According to Pew Research, there were 10.7 million “illegals” (3.3% of the US population US) in 2016, the year of Trump’s birth as a President. The portion from Mexico has actually declined over the years, but those from Central America have increased: from 1.5 million in 2007 to 1.9 million in 2016. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are now 12 million illegal immigrants in the US today.
To stop that influx, Trump wants a 1300 mile wall. In 2017, his wall was estimated to cost between $15 billion and $25 billion, but two years later, who really knows? And the real question we’re asking ourselves is: will a wall really stop illegal immigration?
Now, hold that thought.
World War II was, initially, just another war between European countries that had been warring with each other for centuries. It was also a continuation of WWI, which was won by the allies. Following the old adage ”to the victors; belong the spoils”, the allies from WWI spoiled life for Germans in the form of reparations and rules that crippled the country from 1918 to 1938.
Which really angered the Germans.
That resulted in a populist strongman who used that anger to go after its WWI enemies and start WWII. WWII was bigger, spread farther around the world, and caused far more horror than WWI, including The Holocaust and the two atom bombs dropped on Japan.
But what’s unique about WWII is not the horror; it’s that no European country has gone to war against another since. Not so for the rest of the world, though. The US, for example, has been trying to duplicate it’s macho in WWII by engaging in wars repeadedly since 1945, some like Korea for good reasons, other, not so much. (Viet Nam, Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria…).
And we don’t seem to change. Just in the last few days, our government has “refused to rule out” military intervention in Venezuela.
Hold that thought, too.
The primary reason for Europe’s unique peace since WWII is The Marshall Plan, named for WWII general, later Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, George Marshall.
He, like all veterans, hated war. So he and Truman and Congress decided that, rather than punishing Germany and Italy for WWII, the US would help eliminate the reasons for that and future wars – for all of Europe including our allies, like England. They figured that if European countries were to prosper, were to bond through trade, were to talk through problems instead of cutting each other off in anger and seeking vengeance, they would have less incentive to go to war. That simple philosophy led to the UN, NATO and the European Union.
And 73 years of European prosperity and peace.
The cost of the Marshall plan? Around $125 billion in today’s dollars. By comparison, the Viet Nam War cost over $1 trillion in today’s dollars; Afghanistan has cost us $841 billion – so far.
OK, now back to illegals and Central America.
Central Americans have to contend with corrupt governments, drug cartels, life-taking poverty, and being gunned down in the streets. Inflation in Venezuela is 25,000%. Venezuelan women are selling their hair just to put food on the table. Their children and others in Central America have to join gangs or be shot.
These people are not coming here for comfier movie theaters or more McDonalds burgers. They like their own cultures. They’re coming here for economic and personal safety. And they’ll do just about anything to get here, including crossing hundreds of miles of desert, giving “coyotes” their life’s savings, and, now, even risking having their children yanked away by armed guards.
How are we responding? By arguing over the need for a wall propped up by bigger and badder security measures. By readying our military to go into Venezuela, even as Russia is threatening us if we do.
We blew up the Middle East. Hey! How about Central America, too?
What if, instead, we helped Central Americans stay in Central America? What if we invested in their infrastructure, helped re-establish honest government in their countries, and improved their economic and personal safety?
What if we replaced the billions spent on border control with profits from new trade? What if we reduced the amount of drugs coming into our country and the cost in lives and productivity of drug abuse and drug related crime and spent that money on our own problems? What if medieval walls were, once again, just the stuff of history books?
OK. Now let’s put it all together.
What if we tried a Marshall Plan for Central America?