Image by Tomascastelazo
Let’s engage in what Einstein used to call a thought experiment. Imagine that Trump’s wall on the Mexican border gets built and it is, as Trump would perhaps say, a thing of beauty. From the Pacific to the Gulf, it is solid, tall, and seemingly impregnable. Trump’s “base”, led by Ann Coulter is giddy; their dream has come true. Trump has finally delivered on his main campaign promise. Now imagine a couple of guys backing up a pickup truck loaded with a ton of high explosives to the wall’s southern side and blowing a fifty foot wide hole in it through which a caravan of migrants is now pouring in. Ah, you say, but we will be ready for them! We will detect the breach and…. And the situation will be exactly what it is today. The crossing points for the migrants are hardly a mystery. They do not want to slip into America undetected. Quite the contrary, they want to be “caught” and processed because they know that this processing means that they will be staying in America forever.
But Israel has a wall! And now Hungary and other countries as well. Yes, Israel and Hungary have walls, fences, border barriers of various kinds. Many countries do. These walls are DEFENSIVE FORTIFICATIONS whose purpose is twofold: slow down the invading enemy and provide cover to the defenders; cover from which they can shoot and if necessary kill those attempting an unauthorized border crossings. From the first earth berm, the first stake fence, the first stone wall, this was the purpose of defensive barriers and it remains so today. You can fill a large town library with books and treatises written on defensive fortifications and their usage as a tool, one among many, in border protection. What is common to all of these, regardless of terrain, of cost, and of type, is the willingness by the defenders to kill the invading enemy and when possible conduct offensive operations across the wall, in enemy territory, in order to gather intelligence and disrupt any offensive preparations being made by the other side. The partially successful Israeli commando raid into Gaza last week, falls under this category. Many more have happened and will yet happen.
But the migrants trying to cross the Mexican border are not “enemies”, they are not “combatants”, say wall supporters. This is not a war zone like Israel. Really? Great, then. If they are simply civilians in search for economic opportunity and refuge from violence and lawlessness in their own countries, we should give them the benefit of due process, which is precisely what they want, what the Democrats want, and what is in fact happening. So why the anguish? By the way, the situation on Israel’s borders is not really that different. On one side is a modern country with first-world per capita GDP of over USD 40,000, on the other a third world s-hole with per capita GDP that is less than the market weight of a Texas steer. On one side there is lawfulness, modern healthcare, education, and human rights, on the other lawlessness, lack of basic commodities including electricity, and one of the harshest tyrannical governments anywhere. Hamas promotes its weekly attacks on the Israeli border as a “March of Return”, not a military invasion. Their frontline troops are women, children, and in some cases people who are mentally and physically challenged. Israel, reluctantly, shoots them anyway. If it hadn’t, it would cease to exist as a Jewish state, the only Jewish state, and the ultimate sacrifice of over twenty thousand Jews who gave their lives so that such a state would exist in the world would be in vain.
America does not have a lack of wall problem, or even an immigration problem. America is experiencing an acute identity crisis, for the second time in its more than two century of existence. For the first time since the Civil War, Americans cannot agree on any marker or markers that set America aside as unique and separate from the rest of the world. In fact, the situation today is much more acute than it was in the run up to the Civil War. In 1860, Americans from Boston and Atlanta, those Americans who counted back then, meaning white men, would have agreed on most things, including those that seem quite outrageous to us today. They would have agreed that Europeans, especially Northern Europeans were superior to any other race of humans, especially Africans and Native Americans. They would have agreed that Protestant Christianity was superior to any other Christian denomination, especially Catholicism. They would have agreed that America was a Christian, not a Judeo-Christian, nation and that Jews were inferior to Christians of any denomination. They would have thought it self-evident that homosexuality of all kinds was deviant and reprehensible and that women had no role to play in the professions or in public life and should never be granted suffrage. They would have agreed that America was great, that personal liberty trumped just about anything, and that American citizens had the absolute right to determine their destiny, including who immigrates to their own country. The only point of disagreement was slavery, not the existence thereof, though many in the North abhorred it, but rather its expansion westward into the newly settled territories. On that single point of disagreement, Americans waged, for four years, a civil war that was among the very bloodiest that had been fought up until that time anywhere on Earth.
Today, it is hard to find a single point of agreement to which even a slight majority of Americans, say 55% would subscribe. It is not entirely clear that most Americans even believe that the founding of their country, having caused so much distress to the native population of the continent and having first brought over the Atlantic and then mistreated for centuries people of African descent was even, when all is said and done, a good thing.
Immigration is surprisingly one of the few issues facing Americans on which there is a wide consensus; most Americans agree that legal immigration is good and illegal is bad and should be stopped. Unfortunately, the same majority is not willing to do what it takes to stop illegal immigration. Internal enforcement via mandatory employer e-verify? Stomachs begin to churn a bit; “do I have to do this for my El Salvadoran maid?” many are thinking. “She showed me a Social Security card, but do I really believe it is real? What are we going to do if she has to leave? Her arroz con pollo is the only thing Junior would eat!”. Discouraging the use (abuse) of children as immigration conduits via their separation from their parents while their asylum claims are adjudicated? Huge outcry from the majority of the American public. Interviewing Trump on the subject of the military deployment to the border, all Laura Ingraham could do was constantly repeat “but no lethal force, right?” America is rich. The countries to its south are poor and getting poorer by the day. If America does not defend its southern border by force of arms, it will be overrun. The wall, undefended by a true military force ready and willing to use lethal force as a last resort will do nothing, as attested by migrants happily taking apart the razor wire recently installed by the military. In fact, the incessant calls for the wall by the “base”, are a cop out. Let us speak the truth and see if the majority of the American public agrees: stopping illegal immigration will be expensive, inconvenient, and extremely morally challenging. Do we have the intestinal fortitude for it before it’s too late? I am not hopeful.
Much is said, on Twitter and elsewhere, about Trump’s “base”. The “base” wants a wall, but they are not willing to see that any wall that is not defended by soldiers willing to shoot to kill any intruder is as useless as a smartphone without a network connection. The “base” wants the American military on the border, but without authorization to use lethal force, which is like buying a hen and refusing to authorize it to lay eggs. The “base” enjoys as much as any American does, if not more, the exceedingly high American standard of living, but it refuses to understand that this lifestyle is enabled by America’s ability to project its might around the world, ensuring the free flow of both finished goods and raw materials and convincing its partners that doing business with it is much more advisable than doing so with the other guy. The “base” dreams of a return to an isolationist America that never existed. Before the ink was dry on the Declaration of Independence, America sent an expeditionary force all the way to the Mediterranean to scatter the “Barbary Coast Pirates”, folks, who like the Somalis of today were disrupting trade in the Mediterranean basin and through the Straits of Gibraltar to North America. Since then, America fought Britain, Spain, France, and even forced Shogun-era Japan to open its ports to American ships. These wars were fought with vigor and more often than not successfully from the American point of view, not only on the North American continent, but in the Philippines, and in Hawaii, and in many other places thousands of miles from home. In fact, America’s military fought only three types of wars throughout its entire history: the war for independence and continental expansion, the war for and against the westward expansion of slavery, and the war for global dominance in trade. The last type was always by far more long-lasting, though the first two were perhaps the most consequential and by far bloodier. The wars for global trade dominance started with the Barbary Coast and continued through both world wars, the Cold War (Korea, Vietnam), and into the present day “war on terror” with its Middle Eastern wars and skirmishes.
“I am anti-war”, declared the self-appointed Trump base whisperer Mike Cernovich. After Trump authorized the cruise missile attack on Syria early on in his administration, Cernovich got off the Trump train and has taken up sniping from the sidelines and prophesizing Trump’s collapse in any elections that happen to be forthcoming. Well, my friends, when you are the biggest, richest kid on the block, you have two choices: wage war to protect your riches or give them up. Being anti-war from your million dollar McMansion is intellectually dishonest, especially when “war” is defined, as it is by the likes of the American right-wing isolationists, any use of military might on foreign soil designed to protect American financial interests. Yes, the wars in the Middle East are about oil. Of course they are! Would you rather stand for hours in line to fill your V-8 SUV, only to find out that the guy before you got the last drop? That was reality in 1973. America, Trump’s America, unabashedly fights to keep itself prosperous. Don’t like it? Figure out just how much of your stuff, your conveniences, your LIFESTYLE you are willing to give up.
The term “realpolitik” may have been invented by the unifier of Germany Otto Von Bismarck, but it was practiced a century earlier by the American Founding Fathers, George Washington chief among them. America is great because its leaders, unlike the Ann Coulter “base” of the Trump movement had global dreams well-tempered by geopolitical realities of their day. Washington’s warning against foreign entanglements was not in support of a small and inward-looking America, it was, rather, an admonition against the weaving of a tangled web of alliances, which, though expedient at the time, end up restricting one’s ability to act in one own’s best interests in the future. In other words, this piece of sage advice was intended to help America expand, not contract, look outwards, not inwards, but do it always with the benefit of Americans, and uniquely Americans, in mind.
The loyal base of the Trump movement is now facing a unique moment in history when it, and it alone, can act as the unifying force that can make America one country again, that can coalesce a large majority of Americans around the basic American principles of lawfulness, freedom, and prosperity. But first, this base needs to cleanse itself of those elements that dream the impossible and utterly destructive dreams of “going our own way”, of dissolving the union, believing, in their incredible naiveté, that this dissolution will not affect their cushy jobs, and 401(k)’s, and SUV’s, and Sundays at the ballpark. The base needs to shake off its pseudo-historical longings for an inward-looking isolationist America that never actually existed. Both the dissolution of the Union and its remaking into an ever-shrinking shell of its own former glory are betrayals, the utmost betrayals, in fact, of the Founding Fathers’ vision for America as unified, powerful, and engaged with the world to promote good and defeat evil while increasing the liberty and prosperity of its own citizens.
Snarkiness sells books, but it is not the American way. Neither is collecting your toys and sulking in your own corner. The Trump movement is American because it is expansive, positive, optimistic, and self-affirming, just like the American independence movement of the late 18th century. Like George Washington, at least according to lore, Trump is also refreshingly honest. In this too, his true followers should imitate their leader. Enough with the lie that America can maintain its prosperity without proactively projecting its military might in the far-flung corners of the globe. Enough with the preposterous idea that illegal migration can be stopped without the threat of lethal force against the migrants.
Honesty, positivity, optimism, engagement with the world from a position of force for the benefit of Americans first and the rest of the world second, those of us who are true Trump supporters would do well to embrace those pillars of his platform. We would do well to avoid forming the expectation that Trump has superpowers that allow him to unilaterally act to restore America’s greatness in a few years, reversing decades-old decline. We could all benefit from imitating the Trumpian indefatigability, his work ethic, his optimism, his realism, and most of all his unshakeable belief in America that acts for the betterment of all humanity through increasing the liberty, safety, and prosperity of its own citizens.