ELEVENTH IN LINE
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A blog about my life, universe, etc. At any given time you might find something endlessly interesting or just me ruminating on something else, which no one (not even myself) finds interesting. That's the way blogs go, I suppose. Anyway, I was eleventh in line, and you weren't. Hah!
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My mom is a lawyer in Pickerington; my stepdad and dad are computer guys, and my stepmom (who works with my dad) is an engineer. My sisters are, in order of age, a photographer, an artist, and a person too young to have her own website. My brothers are, in order of age, living up north, and again, a person too young to have a website. At some point soon I'll be collecting links for my aunts, uncle, and cousins. ^_^
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Monday, March 27, 2006
Why a wall is a stupid idea... Fences may make good neighbors, but a wall across our Mexican border would probably bankrupt us, if we actually did it well enough to keep people from crossing it. Join me in a pointless attempt to avoid studying for my Russian exam; I was just reading some blogs, and then this post on Millenial Star got me typing and now look where I am:
Assuming we can't build a wall so strong and so tall as to keep people out -- we'd have to put an absolutely ridiculous amount of manpower into patrolling it. We have 8,500 people living at Guantanamo Bay -- 2,000 civilian family members and 6,500 sailors, Marines, airmen, coasties and civilian staff. Their guards -- and there are hundreds of them -- are staring across a relatively small fence (in terms of total length: 29 kilometers), guarding it twenty-four hours a day:
A map of Guantanamo Bay.
The only reason that we didn't (before 2004, when we turned over patrolling to the South Korean military -- 600,000 strong, primarily focused on defense against North Korea, with which they share a 151-mile long border) have the majority of the 40,000 or so US troops in South Korea patrolling that border is because we'd been down to just two observation points for years; to adequately guard the whole border would take far more people, and that's to defend against a presumed invasion, involving large military vehicles you can see from a satellite. Not small groups of people crossing a desert border, which really would require essentially line-of-site observation 24 hours a day.
Say we had patrols with one or maybe two men stationed 20 yards apart (line of sight, roughly,) with "observation stations" ala North Korea every 40 kilometers (25 miles), all along a fence with Mexico (remembering that our border with Mexico is 3,141 kilometers long, or 108 times the size of that border with Cuba,) and we won't be able to rely on their soldiers shooting anyone who tries to cross (like we can with Cuba).) Assume 8 hour patrols, and two support/administrative types for every guy who's patrolling:
-- 40 kilometers/20 yard patrols: 2188 patrol sections per station.
-- 3 shifts per section: 6564 patrolling personnel per working day.
-- Giving everyone two days off out of every seven: 9190 patrolling personnel per station.
-- Giving each patrolling individual 2 support staff types (including doctors, kitchen patrol, prison guards, DHS immigration officials...): 27,570 personnel per station.
-- A station every 40 kilometers for 3141 kilometers: 79 stations.
79 stations times 27,570 personnel: 2,178,030 personnel.
That's almost exactly the size of today's active and reserve military (1.4 million active, 860,000 reserve,) and I think we'd still get a lot of people sneaking past these patrols. Oh, and it's about the same size as the only active military with more personnel than ours (China,) and the size of the next two down (India and Russia) put together. It'd require nearly 1% of the total population of the United States to manage, and we'd still have another half a percentage point doing other military/defense work outside of this border defense force, and the borders with Canada (continental and Alaskan: 8,893 km.) Assuming 3 year terms of service, that the majority of those patrolling won't be in the military right now, and an average increase in the number of military-age citizens of 4 million annually, that puts us into a situation where more than one out of every six people (18%) turning 18 is enlisting in the border patrol.
If you give us two guys walking together, 20 yards from the next one down, we're up to 1,452,020 men who spend every single day of their work week walking along that border. That's the size of the entire active duty military in the US right now. 30% patrolling is a relatively generous estimate, based on how the US Border Patrol works today, and how the military services work -- the Marine Corps is the only one above the 30% infantry range, with something like 65%; the larger the task and the more complete its operational discretion, the larger the support staff required. The US Army has five clearly combat-related areas: infantry, armor, cannon field artillery, short-range air defense artillery, and special forces. They make up about a third of the total Army force.
As to why I think so many patrolmen would be necessary:
Anything short of line of sight patrolling is going to be very difficult to manage, just because you're going to have to start blowing people up from a distance or trying to track them while they're still on the Mexican side (or, if you're in one of the really rural areas on both sides of the border, put your trust in being able to track and catch up to AND catch them before they reach safety, defined primarily in terms of a city or other population center, where they can blend in. Unless you don't care how many people you let through, in which case why expand beyond the 11,300-man Border Patrol present today (we've got a proposal out there to add 10,000 border patrol agents, 1000 investigators, and 1250 port inspectors, which would shift the balance of the Border Patrol significantly.) You also need to consider the availablity of other patrollmen to show up and support anyone in difficulty; 20 yards is less than a minute's run. You can probably do strict vehicular patrols at a greater distance, but that would put them on the wrong side of the wall (either on the side with all the immigrants, or cut off from the immigrants -- there's no driving on the wall itself; even the Great Wall of China isn't big enough to really do that.) Also, that'll increase the number of people sneaking through.
Oh, and way before we've reached the point where we've got a population the size of the entire public school enrollment of the Los Angeles Unified School District patrolling the Mexican border, people will have started coming in along the coasts, or taking boats/planes to Canada. A grand total of 12,034 km of land boundaries and 19,924 km of coastline to watch, then...
(this reminds me of playing "Age of Empires"... at a certain point, it becomes so difficult and expensive to win using a military defense strategy that you have to become powerful economically to win; the computer opponents leave their populations behind everyone else technologically, and resort to a campaign of attrition against the entire world, trying to goad you into building a wall around your island to keep them out -- they will always break through the walls eventually, so you've got to either have a ton of allies to join you in an assault against their territory, or succeed so much economically that the computer opponent decides to resign.)
Someone brought up the IDF security fence:
As far as Israel is concerned, they have a) a border of 365 km (about 1/9th the size of our border with Mexico) that they want to fence in, and b) universal conscription with three-year terms of service for combat personnel (which, essentially is the group doing the patrolling: those called up choose either the IDF or the Border Police) Every healthy man between 18 and 43 is officially in the IDF and can be called up at any time for active duty. Also, they're dealing with an environment sufficiently hostile that sticking to the roads is the only sensible option for the overwhelming majority of travelers, and a population of terrorists who want to blow them up living next door. Moreover:
"During 1950-66, Israel spent an average of 9% of its GDP on defense. Defense expenditures increased dramatically after both the 1967 and 1973 wars. In 1996, the military budget reached 10.6% of GDP and represented about 21.5% of the total 1996 budget."
(anyone who can get a tourist visa to Israel and a letter of good character from their local police station -- and, presumably, can speak Hebrew -- can volunteer to serve on a Border Police guard patrol, or at a checkpoint. That sounds like fun!)
[I got everything here from the CIA, the IDF/Border Police website, and WikiPedia... it's a crummy bit of blogging not to link, but then again this was a two minute comment on someone else's post not very long ago; if anyone wants I can hunt the links down again.]
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