How May I Close the Border? Let Me Count the Ways.

With the recent admission by Jeh Johnson that there actually is a crisis at the border, it seems even more likely that the spate of lawsuits against the president's emergency declaration will fail.  But that has no effect on the multitudes attempting to scale the ramparts and overwhelm the United States.  The Democrats in Congress will be of no help whatever, so President Trump is left with a single ally: himself.

That leaves open the question of what options he has.  Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution makes him the commander in chief of our military forces.  But before we fix bayonets against a horde of mothers, there are other actions Donald Trump can take based on Article 2, Section 1.  He is the chief executive, and all executive power is vested in him.  Not in Congress.  Not in some administrative agency.  In him.

It is indisputable that if the government of Mexico were to enforce its own laws, we wouldn't be having this problem.  But El Presidente López is no fan of Donald Trump and is quite happy to let these economic migrants be a thorn in Donald's side.  So he sits on his hands and does nothing of substance.

While the president of Mexico has been purposefully idle, our president has not.  He has been a whirlwind of activity on a host of fronts.  Of particular importance, he has spent two-plus years keeping the promises he made on the campaign trail.  He moved our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He browbeat NATO countries into paying their contractual share.  And he cemented his support of Israel by recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli.  Finally, in the center of the Mexico question, he delivered the USMCA trade deal.

In short, "Promises Made, Promises Kept" is more than a slogan.  It's reality for everyone, including El Presidente, to see.  By now, López must know that Donald Trump's favorite book is Sun Tzu's classic treatise, The Art of War.  A quick search of it yields multiple principles, with a few ideally suited for this situation.

  • "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
  • "Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."
  • "Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." 
  • "The greatest victory is that which requires no battle." 

Let's see how Donald Trump might go forward.  Remember, he has already made it clear that he doesn't make idle threats.  China has already had to deal with him.

If we remember that every element of border security is under Trump's command, and that we have a true invasion underway, then it is clear that every tool in the military's arsenal is properly available to deal with this problem.  But I'd bet that those are late in the list.  The first is much simpler.

The U.S. is Mexico's largest trading partner.  As a courtesy, most trucks bringing goods from Mexico to the U.S. are functionally waved through the border check points.  That doesn't need to be the case.  If our inspectors were to be just a bit more careful, an awful lot of goods would back up in a hurry.  Yes, it would pinch some of our businesses that source in Mexico, but the pain would be far worse on the south side.  The price of guacamole would go up, but hey, I'll have Italian tonight instead.

Just this little bit of pressure might be enough to get El Presidente's attention.  But if it's not, then we simply take the inspections up to detailed levels for every truck.  That will ring some phones in Mexico City.  And I bet one phone in D.C. would ring very quickly.  Mexico cannot survive if we do detailed inspections of all goods coming north.  And El Presidente has enough problems without this making them worse.

I would take bets that it won't get any worse than this.  Mexico could stop the caravans overnight.  Donald Trump will simply supply the motivation.  But let's suppose that El Presidente gets his jockeys in a wad about being pushed around.  Instead of helping, he lets the cartels loose on the border.  Donald Trump now has a shooting war on his hands, and the job of being commander in chief requires that he win it.  Overnight, we'd have a major military presence on the border.

Will soldiers fire on barefoot Maria and little Juan Carlos?  Not likely.  But there are other ways.  In the Rio Grande valley, a few patrol fireboats would be enough.  Any vessel that left the Mexican side would be driven back with a fire hose.  Anyone foolish enough to try to ford the river in a shallow spot would have a similar problem.  And the Army Corps of Engineers could dredge the shallow spots, making them unsafe to ford.  Not a shot fired!

Because we have a policy that one foot in the U.S. grants you the right to legal process, it will be necessary to prevent feet from arriving.  For that, we have Israel's example to imitate.  When Hezb'allah was actively invading from Lebanon, Israel set up a "buffer zone" inside Lebanon to protect itself.  There's no reason we can't do the same.

The U.S. is being invaded.  Mexico is acting as a hostile power abetting the invasion.  We have every right to go into Mexico and set up a buffer zone.  It can be as shallow as a mile; it would prevent migrants from ever entering the U.S.  If they are apprehended in the buffer, they can be loaded on Chinooks and taken back to points south.  Our courts would never see them.  No more measles, tuberculosis, and swine flu would be flooding into the U.S.

Do I think the president will go this far?  He would be fully within his job description to do so.  But I would bet that a small amount of inspection squeeze would get El Presidente's attention.  He would understand the Donald Trump does not bluff, and the weapon pointed directly at him is far bigger than he can handle.  He would melt like an ice cream cone on a Miami summer sidewalk.

"Promises Made, Promises Kept" is not just a slogan.  It's the most powerful tool of international diplomacy ever invented.  Donald Trump's hole cards are aces.  He's not afraid to go "all in" when it matters . Swamp critters see the strength and won't push hard.  It's not worth it to them, but it is to us.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.