So, you remember that row of Trumpy-Wall prototypes bleaching in the Sun south of San Diego? They looked really impressive, yes? Wasn’t it keen how they stood there, all tall and proud, casting long shadows and standing guard as if to say get over this, you brown bastards? It was just so muscular and masculine, a real guy’s guy answer to the problem.
Well, yeah, but the Department of Homeland Security asked the military, maybe the Army Corps of Engineers, to have a go at breaching them, under condition that they could use only ordinary tools that any would-be Coyote could pick up at the average Mexican hardware store. The soldiers saluted smartly, and promptly cut their way through every one of the eight prototypes, apparently using nothing more than a garden variety circular saw, and perhaps some other common implements. Not one of them stood up to testing. They had to halt one experiment when the prototype looked about to fall over. Here’s what became of the “steel slats” version that Trump now advocates:
Bear in mind: the military testers used a circular saw. Or maybe it was one of those battery powered reciprocating saws – like you’d use to do odd jobs around the cottage. I’m sure that as generally available consumer saw models go, it was a pretty good one, but it was just a saw. Not an acetylene torch. Not dynamite. Not a bulldozer. They didn’t get Delta Force to blow through it with carefully spaced charges of Semtex. They simply marched over, fired up the old Black and Decker, and cut the useless thing a new one.
This illustrates the central conundrum of border walls, as perfectly addressed by the most famous of them all, the Great Wall of China:
See, the Great Wall isn’t so much a wall as a fortress. It has a roadway on top big enough for cavalry, and strong points dotted at intervals which served as watchtowers. The Great Wall was garrisoned, since walls don’t stop infiltration because they’re impregnable, they keep the baddies out because they’re patrolled. No wall, however formidable, can simply be erected and left alone, job finished. The barrier is just one facet of the defence. Yes, if it’s enemy armies with siege equipment that you’re worried about, the wall needs to be thick and stout to slow them down while friendly forces are brought to bear. If, however, all you’re worried about is women carrying their babies on foot, you don’t even need the wall. You need the watchtowers, or some more modern functional equivalent. Drones, say. Seismic sensors.
Thus unless Trump’s border wall was patrolled and monitored along its entire length, with border agents dispersed such that they’re able to respond in a timely fashion no matter where a break-in is attempted, it’s useless. It might as well be corrugated cardboard. They won’t just saw through it. They’ll chain it to a bulldozer and pull it over. They’ll tunnel under it – the drug cartels love tunnelling, they’re great at it. Once they dug an underground shaft that surfaced inside a warehouse in San Diego. It went right under the already quite formidable fencing installed there.
It had, I swear to God, a rail line built into it, the better to move cocaine in multiples of 50 kilo bundles:
Anyway, your average Coyote won’t have to over-achieve to that extent. This is the 21st century. There are all sorts of technologies that could get you over a wall. Maybe they’ll bring along a scissor lift and some rope and just climb over it, and if it’s made too tall for the scissor lift, they’ll use the top as a platform for a frigging aluminum ladder like the kind you use to clean your gutters.
Hell, they’ll build a dirt ramp on their side of the barrier and drive over the stupid wall in an SUV:
How to prevent any of these efforts? Keep electronic watch on the whole thing and always have border patrol personnel nearby to intervene. But wait! Hold up, you say. If the border is going to be that well-patrolled anyway, why even have the wall? Why not just spot the intruders and scoop them up?
See, you figured it out right away.
Besides, people straggling over undefended lengths of the border aren’t the real problem. Most illegal immigrants come in through airports, or arrive legally and overstay their visas. A huge fraction of the immigrants Trump is ranting about aren’t “illegals” at all, but supplicants seeking legal asylum by presenting themselves at ports of entry, as is their right under both U.S. and International law. Apprehension of truly illegal immigrants trying to sneak in is at a 46 year low. More of them decide to go home every year than come in. And so on. We may as well give up yelling ourselves hoarse that there is no crisis in the first place. Trump has his Base well and truly hornswoggled.
Perhaps there’s a chance that they’ll absorb the much simpler message, devoid of statistics and rational analysis, and presentable in picture form so they don’t have to read anything, that the Great Wall of Trump could be comprehensively defeated by any bad hombre with enough money to buy a power tool at the Tijuana Do It store – yes, there is one, though here, pick another retailer if it suits you:
If Trump ever gets his imbecilic wall, I hope the first one through leaves a Trumpy Bear by the great big hole he just cut. Maybe mount him in the sand with a stick up his wazoo.
UPDATE: the saw used in the tests was a large circular saw known as a “quick saw”, which you may have seen being used by workers to cut through sidewalk and such. Available at any Home Depot.