Trump undermines own border goals by gutting Coast Guard
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President Trump’s intention to cut Coast Guard funding lays in direct contradiction to his promise to enhance the security of our borders. Among its many duties, the Coast Guard is the primary border patrol operation on two oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. The perimeters formed by our seacoasts far exceed the length of our land borders.  

Hopefully the three- and four-star generals who now serve as director of homeland security, national security advisor and secretary of defense are working to convince President Trump that the Coast Guard is a critical asset that needs to be strengthened, not weakened. 

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The successes of the Coast Guard and the Navy are what caused the movement of drugs into the United States to start coming through Mexico. Drug cartels have three operational domains — land, sea, and air. Originally, Columbian drug lords were moving their cargoes over water while losses due to American interdiction were acceptable, especially considering the profits made from the overwhelmingly successful runs. 

 

Then, the exceptional skills and advanced technology of our water-borne forces were implemented. To stay in business, the Colombians were required to develop a different means of transport. Mexican gangs were hired to serve as overland transport mules. 

Gang bosses soon realized more profit could be made running the businesses themselves rather than transporting someone else’s cargo. The role of the Colombians was reduced to that of suppliers.

The rise of Mexican gangs was not unlike the rise of the American mafia during alcohol prohibition. In both situations, small-time operations became big-time syndicates and cartels.

Rivalry between the organizations and willingness to destroy anyone who stood in their way resulted in the violence the United States experienced in the 1920s and that Mexico experiences today. In both situations, government (especially law enforcement) corruption and incompetence allowed organized crime to flourish.   

President Ronald Reagan was right in stating, “A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.”  Trump is embracing this position as he pushes forward to build a wall on the southern border. The intent of this wall is to deny illegal aliens and criminal elements easy access via the land border. 

Tunneling aside, if the land border becomes too formidable, the cartels will look to alternative transport means. Like water, illegal border traffic always seeks the path of least resistance. It is ironic that by reducing the effectiveness of the Coast Guard, President Trump is offering this domain as the cartels’ path of least resistance.

Moving beyond the drug transport issue, we still have the illegal alien situation. Coming across the land border is already dangerous enough for migrants. Reducing national security on the high seas is going to offer a boom to the water-borne underworld. 

A lesson needs to be learned from the navies of Greece and Italy having to continually rescue migrants from the Middle East and North Africa — the bodies of those who do not get rescued continually wash up on the shores.     

The third issue is national security. It is an understatement to proclaim that the Middle East is a mess. As a result, terrorism is being exported at an alarming rate.  Currently, the main recipient of that exportation is Western Europe. This is only temporary. The attacks already endured by Americans are previews of coming attractions. 

As President Trump commences a more aggressive fight against Islamic terrorism and pushes U.S. forces further out into the fight, he needs to enhance the security of the home front. Increased airport and ground security will result in terrorists looking for alternative means to transport themselves and their weapons. This may likely include contracting with the drug cartels.

Successful combat commanders know that battlefield victory cannot be achieved unless security of rear area operations is maintained. That requires a strong perimeter. The perimeter of America’s rear area is our borders, including our coastlines.     

To date, 60 congressional representatives from both parties are objecting to President Trump’s intent to cut Coast Guard budget. That speaks well for the 60, but it is not rational for the other 475 to remain silent.

 

Col. (Ret.) Wes Martin served as the first senior antiterrorism officer for all coalition forces in Iraq. 


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