Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lessons Not Learned

For some time now, I've been railing over at METRO's new blog about the folly of replacing boots on the ground at the Park and Rides with cameras. Most everyone, not on METRO's payroll would appear to see the folly of this move, not just the fiscal waste of money, but the danger of increased crime as well. Cameras cannot stop crime. Cameras can only document it for insurance purposes. I've also been railing about Senator Hutchison's support for a "Virtual Fence" on the US/Mexican Border for similar reasons. I've found an interesting parallel and support for my position in an unlikely place.

In 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara instituted a project (without input by the JCS I might add), headed by Army Lt. Gen. Alfred D. Starbird that is known today as Project "Igloo White" to design and build a "Virtual Fence" (sound familiar Senator Hutchison?) consisting of seismic and acoustic sensors that operated via radio links to track and pinpoint supply shipments on the Ho Chi Min trail. (the real one in Laos, not the bike path in Memorial Park.). That 'Virtual Fence" was an abject failure. To quote General Westmoreland:

MACV commander Westmoreland met with Starbird and concluded that the plan was “a noble idea” but “also highly theoretical.” In his memoir, A Soldier Reports, Westmoreland said, “As any experienced military man would know, the concept had a basic flaw in that no fence—electronic or otherwise—would be foolproof without men to cover it by fire, which raised the specter of tying down a battalion every mile or so in conventional defense.”

Westmoreland was not an idiot, but McNamara was, and METRO Police Chief Tom Lambert is as well if he thinks this will reduce crime one iota. Senator Hutchison is also an idiot if she thinks a "Virtual Fence" on the US/Mexico border will do the slightest bit of good. I guess it is true: Those who fail to study history are bound to repeat it.


Anonymous Fozzy said...

There are, however, other such fences in history that have worked. The Morice Line, built to keep infiltrators from coming into Algeria during the civil wars there, for example. An electric fence, it was backed by a railroad which allowed troops to be rapidly sped to anywhere there was a break. The key to fences (as well as tactical 'barriers' like barbed wire) is that they usually can't stop people -- but they can slow them down and help identify where crossings are taking place, allowing for re-enforcements to be moved in.

Despite the relative success of the Morice line (it stopped infiltration across it, but France still lost the war) I still don't think the U.S. border fence is a particularly good idea. First we have to make a political decision, do we want all these immigrants or not? There is still no resolution of that stand-off in U.S. politics.

January 19, 2007 6:15 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Fozzy, I think you may be misunderstanding my point. An electronic "virtual fence" WITHOUT TROOPS ON THE GROUND TO BACK IT UP is worthless. I am very much in favor of a real physical fence on the US border, and i am very much in favor of the national guard being there WITH BULLETS AND AN APPROPRIATE ROE that allows them to fire if threatened, not retreating. Just like METRO is tryng to "secure" their park and rides with cameras but without any boots on the ground. BOOTS ON THE GROUND ARE ESSENTIAL to any functional barrier.

BTW, there use to be a guy that rattled around on some of the BBS's in town years ago that went by Fozzy, are you him?

January 20, 2007 11:21 AM  

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