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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

From the Terrorists' Perspective

To the south, east and west, Spain is bounded by water. Even at its narrowest point, at the straits of Gibralter, ten miles of ocean separates Spain from her nearest neighbor. To the north, the Pyranees mountain chain forms a continuous natural obstacle from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, with several peaks rising over 5,000 feet.

England is even worse. It is a fortress completely surrounded by water, with the English Channel twenty-one miles wide at its narrowest point. Due to decades of violence from the northern Ireland conflict, it has more surveillance cameras than any other country in the world, roughly one half million operating in London alone. Indeed, the average Londoner is caught on film over 300 times per day.

Yet, rather than considering these facts, Americans persist in believing that a six-foot cyclone fence would serve as a real deterrent to illegal immigration and – purportedly the real problem – terrorists.

The idea is absurd. Was illegal immigration the root of the problem for Spain a year ago or for London a few days ago? Was it even really the problem for the United States on September 11?

No, it wasn’t. We have all been watching too many Humphrey Bogart movies. Illegal immigration, spies smuggled into the country through clandestine means, this is not the source of the bombs or the men who planted them. By focussing on illegal immigration, we ignore the real problem.

Consider the terrorist’s situation from his point of view. In order to be a successful terrorist, I must blend into the society I intend to harass, wound and kill. I must raise the fewest possible questions about my origin and purpose. To be successful, I must become a non-entity, someone seen but never noticed.

If this is my goal, then I have a few rules of conduct. First, I must enter the country legally if at all possible. After all, to enter illegally, I must transit through small border towns where I attract attention if only because I am a stranger. I must negotiate with natives who do not share my objectives or my beliefs, men who are interested only in money and their own safety, men who would sell me out for the cash reward in a heartbeat if they somehow realized who I was or what I intended.

And how could I avoid betraying myself? I trained to simulate life in America, not life in Mexico or Canada. Why invest months of additional training to transit through an area I will only be present in for weeks at best?

Even if I were successfully smuggled into a country, I must obtain forged papers and present these to every person who requests them, never knowing who will see through the forgeries. To obtain the papers, I must again often deal with people who are not part of my organization: known criminals, people already being watched by the police.

Why go through this trouble? It is much better to enter the country legally, with real documents, never needing to come into contact with the American criminal class. That way, I can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the anti-immigrant crowd, vocally chastising those who seem uninterested in securing “our” borders with barbed wire. With such a cover, I can cry, “Look over there!” and you will look over there while I go about my business.

Many years ago, B. Liddell Hart wrote a classic on warfare called Strategy. In it, he pointed out that natural obstacles are no obstacle at all. Never in the history of warfare has a moat, a mountain chain or a fence stopped persons who were seriously interested in breaching the defense. The key to successful warfare is to hit the enemy where he is not and to lure him into a place where he cannot effectively use what he has.

So, we could build a fence. Better yet, we could dig a moat. But our moat would be measured in feet, not miles, and it wouldn’t stop people determined to get in. It would simply put resources where they cannot be effectively used.

No, illegal immigrant is not the problem and it never will be. It is the legal immigrant who poses the first threat. An even worse threat is posed by the American-born citizen who has become convinced of the rightness of the enemy’s cause.

So, here’s the question we need to answer: how high do you suppose the walls would have to be to separate each of us from the rest – all for our own safety, of course?


Patrick said...

I think the bigger problem posed by illegal immigration is the impact on tax resources. Something like 25% of some states public school students are illegals, with their parents paying no tax whatsoever to pay for those services. However, in those same states, they may get subsidized coverage for medical and treatment facilities. I think most educated conservatives realize that immigration is not the issue, tax money is. The boss who hires illegals need to be put under scrutiny to ensure they pay the taxes in some way if the illegal does not. Terrorism is just a spotlight issue to heighten awareness of the problem, otherwise they would get no attention at all. The fear would go away if people knew the illegals were supporting the system that was supporting them in some way.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

That's kind of a non-sequitor. They don't pay for public school because public school is paid for by property taxes and they don't own property. Many natural-born citizens send their children to school for free as well.

Illegals pay into social security and the rest of the tax system but won't see a dime back because they generally use fake SSNs. They take it out in trade through free hospital care.

The illegals ARE supporting the system financially, the terrorism "spotlight" is fake.

jonvon said...

Even if you don't own property and don't pay real estate taxes your landlord does.

Don't forget that most illegals are making so little money that most of their tax contribution is in forms that are very difficult to avoid --- sales taxes and indirect property taxes.

c matt said...

Your point on the terrorist threat from illegal immigration (IIm) is well taken - with the level of IIm we have, if the threat were real, we would have had bombings every other day. Terrorism is not the problem IIm poses. IIm poses economic problems that are more complex and can't be solved by a simple "build a wall" or "ship 'em back" solution. Not without major disruption to fragile labor intensive industries (agriculture in particular).

If IIm presented a real terror threat, why is all the emphasis always on IIm from our southern border, which is far better policed both manually and by nature (lots of desert) while our northern exposure is practically ignored and much more extensive(and Canada has a much higher legally resident Muslim population from which terrorists may be recruited). IIm, at least from the southern border, is an economic issue, not a security one.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Mexicans are of Spanish and Indian descent and are mostly Catholic. Canadians are of English and French descent and are much less Catholic.

It's anti-Catholicism and racism.

Patrick said...

Actually, on the tax issue, there is a great disparity based on type of job empoyed in. For Walmart type jobs, yes, fake SSNs are used. For farming, ground maintenance and construction jobs in Texas and the Midwest, per Wide Angle, NOW and CBS World Report, over 75% of the workers are simply not being accounted for on these payrolls (neither are child laborers, but that is a whole separate issue). This is the larger issue because farm and construction jobs account for over 50% of illegals employment in the US. Also, the Texas problem is bigger because they may live on the land or near where they work in make-do housing (self-constructs, vacant housing, tents, etc.). Because of the poor housing, more money goes to illegals healthcare in those areas than other places placing those counties in serious trouble. The terrorism spotlight is not the real problem, but the other problems posed by illegals are very real. In my local area, illegals account for 25% of all prisoners - and, per the governor, the police are not allowed to contact any government officials to send them back home. I say we should have an amnesty period to allow them to become citizens so they do not have to fear that the population will find them out - then they can give back to the society they live in - as they probably already want to.

Jordan Potter said...

Not only is it anti-Catholicism and racism -- it's also an unconscious sense of guilt about the fact that Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah were unjustly and illegally taken from Mexico by force. With so many illegal immigrants moving in, it weakens the U.S's claim on those territories we've been occupying.

Patrick said...

The reasons for watching the southern borders are more cultural than necessarily racist. If you can't converse in the native tongue (or something equivalent) you will be viewed with suspicion - which is why even people with localized US accents are suspect (Jersey, thick southern accents, Boston, etc.) outside their areas. Canadians are usually French (highly suspect) or British accents. Few Mexicans or Cubans speak fluent English, therefore automatically suspect. That doesn't make it racist because it is not based on race, but on the linguistics and cultural differences. However, it may be at least partly religious as well as the hatred of anyone who has any sign of a faith at all in the US is becoming more prevalent in the media.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, Texas doesn't have an income tax, so it wouldn't matter if they were using the right SSN in that state or not. Either way, they wouldn't be giving money to the state except through sales tax, which they already pay.

As for the linguistic differences being the driver, that's true to a real extent, but it's not clear to me exactly how much that accounts for. As Jordan points out, the US history on the southern border is much worse than on the northern, and we therefore have a cultural history of being afraid of retribution from that area.

I doubt most Americans know why anymore, but that cultural perspective is probably about as influential as the language aspect.

Paul said...

What a load of crap. It is not racist and anti-Catholic. If you hadn't noticed, there are millions of Mexicans and other Hispanics illegally crossing the border. There are not millions of Canadians doing the same. Furthermore, the Hispanics are refusing to assimilate in many, if not most, cases. That's why you have crap like MeCHa and Aztlan.

it's also an unconscious sense of guilt about the fact that Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah were unjustly and illegally taken from Mexico by force

More crap. Whether the war was just or not is one heck of a lengthy debate (I'm inclined to think it was neither just nor unjust). But Texas et al. were legally taken by treaty. Heck, we even paid for them. Having captured the Mexican capital we were far more charitable than most other nations would have been.

Furthermore, you seem to be rather ignorant of basic American history. Texas was already an independent nation, recognized by Mexico, when it was annexed by the US, and the Bear Flag Revolt would have made California independent as well.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Texas became an independent nation through exactly the same process you deplore. That is, American WASPs illegally immigrated to Mexico, insisted on rights that were not proper to those living on Mexican soil, then revolted in defiance of the laws of the land they had illegally occupied.

Luminaries such as Abraham Lincoln and John Quincy Adams called the land grab what it was - theft and deliberate dismemberment of a sovereign nation. In his memoirs, Ulysses S. Grant said it was the only military action he was ashamed to have participated in. The "legal treaty" was a hostage-taking situation and everyone involved recognized that.

Now you and many others seem to be upset that the Mexicans are doing to us what we did to them over a century ago. I have a hard time chastising them for acting like Americans.

Patrick said...

I don't believe there is any sense of guilt about the southern states - I would believe that less than 10% realize the history at all. As far as the legality of the transaction - ask most Indians about how any of the US territory can be legal, so I don't think many people would consider any of it "illegal" or even questionable in historical context. Race is not the issue - Americans dislike anyone who doesn't speak the language fluently - it was only after the second generation of US-born Germans, Polish, and Italians (who by then spoke much better English than their parents) that they were accepted in US society. However, most older adults remember the threat of Mexico during WWII, so that would play into both the cultural and linguistic problem.

Patrick said...

There was illegal US immigration into Texas, but the US immigrants were encouraged to help a revolt that was already going on with the native Mexicans living in the area. The locals did not have the weapons or money to fight, however the immigrants had those as well as political clout in the US. If Texas has not been taken by US troops, it would have fallen to the local uprising - or there would have been an absolute slaughter of the Mexican locals (history can't tell us which would have happened first). Historically, the local Mexican/Texans were very happy with the final property transaction.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

You don't have to know the history to be influenced by the prejudices which that history created.

A large segment of the US population thought the Mexican-American war was an illegal land grab at the time, including Lincoln, Adams and Grant. To look back and say, "I don't think it was that bad," is to take the side that opposed those three figures. I suppose it's a legitimate position to take in a certain sense - many did - but I would hesitate to oppose those three without very, very good reason. I see none.

As for whether the locals liked it or whether there would have been an absolute slaughter of the locals - that's an open question. Certainly Sherman was less than gentle when dealing with break-away American territories, and certainly many in the South were happy to secede. So, using that logic, when Texas and California do secede, we will have little to complain about.

The Texican land grab had a lot to do with slavery. Mexico had outlawed slavery and American slaves were fleeing from Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi to Texican territory to avoid capture. By grabbing Texas and militarily intimidating Mexico, the slave situation was more easily controlled. Texas was admitted as a slave state. It acted as a semi-desert land buffer between free Mexico and the cotton slave plantations on the Mississippi.

Jordan Potter said...

"More crap. Whether the war was just or not is one heck of a lengthy debate (I'm inclined to think it was neither just nor unjust)."

Wars are either just or unjust -- there is no in-between. There's no doubt our war of aggression against Mexico was unjust -- we had absolutely no grounds for declaring war against Mexico.

"But Texas et al. were legally taken by treaty. Heck, we even paid for them."

As Steve pointed out, and as I'm sure you're aware, we took Texas by treaty only after white, slave-owning Protestants in Texas unlawfully and unjustifiably rebelled against the Mexican government. So I think it's right to categorise our annexation of Texas and California with our snatching of the rest of northern Mexico.

"Having captured the Mexican capital we were far more charitable than most other nations would have been."

Perhaps so, but that doesn't mean our war was just.

"Furthermore, you seem to be rather ignorant of basic American history. Texas was already an independent nation, recognized by Mexico, when it was annexed by the US, and the Bear Flag Revolt would have made California independent as well."

You shouldn't jump to conclusions. I know that Texas and California rebelled against Mexico before we gobbled them up.

Patrick said...

This may all be a mute point, however. DARPA has been funded since 2002 as part of the War on Terror to provide stun mines, auto-robotic tazer cannons, robotic drone planes with ground penetrating radar for tunnels and tazer stun fields to secure our southern border by 2010. Without the requirement for extra men on the field, it should impact illegal immigration dramatically, except for Florida.

As far as who is considered terrorists, I think everyone is thinking old school on this. Terrorism is now defined as "wanting to cause disruption to the public sector or terrorize the population." We immediately think 9/11 and 7/7. However, especially in Missouri but many other states as well, Meth producers and other drug traffickers are being put away by terrorism laws today. Gangs in many of the larger cities are being investigated under the auspices of the new powers of the terrorism laws, including Hispanic illegals gangs that are serious problems throughout the US. The US used immigration laws to break the Asian gangs throughout California several times in the past. Now, we are just placing illegals under a more national set of laws. If you're breaking the law, you're breaking the law no matter how they decide to track you down. If implemented correctly, robotics and proper use of the larger law powers against terrorism will reduce illegal gang activity and drug trafficking coming from the south. I think it is hard to argue that illegal crossings of a border is really in the public good for any country. However, I am in full agreement that we should lessen the hurdles required for immigration into the US from poor or regressive states like we have several times in the nations past to allow illegals to fully participate in supporting a nation that is helping them.

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