Thursday, 9 February 2017

Wall of Contention

Not a likely scenario, methinks

Trump has managed to piss off the whole Mexican nation. It seems his talk of building a wall between the US and Latin America was not just idle rhetoric. And to be fair he did garner much of the US vote because of his stated intention to go ahead with the project. Not following through on election promises is not unknown to politicians. But Trump is no politician, he's a businessman and it looks like he really is going to run the country as if it was one mega-business-corporation. Should be an interesting ride.

The wall is not impossible to build, just difficult and expensive. As I recall from third grade geography at Tipton Secondary Modern, the border between the US and Mexico runs for about 1,900 miles. It traverses diverse landscapes: rivers (Colorado and Rio Grande), flood plains, mountains and inhospitable desert. For the wall proper, concrete will be the ideal choice for construction. Initially, Trump was thinking of building a solid concrete barrier throughout, although he has now come to contemplate the practicalities and is considering interspersing the concrete wall with traditional fencing. The wall does not have to extend the whole length of the border as nature closes down great swathes of the marchland. The cheapest 'wall' and best impediment to human movement, especially of the unwanted variety, is large expanses of water. Mother Nature always knows best in this regard. I should know as I live in New Zealand which nestles in the south pacific, 1,000 leagues from the nearest land. But the Americans don't have this luxury.

Experts reckon that only a third of the border requires a wall barrier. Several parts of the border constitute a challenge from both engineering and logistic perspectives- building walls in flood plains can be bothersome. Sectors of the border region are remote and difficult to access by man and material. Cement and men will need to move from areas of manufacture to areas of remote wall building. The answer of course is temporary settlements which rove as the wall progresses. The wall at one point will encroach on a Native American Reservation. The tribal elders have already expressed resistance to allowing a wall to cross land under their jurisdiction and Trump will need a Congressional bill to force the issue. Unfortunately he doesn’t have recourse to shooting the natives or infecting them with smallpox as in times of yore. In New Zealand we have a similar problem regarding the Maoris, however we are allowed to shoot them on one day of the year as long as it is before noon (Waitangi Day- hooray). Eat lead pesky Maoris! Stop digressing Flaxen.

As for cost: now there is an imponderable conundrum. No one really knows how much it will cost but estimates range from 10 to 20 billion dollars. This does not include annual maintenance and upkeep which adds on 750 million dollars per annum. Trump will also need to budget for 21,000 agents to patrol the barrier ($1.4 billion a year). Actually the wall could act as an economic stimulus as numerous industries are required. Transport is a must as are large amounts of construction manpower. And this is definitely a long term project. The irony of course is that a fair chunk of the manpower building and patrolling the wall will be of Mexican descent, all labouring away to keep their stealing, raping, brethren out.

Trump reckons the Mexicans will pay for the wall. The Mexicans say nay. Looks like a classical Mexican standoff to me. Hola! Of course Trump does not expect the Mexican government to pay the US administration directly. It has been suggested that a 20% import tax could be levied on Mexican goods entering the US. This could gather about 13 billion dollars a year. It is estimated that around 25 billion dollars is sent to Mexico every year by Mexicans residing in the US. This represents 2% of the Mexican GDP. By threatening to stem this flow of gelt the US could conceivably exert a powerful lever on the Mexican government to cough up funds or risk economic recession. However, this plan if implemented would severely damage Mexican-US diplomatic relations. Even hard core Republicans are not keen on this plan as it has the obvious taint of extortion. As a hard nosed businessman this argument is unlikely to bother Trump. Less provocative measures involve increasing fees on visas applications and border crossing cards.

Though I wouldn't go as far as saying that I’m starting to like Trump, he is certainly earning my respect. The fact that he is stirring the international political pot and causing concern and consternation amongst career politicians, even within his own party, is no bad thing

Just a final word on the effectiveness of the wall stemming illegal immigration: Although I have no doubt that the wall will have a major impact on unwanted human traffic, especially in areas of high population density, it will also encourage economic migrants to force passage through difficult and relatively inaccessible border regions. And I wonder how long it will take the 'human traffickers' to organise and facilitate these crossing attempts? Where human desperation and misery are conjoined with human ingenuity and the potential to make squidoodles (not a real word) of cash, anything is possible.


  1. Er...hardly a thousand league, Saxon!

    1. Aussie is about 2,582 miles away which is equivalent to 861 land leagues. Allowing for the equinox and Swedish rounding I reckon a 1,000 leagues is a fair estimate considering that my new medication allows me to see double when I close my blind eye.

  2. I remember a trip to China about 25 years ago at least. They were talking about building a canal system between the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. Every year, one floods while the other is in drought so it made perfect sense.

    A yank on our boat asked 'Will they use nuclear charges to dig it out?'
    The chinese presenter replied 'No. Three million workers with pick and shovel'

    A Mexican wall will create one hell of a lot of jobs!