Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Red, White and Green March

I write slowly and occasionally these days. Life gets busy (generally for good reasons, if you were worried), and the weeks slip by. Mostly, this is unfortunate for my writing, as I feel myself slipping into being a consumer of other people's thoughts, rather than a producer of something new. But one advantage is that sometimes I'm tempted to write about something, then events overtake me before I get around to it, and I'm forced to think harder about it.

Back in early April, you may remember a story about a coming gigantic migrant caravan making its way up from Honduras, through Mexico, to the US border.

April 2nd:
This year, the annual US-bound migrant caravan sparked a Trump tweetstorm
I'll bet you didn't know that America received an annual caravan of migrants turning up en masse before Trump tweeted about it, did you?

April 3rd:
Trump threatens Honduras' foreign aid over migrant caravan
April 7th
Trump Administration Sends Hundreds of National Guard Troops to U.S.-Mexico Border
You can tell that this was a big story, just by plotting the Google Trends search volume for "Camp of the Saints", Jean Raspail's prophetic novel about a mass refugee takeover of Europe. This really felt like the Camp of the Saints had arrived. Admittedly it was only a thousand people, whereas the million or so in Europe is much closer to Raspail's vision, but the organised aspect got people highly alarmed.

It was at about this point that I remember thinking about the two options given: threaten Mexico and Honduras to fix the problem, versus send the US troops to the border.

The first option seemed like a credible possibility. Unlike in Raspail's book, the caravan was coming over the land, not over sea. This means that if the land is owned by someone, and that someone can be threatened or cajoled by the US, you've probably got a good chance at it being in their interests to shut it down.

But it's worth pondering the following. Mexico is a broke, third world country, who ships lots of its own underclass to America, which is a large part of the overall immigration problem. And yet America is apparently relying on Mexico to police the flow of people from the even more wretched Honduras.  Which makes you wonder - why doesn't America do the job itself?

Which gets to the second policy - sending troops to the border. When I first heard about this, I suspected that it might turn into an absolute catastrophe.

You send the might of the US Army to the border. Then what?

Well, there's two possibilities, both of them bad. And both of them have actually happened.

The first is that the troops actually fire. This one played out in Israel, around the same time:
Israeli forces kill three Gaza border protesters, wound 600: medics
So what of that, you may say? 600 wounded to only 3 killed is actually a damn good ratio if you're trying to not kill them and you're vastly outnumbered.

But remember, this is America we're talking about, not Israel. And the key difference is that in Israel, there's enough political consensus backing these troops' actions that there was an effective fence there in the first place.

In America, the border wall will never get built, notwithstanding the hopes of Trump supporters. This is because the overwhelming majority of important political players oppose such a development. And this tells you what the reaction would be if the same thing happened here.

Let's consider the event where the protesters mass at the Mexican border and begin to stream across. Nation Guard units stand opposed, with instructions to stop them at all costs. The order is given to fire. Against all likelihood, the troops actually fire.

Congratulations, random National Guardsman who gave the order! You get to be painted as the modern William Calley, subjected to imprisonment and approbation for the rest of your life. Except it's The Current Year, not 1971, and some Democrat-appointed judge just can't wait to paste you with life in prison to set an example to not violate Steve Sailer's Zeroth Ammendment to the Constitution.

But deep down, everyone knows this is what will happen, and calculates accordingly. Plus people sign up for the US military with (optimistically) hopes of fighting against ISIS, not firing on women and children. And so, even if the order is given, nobody will actually fire.

Then what?

We'll we've seen that too. Welcome to one of the most criminally under-appreciated events of the 20th Century - the Green March.

The Green March was, to borrow from Boldmug, a little piece of 21st Century European history that somehow dropped into 20th Century Africa. 

Western Sahara was a Spanish Colony in the desert on the coast of North-West Africa. It was 1975, Franco was dying, and pretty much everybody knew the colonialism game in Africa was up. Spain was clinging onto control of the colony against an insurgency that had been going on for two years, out of Mauritania. Algeria and Morocco were similarly circling the sick wildebeest that the Spanish colony had become, hoping to take over once the Spanish retreated or were driven out.

And in this context, Morocco decided in November 1975 to do something brilliant. Instead of sending in the army, it assembled 350,000 Moroccan civilians, mostly women and children. This was symbolically chosen to be the number of births in Morocco that year. They were given the order to march on Western Sahara, waving flags and banners, green, the color of Islam.

It is an axiom of firearms training that you should understand the purpose of a gun. It is not a magic wand, a holy cross, or an amulet to ward off evil doers. It is a device constructed to end the life of its intended target. One of the first lessons any competent firearms instructor will tell you is to never, ever point a gun at anything you are not willing and intending to destroy right then.

Of course, this doesn't mean that you can't use a gun as a bluff. People do this all the time. But bluffing with a gun is a very dangerous game. You might be intending to bluff, and the gun goes off by accident. You might get your bluff called, and now you're in an even worse position than before. Your opponent now knows that you're unwilling to fire, and has a good chance of taking the gun off you.

An army is a merely a collection of men with guns. And having your troops point guns that they are unwilling to fire works no better at a national level than it does with the burglar in your home.

The bluff was called. The Moroccans marched, and the Spanish were unwilling to fire. Sensing that the jig was up, they even cleared away mines from some of the areas to avoid bloodshed. Ironically, Morocco's bigger problem turned out to be not the well-equipped but demoralised Spanish military, but the ramshackle yet willing troops of the Polisario Front out of Mauritania, with whom Morocco fought an ongoing insurgency for years afterwards. But win they did, and Morocco now firmly controls Western Sahara.

The Green March was a combination of weaponised mass immigration and weaponised non-violent protest. King Hassan II understood the Keyser Soze principle: to be in power, you didn't need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn't. He was willing to get hundreds of thousands of civilians killed. Spain was not.

It is prophetic, because it forces starry-eyed immigration supporters to confront something quite uncomfortable. We can haggle over whether the current torrent of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East flooding Europe right now ought to be considered an invasion. Your mileage may vary. But it is very, very hard to argue that the Green March was anything other than an invasion. The fact that women and children armed with flags proved more effective than young men armed with AK-47s is irrelevant. Sovereign control was transferred, involuntarily. The population was replaced, involuntarily.  The fact that this met with virtually no resistance in the end is as irrelevant as the fact that Nazi Germany met with virtually no resistance when it took Denmark.

A rinky-dink group like "Pueblo Sin Fronteras" can organise a thousand Central Americans to turn up at once. Decentralized incentives, combined will pull factors like Angela Merkel idiotically signalling that everybody could come on in, will get you a million people shambolically turning up over a year or two.

But if you want 350,000 people to turn up, at the same place and time, with co-ordinated flags and banners, there is simply no substitute for a nation-state doing the organising. This allows for a formal transfer of sovereignty. But many similar effects are achieved by an informal transformation by population inundation.

Or, if one is talking to a progressive, there is an even stronger example. How should the Native Americans have thought of the Pilgrims turning up at Plymouth Rock in 1620? They may be just a small number of civilians at the time, against a far larger combined group of Native Americans. And they may not be immediately attacking you, or doing anything hostile. But make no mistake: they're here to take everything you have. And if you don't treat them as an existential threat and a military invasion, right now, they'll succeed.

Immigration can very easily be weaponised. And the distinctions between the weaponised and non-weaponised forms are surprisingly difficult to pin down.

But for our purposes, regardless of where you think the present case falls on the spectrum, the response of western authorities against undesired migrants tells you a lot about the defenses available to the west if immigration were to be weaponised.

The answer is not universal. Weaponised immigration is a powerful weapon against an opponent riddled with virtue-signalling, pathological altruism, and a divided political system. It is literal suicide against an opponent who lacks these traits.

And the western response is not uniform. It failed spectacularly in Israel, repeatedly. It failed recently in Hungary and Poland. It worked well in Italy, Germany and France.

How well might it do in America?

For better or worse, Trump in his presidency is much better at talking a big game than he is at delivering a big game. This goes triply so for cases where the achievement of the goal cannot be established just by executive edict, or by provoking an easily-outraged media. If the goal requires the assent of a large bureaucracy, expect a lot of talk and little action. See, for instance, The Wall.

The charitable reading of this is that Trump is an expert at understanding the problem of kings from time immemorial. The central challenge of a king with notionally broad powers is to know what orders will actually be obeyed if given, and limit oneself to only those orders. Do not brandish a gun you are unwilling to fire. Do not attempt to fire a gun that is empty. Do not give orders that will be openly disobeyed. So he'll go for a stripped down version that achieves some limited media victory, and can be implemented. Because giving an order and seeing it flouted would be worse than nothing. It would undermine his authority, on top of not getting the actions implemented.

The uncharitable explanations mostly involve him being too lazy and inattentive to see complicated things through, too narcissistic to properly co-ordinate with a faceless bureacracy, or an outright conman just tricking the right-wing rubes with empty promises.

Pick your theory. But the prediction is pretty reliable.

After threatening to send the troops, within a few days came the first signs that those hoping for a military confrontation would come away disappointed.

On April 9, the Washington Post openly mocked:
Troops sent by Trump to border will fly drones, gather intel — and clear brush, too
He's sending troops, alright, just not sending them to actually confront the people marching on the border.

The right was probably disappointed in this. I can't share this view at all. We can thank our lucky stars that Trump, or someone near to him, understood what a catastrophe it would have been to send armed troops to confront the caravan.

Behind Door Number One is My Lai. Behind Door Number 2 is Western Sahara. Which one would you prefer?

In this respect, Trump's initial instinct is right. Threatening Honduras and Mexico is actually the best possible response, because the alternatives are calamitous in The Current Year. It is much, much easier for Trump to effectively threaten the Mexican government than to effectively assert control of his own government. And if you're going to lose, it is far better to lose quietly, than to lose noisily with all the TV cameras rolling.

Here, I'm going to make a pretty confident prediction, for those of you that remember hearing about the initial story in early April.

You never heard about how the whole thing ended, did you? How do I know this? Same picture as before.

In our ADHD culture, the caravan simply took too long to arrive, and by the time it did, people had lost interest.

So allow me to fill you in. From April 30th, when the Caravan finally reached San Diego:
Everyone who has been waiting is still here. Nobody has been processed,” said Alex Mensing, from the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
“They have not processed anybody at San Ysidro port of entry,” Mensing said.
Organizers of the group told ABC News that there are about 100 people sleeping outside a port of entry in San Diego. 
 On Sunday evening, Border Patrol commissioner Kevin McAleenan released a statement saying that the San Ysidro port of entry had "reached capacity."
He suggested that could change but gave no timetable, saying that in the meantime "those individuals may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities."
"As sufficient space and resources become available, CBP officers will be able to take additional individuals into the port for processing," McAleenan said in the statement.

From May 1st:
Slowly but steadily, caravan migrants who trekked across Mexico are pleading their cases to US authorities on why they should be granted asylum.
More than half of them have now been accepted to begin processing by US authorities at the border with Mexico, Alex Mensing -- whose group, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, organized the caravan -- said Wednesday.

Even though it's only a hundred of you, our boldest claim made by a government employee under the Trump presidency is that you may face some delays as the faceless bureaucracy processes your case. You start out claiming to be the mighty Parliament that toppled King Charles I. You end up being the modern House of Lords, with the ability to create mild inconvenience through small delay.

This much can be reliably inferred.

If the Mexican government ever decides to pull a King Hassan II, you would be a brave and foolish man to bet against them.