Feature

Editor's Letter: "Sealing the borders"

In 1986, the House of Representatives demanded that the Pentagon “seal the borders” within 45 days against illegal drugs.

In 1986, the House of Representatives demanded that the Pentagon “seal the borders” within 45 days against illegal drugs. A quarter-century later, give or take 45 days, President Obama has ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to fulfill the fantasy. The U.S. has 7,500 miles of border with Mexico and Canada. It has 88,000 miles of coastline. It has 300 ports and waterways handling more than 2 billion tons of cargo annually. And it has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs and illegal immigrants. The consensus on immigrants is that roughly 12 million undocumented aliens are hiding here in plain sight. As for the volume of illegal drugs crossing the border, an informal survey of local high schools suggests infinity and beyond is a good estimate.

Given what zero tolerance has achieved thus far, you’d think we’d keep expectations low on the terrorism front. After all, al Qaida leaders could Google Nogales and Ciudad Juárez, and maybe the St. Lawrence Seaway, too. Is it really possible that a savvy, determined, well-financed terrorist can’t locate a back door that 12 million largely uneducated migrants—and who knows how many tons of mind-altering contraband—have already worn the hinges off? Seems a bit unlikely, no? And that’s presuming the bad guys lack homegrown helpers. So we’re left with the enduring double conundrum of post-9/11 America: that the terrorists have been either too few, too incompetent, or too focused elsewhere to succeed at a task that doesn’t seem all that hard. And that we nevertheless are mystified every time one of them gets close enough to rattle our unbolted cage.

Francis Wilkinson

Recommended

America's Catch-22 in Taiwan and Ukraine
Earth.
Picture of Noah MillmanNoah Millman

America's Catch-22 in Taiwan and Ukraine

Germany imposes new restrictions on unvaccinated
Angela Merkel.
'a very, very difficult situation'

Germany imposes new restrictions on unvaccinated

Olympic committee: 2nd call with Peng Shuai 'reconfirmed' she 'appeared to be safe'
Shuai Peng
'difficult situation'

Olympic committee: 2nd call with Peng Shuai 'reconfirmed' she 'appeared to be safe'

10 things you need to know today: December 1, 2021
A vigil for Oxford High School shooting victims
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 1, 2021

Most Popular

Meghan Markle handed win in court battle with U.K. tabloid
Meghan Markle
meghan vs. tabloids

Meghan Markle handed win in court battle with U.K. tabloid

Late night hosts joke about Trump's secret COVID test
Donald Trump shares COVID with Joe Biden
Last Night on Late Night

Late night hosts joke about Trump's secret COVID test

Michigan prosecutor may charge Oxford shooter's parents, too
Oxford High School in Michigan
In loco parentis

Michigan prosecutor may charge Oxford shooter's parents, too