That over-used phrase has been deemed the key to securing Iraq. According to various pundits, the U.S. needs more troops on the ground to control the countryside, and bring the insurgency under control, once and for all. While additional troops would have certainly been useful, I can make the case that our troops have performed masterfully; if you don't believe me, just read those recently-captured terrorist letters where the insurgents describe their current activities as little more than a nuisance.
Funny, but the "boots on the ground" coalition won't apply the same principle to securing our southern border. President Bush's tepid plan to assigned 5,000 National Guard members to border duties (on a temporary basis) has been met with predictable "concerns" about our over-stretched military, and calls to further strengthen the Border Patrol, rather than deploy military personnel. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, the junior half of the McCain-Hagel caucus, weighed in:
“We’ve got National Guard members on their second, third and fourth tours in Iraq,” Hagel said. “We have stretched our military as thin as we have ever seen it in modern times. And what in the world are we talking about here, sending a National Guard that we may not have any capacity to send up to or down to protect borders? That’s not their role.”
Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I do seem to recall something about ensuring domestic tranquility and providing for the common defense in the preamble to the Constitution. And, given the chaos that exists along our southern border, some sort of military presence seems essential to satisfy those constitutional requirements. But folks like Senator Hagel would prefer to spend a few more years recruiting (and training) more Border Patrol agents. By the time we achieve that goal, or more accurately, if we achieve that goal, another 3 or 4 million illegal immigrants will have crossed our borders, and making the crisis even worse.
Hagel's concerns actually seem premature, since President Bush will apparently propose the use of military personnel in support roles, including surveillance of the border. The work of actually trying to stop the influx of illegals will remain in the hands of overtaxed border patrol agents. In other words, we may have better information on the location and numbers of illegals attempting to enter our country, but we still won't have the necessary resources to stop them. And this is an improvement?
While the addition of surveillance assets will certainly help--assuming we can get the information into the hands of the border patrol in a timely manner--Mr. Bush's proposal already sounds like most of his immigration proposals: half-hearted, poorly conceived, and calculated with more concern about national politics than national security. The Immigration Blog has more.
Senator Hagel does have one thing in common with Mr. Bush, however. When it comes to immigration, both are woefully out of touch with the beliefs and concerns of most Americans. And, both will pay a political price for those views.
Postscript: If Senator Hagel doubts the importance of this issue, he might want to take a gander at the results of last week's GOP gubenatorial primary in his home state. GOP Congressman (and legendary Nebraska football coach) Tom Osborne was expected to easily defeat Governor Dave Heineman for the Republican nomination, then coast to victory against a Democratic opponent in the fall. Osborne had never received less than 80% of the vote in his past Congressional races; one of his political rivals described him as "Nebraska's God."
But Heineman defeated Osborne, in a race that hinged on the immigration issue. Heineman recently vetoed a bill that provided in-state tuition for illegal aliens at Nebraska's colleges and universities--a measure that Tom Osborne supported. Tuition rates for illegals is, admittedly, a relatively minor part of the immigration issue, but it was enough to send Tom Osborne packing. Polipundit is the only major political blog (so far) that has highlighted Osborne's stunning defeat, and the immigration issue that sealed his fate.