Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Military Perspective On Border Security And Terrorism-- Learning Lessons From Military Service


-by Kevin Lenau,
National Security Advisor to the Tom Wakely for Congress Campaign

As an officer in training for the Marine Corps, I recall many days and nights spent running through the woods, digging fox holes, and sitting in rain and mud, watching a small opening in the trees. At the time, I could barely see how these skills were applicable for the job I was then training for, let alone predict how they could be of use to me in civilian life. Yet, it’s been seven years since my time training in Virginia, and even today I am able to take wisdom I earned then, and apply it today to make the best decisions I can. I only wish I could say the same about the decisions that are being made by our current administration.

Building a wall, the travel ban, and conducting indiscriminate ICE raids are mostly symbolic gestures meant to consolidate political support at home, but from a practical point of view, violate basic military concepts and actually put America in a less secure position. These political gestures of power in fact have very limited benefits for national security, and in actuality have a number of wide-ranging risks. From a basic military perspective, specifically one concerned with antiterrorism goals, these measures are entirely misdirected.

Let’s start with the wall. On its surface, this idea sounds strong and decisive, one meant to directly curtail issues of drug flow and illegal immigration that America has been dealing with for decades. Yet, beyond this visceral symbolism, a basic understanding of security and defense shows us that such a wall will actually have far more negative implications for the American people. In the military, there exists a core tenant in the planning of defensive positions called “defense in depth.” This is the idea of having overlapping tactics that use geography, technology, and human behavior in sync with each other in order to create high level security and safety. Think of using ground radar to detect foot traffic at a border crossing and using UAVs (drones) as a quick response force. Building the proposed wall along the Mexico-U.S. border would drain resources from this proven multi-layered strategy in order to implement an idea with only one layer instead. The opposite of sitting in the rain staring at a specific spot based on intelligence, terrain and strategy.

Further flaws that will create more problems than solutions for the USA include messaging and prioritization. The message being perpetuated is one of hostility and fear, the same type of language used by the Soviets in their explanation for the construction of the Berlin Wall. This is important to note due to the importance of messaging and civil affairs to modern military operations, a lesson which has been learned over the last 50 years of military history. In this case, the best message to send out is that the United States is monitoring the most desolate and dangerous crossing areas, thereby decreasing the number of migrants and smugglers using these most hazardous routes, which would result in overall decreases in these types of illegal activities.

On prioritization, the wall challenges all illegal crossings indiscriminately. While this may sound good at first, what this really means is resources would be evenly spread to stop drug traffickers, terrorists, and migrant workers, all of which clearly do not pose the same level of risk to America. This is an insane idea; no military commander would ever tell their forces to spend equal time and resources across an entire geographical area or population group.

In short, the idea of building a wall is antiquated and outdated. Suggesting a wall as a solution is the equivalent of saying “to fix our transportation system I am building a transcontinental canal, but don't worry-- it will be big and beautiful.” A “Smart Border” using defense in depth principles would be more efficient, flexible, and cost-effective.

Moving on from the wall, next we must discuss the mighty travel ban. Quick, decisive, and powerful, once said “I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f*ck with me, I'll kill you all.” The General was known for showing up in combat theatres without body armor on, not because it was the safest thing to do, but because he is well aware of the powerful tools of both messaging and optics.

Mattis, along with his Marines and countless other services members (past and current) know the effects that either good or bad communications and visuals can have. We all know that a full shutdown of our borders to all foreign countries could possibly prevent a terror attack, but the outsized negative impacts, including on the outside perception of America, would cause irrevocable harm to our National Security interests. Military members know that building trust in communities that you work with is indispensable to gather intelligence and to protect our “six” the same is applied to foreign relations.

A military perspective shows us a better way to stop potential terror threats from entering our country. Rather than an all-out ban, which does nothing to actually identify threats to U.S. soil, we should increase wait times for visas to people from countries that are unwilling or unable to share intelligence information with us. From there, we can build our relationships with other countries based on a clear understanding of we require for our security, which would enable the U.S. to engage in bilateral negotiations with countries that are not able to track terrorism within their borders. This type of strategy was recently demonstrated with the laptop ban, targeted, intelligence based, and multi-lateral. In short, we can stop threats abroad before they even try to set foot on our land.

Lastly, when I think about basic military principles the generalized ICE raids make my skin crawl. Such a generalized mission does not allow for proper prioritization and allocation of resources. Resources have not been increased by the legislature, the natural conclusion of which sees resources moving from a targeted approach on violent offenders meaning more violent criminals will be left on the streets. Quite an effective crackdown wouldn’t you say?

A more sensible approach would be for more joint task forces between the DEA and ICE using ICE arrests to weaken cartel influence in the United States. In conjuncture, universal background checks for gun purchases would further increase our ability to find the most dangerous criminals who have managed to make it to America as these checks would immediately criminalize gun ownership by any immigrants without the proper authorization. Seen this way, universal background checks could be a serious check on criminal elements of the undocumented community.

These are just a few alternatives that both the current administration and Congress should be considering. They are evidence based, supported by years of military experience and the data to go along with it. When I was assigned to logistical or support functions in the Marine Corps, I was not absolved of understanding the strategy of the Marines I was supporting. This same principal applies to Congress, which must take responsibility for the strategies imposed by the agencies they are funding. Evidence, logic, holistic strategy, and data can only be ignored for so long before the everyone notices and policies fall apart.

I am not the only Marine who was an anti-terrorism officer, or who sat in the snowy hills of Quantico, freezing, digging holes to learn the basic military principles that are being ignored by our highest leadership. Thus, I know there are many out in our country who are as concerned as I am about the type of thinking being employed by our government. If you’re one of those people, Marine, Soldier, Airman, or Sailor, Military or Civilian, I urge you not to let our country fall under the idea appearing strong rather than actually being strong.

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At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's some perspective for ya:

the sainted Reagan -- "... tear down this wall!!"

the dipshit orange-utang -- "I'm going to build a great wall..."

The same voters that got boners from the first got boners from the second, proving that irony is probably genetic.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger opit said...

The dysfunction of tyranny and terrorizing by government as a consequence of design specifications seems as likely an explanation as most. For instance, 24 came out pushing an imaginary scenario when BushCo were rolling out waterboarding, abu Ghraib and Gitmo. Self identified interrogation trainer ex-MI at Somebody Should Care Maybe Not You was disgusted by the dysfunction which led to fantasy declarations rather than any usable intel. It seems plausible to say that the abused and tortured were mindwashed into a state of compliance which would allow their captors to program them to perform any function, regardless of how extreme it might be. Border Security was once concerned with movement of goods rather than persons. It seems that was another world. Native aboriginals flowing across the border freely as established by treaty constituted agricultural labour for seasonal exploitation. Immigrants stimulated the economy because they needed everything and would work their asses off to get it.


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