Gage Skidmore / Flickr Donald Trump...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

A lifetime ago, I was an Army combat engineer. Many of the troops that the current White House occupant has sent to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a publicity stunt to gin up public hostility toward the so-called migrant “caravan” are combat engineer battalions. The job of a combat engineer is really quite simple.


Combat engineers primarily supervise, serve or assist as a member of a team when they are tackling rough terrain in combat situations. They provide their expertise in areas such as mobility, countermobility, survivability and general engineering.


  • Construct fighting positions, fixed/floating bridges, obstacles and defensive positions
  • Place and detonate explosives
  • Conduct operations that include route clearance of obstacles and rivers
  • Prepare and install firing systems for demolition and explosives
  • Detect mines visually or with mine detectors

The portion of that job I want to focus on in it the first bullet point under “Job Duties.” Specifically: Construct […] obstacles and defensive positions. 

In the tweet above, the current White House resident posts this photo of concertina wire along the border fence. That is what a combat engineer would build as an obstacle, and/or a defensive position. It is also completely ineffective as an obstacle and/or a defensive position.

The obvious reason why it is ineffective is that all you have to do is get your hands on a pair of wire cutters, and you are through. The not-so-obvious reasons why it is ineffective are not something the untrained eye would know to even look for.

First and foremost, anyone who drove an armored vehicle in the Army would tell you that this stuff is the worst—and it is most effective against an armored column. Why? Well, run some over and you will find out the hard way: it gets in the drive wheels and is a giant pain in the ass to remove. Now that would normally be countered by the opposing forces’ engineers. They would either use something like a Bangalore torpedo, or they would cut the wire manually.

It’s not advisable to put up an obstacle that is ineffective, or can be breached easily. To make a concertina fence effective you would lay a minefield in it and around it. Per Army doctrine, it would be a mixed density field, a combination of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. That has not happened yet, and hopefully never will.

However, in the past week we have seen border agents fire tear gas at asylum seekers. Some of these people trying to cross were throwing rocks at border patrol agents. To repeat: they were not armed with rifles, machine guns, or tanks. They were armed with rocks.

The Border Patrol escalated a situation that did not need to be escalated. Tear gassing unarmed civilians armed with little more that rocks is immoral. We knew this caravan was coming. Instead of preparing for it in a meaningful way, our national leadership failed us.

George Takei summed it up well in this tweet from Nov. 25:

The promise of America is written at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Throughout our history, we have never lived up to that promise made to immigrants. If you had the wrong skin color, wrong religion, or were from a less desirable region of the world, or any other number of excuses, you were either barred entry or faced innumerable obstacles once you were allowed in. We are supposed to be the great melting pot, but as a nation we have always fallen short of that ideal. Someone, some group, or groups were always left out of that pot.

That is not the America I want. That is not the America I want for my child and my future grandchildren. That is not the America I want for anyone.

If these people are coming here seeking asylum and we knew they were coming, then we should have prepared. There is no excuse for not having facilities in place and ready to go for asylum hearings. Our leadership has failed us, and it has failed those seeking asylum.

It will end up costing $210 million to send those troops to the southwestern border. That is $210 million that could have been spent setting up a refugee camp so that these people requesting asylum would have had a place to stay while waiting for their hearings. Instead, the buffoon in the White House claims we would have had to have a “catch and release” policy in place, and these people would never have returned for their hearings.

Instead we have his supporters clamoring for more “tough” acts against those coming here “illegally,” even though the majority of the people in the caravans are not looking to come here illegally. They want to follow the law and request asylum.

There is no longer any doubt that Donald Trump is a white nationalist. He lacks any sense of morals and ethics. All of his tough talk does nothing more than rile up his base—a base of supposed Christians who are doing some very un-Christian things instead of following the words of their savior:

Matthew 25:35
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.

Instead, they are following the words of a morally and ethically bankrupt man who is tear gassing women and children.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


  1. The pattern is clear. There are other choices, of what actions to take in response to the issues we face. In each instance, Trump disregards most of the options. He disregards those most consistent with our expressed highest ideals, our most democratic goals and traditions, even our laws as written. He chooses instead the most divisive and inflammatory, presumably most self-beneficial, policies available each time decisions must be made.


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