Trump inspected prototype’s of his proposed Mexican border wall this week. During this there was this strange bit of theatre where a group of supposed “special forces” tried to climb it but couldn’t get over it. I mean I do a bit of climbing myself and I reckon I could do a better job than these guys.
Professional climber Ed Viesturs reckons it could be breached either using a series of ladders or a combination of dry tooling and aid climbing. Basically, you bash holes in the wall with a rock hammer. Or drill holes and hammer in pitons. Once the lead climber makes it to the top, he drops a rope, the rest use ascenders (or a rope ladder) to follow him up and then abseil down the other side. So my guess is that this was just a bit of security theatre to massage Trump’s ego, relying on his and his supporters ignorance to mask the reality.
Of course, there’s an easier way to overcome the wall. Cut a hole in it using a thermic lance. Granted this is not the sort of equipment you can carry around in a backpack, but it can be easily carried to the wall in the back of a pickup truck.
Alternatively, perhaps in areas where a truck can’t be used, or the individuals just don’t have access to that sort of equipment, you can use the old medieval technique of undermining. You dig a hole on one side of the wall to undermine its foundations. Note that anti-tunnelling features that are proposed for the wall won’t protect against this technique, as you are not actually digging under the wall, just removing the soil on one side that supports its foundations. Timber props are used to protect the diggers from a premature collapse. Once the wall is looking suitably wobbly, set the timbers on fire and take off running. And the phallic height of Trump’s wall (do you think maybe he’s compensating for something?) actually works against it here, as it means the wall has a relatively high centre of gravity. This is why most border walls are lower, or they use a fence instead…or they don’t even bother with such a thing.
But aren’t they going to use drones and camera’s to watch out for this sort of stuff? Yes and I’m sure they’ll get lots of nice pictures of the wall being breached, as well as the bared bums of Mexican coyotaje. The only Mexicans this wall will stop are the lazy ones, or the ones who didn’t google “how to breach Trump’s wall” prior to setting off. For the rest, it will inconvenience them for between 20 minutes to an hour or two. Hell, they’ll be delayed longer at the official border crossings. So unless the wall is manned sufficiently it will quickly become a white elephant, a monument to one man’s ego and his nation’s xenophobia.
And its a monument that’s going to cost between $33 billion to $70 billion, depending on the breaks. And that’s assuming its actually possible to build the wall, as well as ignoring the numerous other costs and problems it will create.
And the logistics of manning the wall are not going to be small. If we were to assume say twenty border guards for every mile of the 2,000 mile length of the Mexican border, that’s a staff of 40,000. And if twenty sounds too many remember they’ll be working multiple shifts (and we need slack to account for contingencies) plus maintenance crews. Some parts of the wall are in extremely remote and inhospitable places (so you’ll be airlifting staff into a watch tower where they sit for several weeks, with supplies being airdropped to them) creating all sorts of logistical problems that will chew up manpower. So its a not unreasonable estimate.
Well consider that at present the US has about 21,000 border guards covering the whole of the country, at a cost of about $4 billion a year. So we’re talking about needing double that number just to guard Trump’s precious wall. Accounting for maintenance costs of the wall on top of this (about 2-4% of the initial construction costs per year), all in all we are looking at an annual running cost in the order of $4-8 billion a year. At this rate it would be cheaper to simply pay any Mexican looking to cross say $10,000 dollars just to stay in Mexico….then again, knowing Trump’s recruitment policies, he’ll probably staff the wall with Mexicans anyway! They’ll be walking up to the wall only to find a sign saying, now hiring!
And speaking of Mexicans, the wall’s success or failure will largely hinge on the cooperation of the Mexican government. Remember that anyone whom the border guards catch trying to breach the wall will either still be in Mexico, or a few short steps from Mexican territory (into which they’ll no doubt retreat once they see flashing blue lights approaching at speed) and thus outside of US legal jurisdiction. Unless the Mexican Federal police crack down on the gangs of wall breachers who will no doubt flare up, then the border guards are reduced to the role of father Ted. And needless to say calling the Mexicans rapists and demanding that they pay for the wall has pretty much guaranteed that this co-operation won’t be forthcoming.
Also we are ignoring that there exists a technology that can bypass the wall in mere seconds….its called “planes”….Trump supporters might want to google “the Wright brothers” (I realise some of them live in the 1860’s so maybe they aren’t up to speed with current technology). I did a quick internet search and you can get a return (off peak) plane ticket from Mexico to the US for about £150 (or about $200). Keep in mind that by buying a return ticket to some tourist destination (and the cheaper flights seemed to go to Las Vegas, LA or Florida) its going to be very difficult for the US border agents to prove our Mexican is a migrant and not a tourist.
So Trump’s wall demonstrates the reality that many of his populist policies are simply unworkable acts of fantasy. The unfortunate consequences of watching too much Fox & Friends. Ya it might be fun to chant “build the wall” at a rally and its certainly a more polite way of announcing your inherit racism and xenophobia. But it amounts to a policy that will just burn a pile of cash, both now and into the future, yet it will actually achieve very little and is unlikely to stop any migrants. It is sadopopulism at its worst.