Guarding the Border

President Bush’s ploy of sending 6,000 National Guardsmen to the American-Mexican border shows once again that he is a poor thinker and cares little about the ordinary American.

It is a ploy, of course, designed to dupe the American people into thinking Bush actually cares about the immigration problem while he and his minions try to pass an amnesty bill in Congress. Amnesty in any form for illegal immigrants is an open invitation for millions more to cross our borders. Reason not only tells you that, but past history as well.

Using the National Guard for players in this political theater shows you that the president never thinks a moment about the plight of regular Americans. Young men and women join the National Guard willing to serve their country in an emergency. Our leaky borders are not an emergency. They’ve been leaking for the past decade. For six years, Bush has ignored this problem. The only emergency is the collapse of Bush’s popularity and the Republican Party’s fear that it might lose control of Congress this fall.

When guardsmen are called to active duty, they have to leave their civilian jobs as well as their families. This almost always involves a pay cut and causes financial hardship for the families. It also disrupts the civilian employers’ operations. Everybody is willing to endure all of this when the need is real. In this case, however, there is no need at all to use the National Guard.

In the Pacific and Asia, not counting Hawaii and Guam, there are 79,000 full-time regular members of the armed forces essentially sitting on their duffs, doing housekeeping chores and running training missions. There are no wars in that area and no probability of any wars

North Korea, which is the last of the Stalinist states, is not going to war against South Korea now that it no longer has the support of China and Russia. And, if it did, it is not a war we should enter. We have never won a war on the Asian mainland, and we never will, so we should just avoid them.

In Europe, there are 100,000 American military personnel also doing housekeeping chores and running training missions. Their presence is a remnant of the Cold War, and they serve no useful purpose whatsoever. There is no army threatening to invade Europe. The Soviet Union is gone. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded. On the European continent there is peace and no prospect of war. NATO should have been disbanded long ago.

All of these troops should be brought home, but surely 6,000 can be spared for duty on the border. If you were a Marine, where would you rather be: in the American Southwest, or sitting on Guam, a lump of coral in the Pacific where brown tree snakes and insects far outnumber the human population?

The problem is that the military-industrial complex doesn’t want to give up its empire. The more bases there are, the more commands and the more slots there are for generals and admirals. The imperialists practically panicked when the Soviet Union collapsed. The MIC desperately needs a threat to justify its existence, and I’m sure many hid in the closet to say thanks when the World Trade Center was struck by terrorists. At last, a threat to keep the money flowing.

But overseas personnel are just a drop in the bucket from which the president can draw his 6,000 men for the border. Excluding the National Guard and Reserves, he has 1.4 million full-time active-duty military personnel, and all of them not in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing housekeeping chores and running training missions at home and abroad. That’s what armies do in peacetime.

The president could easily find his 6,000 men at Fort Hood, Texas. There are two full divisions stationed there, as well as a number of other units. As you can see, there is no reason to put this burden on the men and women of the National Guard, who have already suffered enough from the Iraq War, to which they should not have been deployed in the first place.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.