Why the Wall?

Let’s talk about the wall.

This article is written to accompany a fantastic article just written by my friend and colleague, Ben Sweetwood, which masterfully sifts through the hysteria over President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. Here at Griffwood Post, we constantly seek to challenge the prevailing narrative of the day. We live by an important motto: if everyone seems to be in agreement about something, be skeptical.

Everyone, and I mean everyone seems to have a problem with President Trump’s idea of building a wall along the border shared between the United States and Mexico. This includes those who are left, right, libertarian, and everyone else in between. Some of the consternation has produced perfectly valid criticisms of the idea that should not be overlooked. But I write to contend that the idea to build the wall actually has its merits.

Those on the right, and those who abhor government spending, criticize the wall for its cost and complexity. The wall will indeed be expensive—and the proposed methodology of taxing a portion of the U.S.-Mexican trade deficit does eventually pass the cost of the wall on to the consumer. However, in context, the tax does have implicit benefits to the American consumer beyond the wall. The trade deficit exists because the U.S. exports to Mexico about $60 billion dollars in goods less than it imports from Mexico. However, the entirety of the U.S.’s annual imports from Mexico total around $300 billion. Now, 20 percent of $300 billion is enough to pay for three walls at Trump’s price-point of around $20 billion per year. So the cost, in context, is not outlandish. This is not to mention the benefit of protecting and encouraging American industries that directly compete with Mexican products. And if there is any American president who can spur the behemoth of the federal government to actually build something on time and under budget, it’s going to be Donald J. Trump.

But $20 billion is still $20 billion. That’s a costly project.

Another valid criticism is the complexity of building the wall. The Cato Institute has done a great job of illustrating just how complicated the process will be. Building a wall along this 2,000 mile stretch of the American southwest means overcoming geographical challenges, replacing existing walls and fences, equipping the wall with proper surveillance equipment and, of course, maintaining it. This is not to mention the inevitably long amount of time it will take the federal government to argue the hundreds if not thousands of eminent domain cases that will be necessary to gather the lands needed for the construction of the wall (much of the land abutting the U.S.-Mexican border is privately owned.) The wall may not be feasibly possible in Trump’s term.

But just because something is complex doesn’t mean it’s impossible[1]. We got to the moon, we can build a big wall.

And, yes, I’ve heard the argument that many if not most illegal immigrants come into the country by airplane, on lawful visas, and extend their stay indefinitely. Obviously, a comprehensive immigration reform package would need to address that. But the cartels, the drug runners, and criminals fleeing Latin America are not buying group ticket packages on commercial airliners. They’re the ones taking advantage of the porous border, and they’re certainly the ones we want to stop first.

I give criticisms from the left credence as well, but they are becoming a bit too ‘one-sized fits all’ to have retained their bite. I also abhor identity-politics and think the hysteria around Donald Trump is contributing to a dangerous narrowing of political discourse.

Continue reading “Why the Wall?”

The Immigration Ban Examined

I want to talk about the immigration ban.

However, in doing so, I don’t plan on spending any time on the question, “Is Trump Hitler?” He signed an order temporarily shutting down immigration from certain countries in order to improve the vetting process for said immigrants and thus, make sure Americans are safe. Anyone who doesn’t think the president of the U.S. is well within his right to do that is being hysterical. Furthermore, just because  we pride ourselves on being a country of immigrants does not mean that anyone and everyone should be able to come in at anytime or else we are hateful. That has never been the case. That’s not to say that parts of the Executive Order’s design shouldn’t be critiqued.

But let’s backtrack for a second.

In 2011, after two Iraqi immigrants in Kentucky were revealed to be Al-Qaeda (in Iraq) connected terrorists, President Obama ordered the records of 58,000 Iraqi immigrants to be reexamined and instituted a stricter vetting process for Iraqi refugees. The more thorough vetting process seemed to delay visas to Iraqi refugees. Although there was no official order to delay visas, we can infer that it was the result of the new process by looking at the numbers of Iraqi refugees entering the U.S. by year: 18,251 in 2010, 6,339 in 2011 and 16,369 in 2012. As you can see, visas to Iraqis were slowed dramatically in 2011. Thus, President Obama, determining there to be a potential threat from the refugees, instituted a stricter vetting process, and in doing so slowed the influx of Iraqis. President Trump determined a similar threat, but decided to delay visas completely to seven risk countries President Trump’s action was much more aggressive and wider in scope. Nonetheless, and as much as the media wants to deny it, these are very similar behaviors: both seek to improve the vetting process for refugees from Muslim-majority countries due to fears of terrorism.

But I digress, let’s discuss the Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
So the Order does a few things, let’s approach the important aspects one-by-one.
1. Bans entry to the US for people born in seven countries for 90 days: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen
So, this provision, as explained in the Order, is based on 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12) (or H.R. 158) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, signed into law by President Obama in December of 2015. This all has to do with the Visa Waiver Program which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Given the threat of Islamic terrorists infiltrating the country through the program, Congress passed the above mentioned law in order to restrict the Visa Waiver program. The law prohibited people who traveled to Iraq or Syria (or dual citizens of Iraq and Syria) on or after March 1st, 2011 from participating in the program (“Not present in Iraq, Syria, or any other country or area of concern.”)  The law also invested power in the Secretary of Homeland Security (Jeh Johnson) to add countries to this list at his discretion. Thus, within the next couple of months Sudan, Iran, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia were also added to the restricted list.
So whereas the Obama administration didn’t ban nationals from these countries from coming to the U.S. they did force them to get visas, and more importantly, pinpoint them for a stricter vetting process, due to worries about Islamic terrorism.
As for countries left out of the Order, I agree it’s bothersome. But, there’s two obvious reasons countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan were left out. First, we need them as allies in the region and secondly, they have secure centralized governments that we can rely on for refugee screening….supposedly. I say supposedly because I doubt the diligence with which these countries actually provide us with information on their own people, especially given the attacks we’ve seen around the world from their citizens, but better some countries on the list than none. Afghanistan is really the worst omission given the terrorist groups situated there and it’s lack of power relative to these other countries. Nonetheless, the list was produced by the Obama administration and for reasons that perhaps are better off remaining secret, Afghanistan was excluded.

Continue reading “The Immigration Ban Examined”

Europe’s Jews Flee: Why Netanyahu’s Call for Exodus Was Needed

“Jews have been murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews, and this wave of terrorist attacks – including murderous anti-Semitic attacks – is expected to continue […] But we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home. We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe. I would like to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are: Israel is the home of every Jew.” – Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Feb. 15, 2015.

Last Sunday, in the wake of the murder of a Jewish man by an Islamic radical at a Synagogue in Denmark and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in France, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the mass migration of European Jews to Israel and unveiled a $46 million (USD) plan to assist in the migration of Jews from France, Belgium, and Ukraine.

Bibi’s words are important not only because of what they actually call for, but because of their effect. When the Israeli Prime Minister (or any major Jewish leader) calls for Jews to leave Europe, it is a censure on Europe. Just look how the French and other leaders have responded: they are going out of their way to demonstrate solidarity with and care for Jews. I am not going to say that I am thrilled with French President François Hollande’s response (“I will not just let what was said in Israel pass, leading people to believe that Jews no longer have a place in Europe and in France in particular.”) because he attacked Bibi’s words rather than the desecrators and murderer, but nonetheless visited the cemetery, and that is an important symbolic gesture for Jews. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that France would protect French Jews from “Islamo-fascism.” It is huge for a leader to acknowledge that and actually use the phrase “Islamo-fascism” (take note President Obama) and he went on to add, “A Jew who leaves France is a piece of France that is gone,”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again. And we would like to continue living well together with the Jews who are in Germany today.” Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said, “My message is that all of Denmark feels with you. This is not the Denmark we want. We want a Denmark where people freely can choose one’s religion.” This kind of desperate rhetoric is directly forced by Bibi’s words. Just by saying what he said, he has advanced the safety of Jews around the world.

Continue reading “Europe’s Jews Flee: Why Netanyahu’s Call for Exodus Was Needed”

America Falling: The Impotence of President Obama

A few days ago President Obama finally announced that the United States will commence with airstrikes in Iraq to push back ISIL.

I want to be on board, I want to cheer, I want to put politics aside and give him credit. But I just can’t; it would be a dishonest to myself. The truth is that it’s great that we are finally going to do something in response to this psychotic terror group but it’s all coming a little too late.

As President Obama said in his speech announcing the strikes:

“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.”

Except, here’s the problem: the massacre has already happened and much of the damage is done. I can pretty much point to any day from the time it was clear that ISIL was a problem (maybe as far back as January) until now, and be able to name an atrocity ISIL perpetrated. To name a few:

On June 27th, it was reported that ISIL was conducting mass executions of Iranian citizens in Syria and then throwing their bodies over cliffs.

On June 29th, ISIL crucified 9 men in Aleppo.

On July 17, ISIL killed 270 people in an attack on a gas field in Syria.

On July 21st they stoned two women to death for committing adultery.

On July 23rd ISIL killed 31 people in a Baghdad suicide bombing.

ON July 24th ISIL took over a Syrian army base and killed 85 soldiers.

On July 30th ISIL celebrated Eid, a Muslim holiday, by releasing a 30 minute video of a killing spree.

On August 7th ISIL beheaded a group of Christian children and put their heads on stakes for display in a community park.

And now on August 10th ISIL killed 500 Yazidis, buried some alive including women and children.

The list goes on…and on…and on…

Continue reading “America Falling: The Impotence of President Obama”

An Ode to Cowboy Diplomacy: Why Putin Runs Wild

Sergio Leone’s 1966 epic Western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, pits against each other, in clear contrast, the two most basic opposing forces comprising this planet: those who seek to protect the suffering, and those who seek to cause it. In the film’s final showdown, “Blondie” (Clint Eastwood) meets in the cemetery with “Angel Eyes” (Lee Van Cleef) and “Tuco” (Eli Wallach). There is no dialogue, and any noise at all is drowned out by somber tunes of Ennio Morricone’s masterful soundtrack. It’s not that the men can’t talk, can’t shake hands, or can’t try to figure out why they are where they are: they simply understand. They understand who they are: ‘The good’, ‘the bad’, and ‘the ugly’ and that their actions, beliefs, and values will inevitably always come into conflict with each other. Thus, they stay silent. They know what they have to do. As Morricone’s score continues, the men slowly take steps backwards and away from each other, without taking their eyes off of their enemies for a second. There is no sugarcoating it: the men must battle to the death because good and evil cannot both have what they want. They may want to work it out, or play nice with each other, but such a scenario is impossible given the nature of the men at hand. There is no escape for the villainous now, and nor can ‘the good’ run from this test, lest ‘the bad’ should win the day. This, was the way things were settled in the Old West; such is the honor of cowboys.

Today the Associated Press published an article detailing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to back down or take any responsibility for the murder of nearly 300 people on MH17 by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.

Continue reading “An Ode to Cowboy Diplomacy: Why Putin Runs Wild”