Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let Me Explain

Last night, I heard once more that supposedly clever little statement that those on the left think is just the end of the argument on border control. One guy said, on the issue of illegal immigration, "Show me a twelve foot fence and I'll show you a thirteen foot ladder." I hope he isn't so stupid as to believe that means a fence is pointless.

The implication is that we shouldn't bother to build a fence because people will find a way over it.

But the reality is that fences aren't supposed to stop illegal immigrants from entering our country. Indeed, no fence is designed to keep determined people out.

First, they are a signal that this area is off limits. For most people, that's enough. Just knowing. For others, the height of the fence does matter. Make it too difficult and it isn't worth it. Top it with barbed wire, for example. For the really determined, of course, the fence won't matter. Make it high and they use a ladder. Make it too high and they go through it with wire cutters. Make it too thick and they go under it.

But those things take time and effort. And that's the main point of a fence when you are talking about people determined to go past a fence--it requires time to do it. All the fence does is buy time. You ever wonder why some fences have those barbed wire extensions that angle in at 45 degrees instead of being angled out at 45 degrees to keep people out? It's to buy time. If someone crosses the fence and triggers alarms inside a building proteced by the fence, the criminal on the way out will be forced to take more time escaping because they now have to cross the fence again--with barbed wire angled toward them now. Police or security have a chance of catching up with the criminal to keep them from escaping with their loot.

This time element is true of obstacles in a defensive belt. Mines, ditches, and obstacles won't stop an advancing army--just slow it down. Leave the attacking army alone, and eventually they are through the mine and obstacle belt. Which is why armies don't set up such obstacles and call it a day. No, defending armies deploy behind the belt of mines and obstacles and defend the line. A defensive belt, no matter how much of a wonder of engineering it is, is going to fail if there are too few troops behind it to defend it. But if you have more time to shoot attackers who are also distracted by the need to move through the obstacles, you'll defend your line successfully.

The same idea applies to a border fence, although without the level of firepower, of course. When speaking of building a border fence to keep out illegal immigrants (And to be clear, I'm for legal immigration under controls we set. We are a land of immigrants and accepting people has made us great. But we really are allowed to set the rules. Really.), you can't just think of the fence as a stand-alone silver bullet that solves the problem. All a fence can do is slow down people trying to cross. And so we need enough border police with proper equipment and surveillance gear to intercept illegal border crossers using the time that the fence provides us to get to that section of the border and arrest them. For that matter, defense in depth has to extend into the country to identify them when (not "if") they make it past the border.

See? Defense in depth. Not a difficult concept. So the next time you hear that stupid thirteen-foot ladder comment, you'll know exactly why it is too stupid to live.