This issue is the most vexing in my opinion. This country has just one helluva lot of border to protect. We also have hundreds or thousands of seaports and airports which must be watched. The facts here are plain: America is often a target by terrorists, defined as people who intentionally target non combatants for the purpose of making a political statement. Actual invasion by a military force bent on occupation is not a real danger, but a lone operator, or a small team, is. Nor would it be necessary for such a team to smuggle more than themselves if their planned mission did not require special equipment; 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing are proof enough you can acquire adequate tools to cause casualties numbering in the thousands right here. Further, that’s always going to be true. Americans are not going to tolerate living in a police state; the danger will always be there. It’s part of the price of freedom: “The roots of the tree of Liberty, etc.,” see Tom Jefferson for a complete statement.
I have never understood why the political left is so opposed to securing the border. Some of them, of course, are group-hugging one worlders who think open borders ought to be everywhere; there’s no danger, or wouldn’t be if we could just all get along. Perhaps the rest just prefer to spend the money solid borders would cost on entitlements and “social justice.” Or maybe they oppose the effective techniques which invariably include profiling in countries who do a good job of it.
Whatever their objection[s] may be, something like DHS is exactly the wrong way to go about it. In countries where border security is successful, the border guards are invariably part of the military. That’s what we should do as well. The Coast Guard (currently under DHS, it can ChOp to Navy command by order of the President, or the Congress in time of war) is already doing a good bit of inspection of incoming vessels; their chain of command could easily be upgraded to include land border crossings. Or perhaps we need a separate service, called the Border Guards, likely. Whatever we do, hiring civilians and union members to handle it is not a good idea. Guarding the nation from incursion from other countries is quintessentially a military function; it should be handled by uniformed service personnel who have the kind of dedication it takes to get and remain in the military. This is not a job for civil servants punching a time clock. One issue is the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally forbids deployment of US military troops in country for (state) law enforcement purposes. That’s generally a good idea, and we shouldn’t give it up, but an exception could be written, just as the Coast Guard now has. If, however, it is decided we don’t care to deploy military forces to, for example, do airport screenings, then we should probably let those duties out on contract to the private sector under military supervision. I repeat: doing it the DHS way is a resoundingly bad idea.
Anathema thought it be to the progressives, profiling is going to have to be part of the mix if it’s going to be effective. We probably wouldn’t be able to use the Israeli method– you sit in a room for two hours under observation of trained psychologists who are looking for nervousness before you are allowed anywhere near a plane, and if you don’t arrive at the terminal 2 hours before your flight so you can, you don’t board– because we move too many people by air. Israel is a much smaller and less populous country than we, and they don’t have anywhere near our domestic air travel. Nonetheless, something along those lines is what is needed if we’re going to have actual security without undue intrusion, aggressive groping of 6 year olds, and naked full body scanners. Deal with it.