Small Wars Journal

It’s About National Security - And More - Solving the Caravan Problem

Share this Post

It’s About National Security - And More - Solving the Caravan Problem


Gary Anderson


The United States does not face existential threats to its sovereignty if caravans of Central American asylum seekers are permitted to cross the Mexican and United States borders with impunity - but - in the case of crossing the U.S. border, it would signal that American laws regarding immigration are no longer being enforced. Continued flaunting of rule of law would signify it mean nothing, and sovereignty as we know it is dead. If these groups succeed, hundreds of thousands will undoubtedly follow. Moreover, the caravan marchers are as much a threat to Mexican sovereignty as to our own. President Trump understands this, and he is drawing a line in the sand on the issue. Democrats who see tens of thousands of potential voters for their party are inviting disaster at the polls if they are seen as contributing to the loss of national sovereignty to a real -albeit peaceful- invasion of our country by allowing open borders. Some progressive politicians in urban areas have already undermined sovereignty with various sanctuary cities programs.


There is a historical precedent to this situation as related by Arthur Ferrill in his book The Fall of the Roman Empire that progressive Democrats need to think about. Beginning in the late Third Century A.D., roving Germanic tribes were welcome within the borders of the Western Roman Empire for several reasons. First, citizenship in the Empire had come to be an economic burden to residents of the empire as the tax rates had become astronomical. Second, Roman citizens were not reproducing fast enough to keep the agricultural labor pool replenished. Finally, it was becoming difficult to recruit Latin speaking citizens into an increasingly overextended Roman Army.


The Germanic immigrants were viewed as both a labor pool for agriculture and as a source of military manpower. However, the tribal leaders of the immigrants demanded some concessions from the Roman government. The new recruits would come in their own formations led by their own officers and speaking their native languages. The traditional drill that made the Roman Army the greatest military power in the world was considered to be a waste of time by the Germanic immigrants. Not all Romans thought that uncontrolled immigration was a good thing, and a nationalist party resisted the concept of mass, unregulated immigration - but their long-term objections were overruled by the short-run temptation of increased farm production, increased tax revenue, and recruits for the military.


By A.D. 450, the Roman Army was no longer Roman, and Latin was increasingly a minority language outside major urban areas. By A.D. 476, the Western Roman Empire was gone with its spoils fought over by competing Germanic tribes. Roman culture was not overrun; it was immigrated to death.


Americans are a compassionate people and it is hard not to be sympathetic to the plight of Central American immigrants who are fleeing crime and violence in their native countries, but President Trump and his allies see that intermixed among the refugees are the very elements the caravans are fleeing. Gang members, cartel operatives, and common criminals undoubtedly see the migration as a golden opportunity. Well-meaning American progressives will not force the immigrants to learn English once they are allowed in any more that Romans enforced Latin within their borders in the Fifth Century. The caravans and unlimited illegal immigration carry the seeds of the end of American civilization as surely as the hordes of Germanic nomads undermined our Roman predecessors.


The caravan invasion can be dealt with in a manner that is humane and responsible. The Mexican and U.S. governments should set up screening camps along the southern Mexican border in a manner like the ones in Texas for unaccompanied illegal immigrant children. Those marchers already in Mexico and those who try to follow should be detained and diverted to the camps with officials from both countries examining the potential immigrants to sort them into three groups.


Those who have outstanding arrest warrants in their home country or are identified as criminals by their fellow travelers should be extradited to the country of origin for prosecution. Those who can legitimately qualify for sanctuary can be processed for the proper paperwork. Those unfortunates who merely want to leave a bad situation back home can be given the proper instructions as to how to apply for legal immigration and sent home. An enhanced and streamline guest worker program for immigrants with a good work record and have willing sponsors north of the border would allow migrant workers to go home during the non-growing season with assurance that they will be welcome back if they keep their noses clean while in this country.


The American and Mexican armed forces have the capability to erect camps that are safe and sanitary. Such an approach would guarantee the sovereignty of both countries while insuring that legitimate asylum seekers are protected while criminals are kept out. As for those who want to enter the United States merely because their own countries are poorly governed, they would be well advised to march on their own capitals rather than the U.S. border.


As Victor Davis Hanson pointed out in a recent Washington Times article, disregard for the rule of law can become contagious. It’s a short jump of logic from sanctuary cities in progressive strongholds to sanctuary communities.


Moving the Third World and its problems into the United States does nothing to improve the lot of those nations and it will almost certainly degrade the culture and civilization that we have built for two hundred and forty-two years. Progressives in this country have taken the desire for diversity to ridiculous levels already. Losing control of our borders would be the last straw.


Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.


About the Author(s)

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps Colonel who has been a civilian advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.


Bill C.

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 11:24am

Regarding my "we are much like them" argument below, which suggests that national security -- in both Afghanistan and the U.S./the West cases -- this may be being compromised for cultural security (or, for something even smaller, which might be termed "ethnic or class security?"); in this regard, consider the following additional information and comparison:

1.  Case No. One: Afghanistan:

"If the history of Afghanistan is one great stage play, the United States is no more than a supporting actor, among several previously, in a tragedy that not only pits tribes, valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at least King Zahir Shah's reign, has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional." (Item in parenthesis here is mine.)… 

2.  Case No. Two: The United States/the West:


"This situation represents the latest phase of the long historical conflicts between two Americas -- that is, liberal internationalism of the urban establishment and popular isolationism in predominantly rural white communities."…


"The conclusion highlights several main findings. First, the results of analyzing the demographic and social controls confirm that populist support in Europe is generally stronger among the older generation, men, the less educated, the religious, and ethnic majorities, patterns confirming previous research."

END QUOTE (See Page 4 and the Conclusion at Page 29 of this Harvard study.)

Conclusion:  In both of the (amazingly similar?) cases above, the reasons why people seem to choose certain behavior or make specific decisions; this appears to relate more to whether these specific segments of the population believe that "modernization" is in their individual/ethnic group/parochial/class (not necessarily their country's) best interests?

Given that President Trump, in general, often seems to take his (anti-modernization?) ques from former President Andrew Jackson; in this regard, consider the following re: Jackson and his "halt modernization (and, thus, compromise national security?) campaign: 

"Jacksonians drew support from Norther Laborers and yeoman farmers in the South and West.  These groups, which Jackson dubbed the "bone and sinew" of America, worried that the market economy would force them into the dependent class.  The Jacksonians told farmers and laborers that they would do everything in their power to prevent this from taking place.  In essence, the men and their rank and file voting allies, along with Jackson, fought a rear-guard action against encroaching industrialization and market economy. Although they won the pivotal battles, they lost the war, because their notion of a pre-capitalist agrarian society succumbed to the industrial economy after the Civil War."

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Likewise today, the global economy, in this case, appears to be threatening various individuals and groups throughout the world.  

This, as we can clearly see now, includes dominant groups -- not just in the Global South -- but also in the Global North.  

Thus, individuals and groups in BOTH these such the entities (the Global South and the Global North) (a) anti-modernization efforts -- which often include (b) closing borders/rejection of foreigners?  

Herein, such things as "modernization" (implies/requires such things as open borders -- so as to take better advantage, for national security purposes, of the global economy?); this such modernization/national security requirement -- in both the Afghan and U.S./Western cases above -- these seem to be forced into the background?

(This, so as to accommodate, instead, presently dominant groups -- as in Andrew Jackson's time?)

Consider this broader perspective (the immigrant/"foreign invader issue, however, is addressed herein):

Kilcullen has noted that, today, responsible national governments -- who understand that their nation's security/their nation's very survival -- requires "modernization" (i.e., political, economic, social, value, etc.,  "change;" this, so to adequately deal with today's global problems) -- 

Kilcullen has noted that these such responsible governments, today, are often seen -- by the conservative elements of their populations -- as "insurgents."

Accordingly, these such conservative elements, today, often see themselves as the "counterinsurgents," to wit: as the folks whose job it is to (a) overcome the responsible government's political, economic, social, value, etc., "change" demands (however necessary these may be) and (b) maintain the status quo (or, better yet, install a status quo anti).

Thus, today, the U.S./the West's such conservative/"counterinsurgents" -- these folks seem to resemble (as to their overall mission?) the conservative/"counterinsurgents" fighting against necessary modernization in the Greater Middle East? 

In this regard::

a.  First consider the Kilcullen quote I provide below (from his "Counterinsurgency Redux) and

b.  Then see if you agree with my such "we are much like them" contention.


Politically, in many cases today, the counterinsurgent represents revolutionary change, while the insurgent fights to preserve the status quo of ungoverned spaces, or to repel an occupier -- a political relationship opposite to that envisaged in classical counterinsurgency. Pakistan’s campaign in Waziristan since 2003 exemplifies this. The enemy includes al-Qa’ida (AQ) linked extremists and Taliban, but also local tribesmen fighting to preserve their traditional culture against 21st century encroachment. The problem of weaning these fighters away from extremist sponsors, while simultaneously supporting modernization, does somewhat resemble pacification in traditional counterinsurgency. But it also echoes colonial campaigns, and includes entirely new elements arising from the effects of globalization. 


(Note:  Much like the Afghan conservatives/counterinsurgents above -- likewise today the U.S./Western conservatives/counterinsurgents -- BOTH seem to wish to close borders/to "repel foreign invaders." Yes?)  

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:


a.  When we look (from our Kilcullen quote) at such things as "al-Qa'ida (AQ) linked extremists and Taliban, but also local tribesmen fighting to preserve their traditional culture" above,

b.  Do we not see our very own conservative groups -- who, likewise, seem to fighting -- to preserve, in this case, our own traditional culture?   

(Questions:  In the AQ/Taliban cases above -- and in the case of our very own conservative groups also -- might we say that the need to provide for national security, this has been forfeited; this, by the decision to prioritize cultural security over national security?  Or, in the Afghan and U.S/Western cases above, might say that -- in such both cases -- cultural security actually is/actually equals national security?)