Another Mission Accomplished?

What will the National Guard do at the border? Jonathan asks below. Bush was quite clear about that:

The Guard will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, … analyzing intelligence, … installing fences and vehicle barriers, … building patrol roads … and providing training. Guard units will not be involved in direct law enforcement activities.

I have no idea what training, in what, to whom, part-time citizen soldiers can provide usefully (is the Border Patrol weak on marching and saluting? Marksmanship? Tanks and artillery, perhaps…). But operating surveillance systems means watching a TV screen or a gate and calling someone if something happens, sort of like a security guard at the mall, so what the Guard will do is basically what Mexican immigrants do, especially physical labor at prices too low to attract Americans, especially construction labor in the sun and heat. Weekend Warrior field help; I wonder if they’ll shape up at streetcorners near the lumberyard. Anyway, this duty option is sure to hype Latino enlistments.

Bush has actually managed this issue fairly well, from his perspective; it appears Rove hasn’t been too distracted by his possible legal problems. The immigration issue presents a very perplexing challenge with very hard constraints. His wealthy base has to be assured that their pools and houses will be cleaned (and built) at the wages they find appropriate, by docile workers; a part of that base (agribusiness and hospitality, for example) needs similar assurance regarding their labor force. But his lumpen patriot base needs reassurance that the swarthy crowd of foreigners–and in our reptilian brain regions, aren’t Latins and Arabs basically the same Mediterranean menace: Italians with the Mafia, Arabs with dirty bombs, Hispanics running drugs, Jews getting your kid’s place in college and tithing to the ACLU; if you squint at them any fool can see they’re all the same and nothing but trouble for more than a century–will be met with forcible exclusion, which means guns.

John Tierney has it right this morning: it’s about providing a mental image of tough Americans in foxholes ready to blow away invaders with machine guns for people who don’t read past the headline, and a reality of a stable, hungry, non-voting labor force for upstanding citizens with a payroll to meet and lettuce to pick. Who knows, it might work.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

2 thoughts on “Another Mission Accomplished?”

  1. Go over to Glenn Greenwald and check out what the right-wing bloggers are saying. If Rove was trying to pacify the restive base, it looks like it didn't work too well.

  2. Bush is watching his base go bye-bye. His base wants fences and deportation. He is towing the moderate line and they are none too happy. Prediction is that he'll match Nixon's 25% approval level before the summer is out.

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