happen when the “Committee of Public Safety” abandoned the principles of the French Revolution, ushering in a terror far worse than anything under the Ancien Régime.  We saw it again when the Soviet State abandoned the pseudo-liberating rhetoric Marxism and turned all of Russia into a giant prison. We saw it again when the “agrarian socialism” of the Khmer Rouge found embodiment in the genocide of Pol Pot.

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First Twitter, Now Bombs: the Consequences of Trump’s Impulsivity

Readers of this blog will know that I have never been a fan of President Trump. But at least I held out hope that something good might come of his presidency if Trump could avoid the military adventurism of the last two administrations, reign in America’s secret and forgotten wars, and halt the headlong rush towards another cold-war situation with Russia.

Alas, these hopes are now dashed. On Friday morning I woke up to the news that President Trump has started a war with Syria, attacking the very regime that has been fighting ISIS. This has occurred despite evidence that the earlier 2013 attack was staged by jihadist rebels to turn the international community against Assad, and despite prima facie evidence that the current attacks “may” have been perpetrated for a similar reason, and despite the fact that the goals and terms of surrender for this new war have yet to be made clear.

With the same impetuosity with which he goes on Twitter without considering the consequences of rash, careless and inflammatory speech, Trump is now rushing into an impulsive, ill-considered and illegal war with Syria in the absence of proper due diligence. The lack of due diligence was encapsulated by Robert Merry in an article this morning for The American Conservative this morning:

What does Trump owe to his constituency, the people who put him in office? Does he owe them a resolve to avoid getting enmeshed in yet another Mideast war, even in the wake of the horrendous chemical weapons attack in Syria? Does he owe them actual proof that Assad was in fact the perpetrator?

More broadly, does he owe the American people an explanation of just what he intends to accomplish with this military action, what its parameters are going to be, what’s its limitations might be? Does he owe Congress any respect as the branch of government charged with the responsibility to declare war?

Trump administration officials waxed bellicose on the matter immediately, before there could have been any serious investigation of what actually happened in Syria. Assad, it was assumed instantly, was the culprit. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Assad deserved “no role” in governing his country. Thus is America seemingly set to embark on yet another adventure in regime change, a policy that reaped endless regional havoc when it was done in Iraq and Libya.

To be sure, this type of impulsive military adventurism is something we have come to expect from our presidents. However, there is a key difference between this engagement and past engagements in the Middle East. The difference is that Trump has not even given a nod towards the legal constraints that properly regulate military action. As Noah Millman explained at The American Conservative this morning:

Least of all should it be a surprise that President Trump cares even less than his predecessors for the norms and legal constraints on military action. Trump hasn’t the slightest legal warrant whatsoever in domestic or international law for his attack on Syria. In this he has extended the precedents set by Barack Obama (who prosecuted war well beyond the warrant approved by either Congress or the United Nations), George W. Bush (who made war with Congressional approval, but based on deceptive marketing, and who conducted that war in a manner that violated international and domestic law), and Bill Clinton (who made war without international warrant but with the clear and solid support of our NATO treaty allies). But this time there is barely a fig leaf of legality, and no public attempt whatever to justify the action as based on anything but Presidential whim.

Impulsive behavior has consequences, and only time will tell what the consequences of this impulsivity will be.

Further Reading

Republicans Cast Doubt on Normal Operations of Human Mind

Today I added the following section to my earlier post, ‘How Trump is Normalizing Relativism‘, looking at some disturbing trends in the Republican Party that throw into question the normal operations of the human mind.


When we pan out to see the big picture of what has been happening in the Republican Party since Trump took the reigns (which, by the way, is a departure from true conservatism), we see a troubling trend towards epistemological relativism. As Paul Waldman observed in his Washington Post article, ‘Republicans are trying to destroy the very idea of neutral judgment‘, GOP lawmakers have been acting as if “there’s no such thing as a neutral authority on anything.” We see this even on a popular level with Trump’s supporters, in which the new modus operandi is to delegitimize critique, not through appeals to objective truth, but through creating suspicion that we are even able to appeal to an objective rational order. On this way of thinking, we all have our own personal truth, the only difference is that some of us are winners and some of us are losers.

When this relativistic modus operandi trickles down to the larger populace, we see it beginning to influence the character of political discussion on the street. In an article I wrote last October about how to discuss politics without alienating your friends, I pointed out that a conclusion is only as good as the premises leading up to that conclusion. Consequently, the way to dispute someone’s conclusion is either to show that it doesn’t follow logically from the preceding premises or to show that the premises from which the conclusion follows are actually false. Not so in the world of Trump. For the votaries of the President, the come-back is no longer, “That’s false – prove it!”, or even “I disagree, and here’s why”, but “What newspaper did you read that in?” The narrative is: everyone has their spin, their biases, so what is more important than what someone says is where that person is coming from. “Did you hear that on CNN or Fox?”

Trapped in our own subjective tribes and ideological micro-cultures, the possibility of objective analysis of facts becomes impossible (according to this narrative). In practice this means that unless you are a Trump supporter, anything you or your newspaper might say is discredited a priori, without actually requiring proper analytical engagement. “Of course they would say that because that paper is liberal.” It’s the standard ad hominem combined with the genetic fallacy, with a twist of postmodern cynicism thrown in the mix. As all of us are trapped in our language games, biases, and ideologies, there is no objective point of reference where we can meet to have a meaningful conversation, according to this narrative. In colluding with this subjectivist epistemology, Republicans are casting doubt on the normal operations of the mind. They do not intend to do that because they are not philosophers, but that is still what they are doing. What is at stake is the very idea of truth, the very idea that there can be an objective rational order to which we can make appeals and which remains independent of the speaker, independent of bias, and independent of who happens to be more powerful.

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