A frequent English correspondent from Stratford-upon-Avon who contributes regularly to this magazine wrote recently to express the frustration mockers of Donald Trump’s Big Beautiful Wall have been causing him. Hadrian’s Wall, he pointed out, begun in a.d. 122 by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to keep the Picts and other barbarians from invading England from the north, was extremely effective. So was the Great Wall of China, on which construction began in the seventh century b.c. and continued under Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, and later the Ming Dynasty, in controlling immigration, emigration, and customs enforcement. Why then, this man asks, is Trump’s Wall widely treated as a ludicrous fantasy by Trump’s opponents?
A recent article in the New York Times attempted to explain exactly why, at very great length. “Experts,” it seems, claim the Wall is an impossibility for geologic, geographic, hydrological, biological, zoological, environmental, technical, political, and economical reasons. The Wall could not cross rivers. Parts of it would rest on unstable ground. It would disrupt animal migrations north and south. It would violate established water rights, and international treaties with Mexico concerning riverine flows. A 50-foot wall would have to be grounded on a foundation of implausible depth to prevent its tipping over. Etc., etc., etc.
These and other objections are hardly made in the can-do American tradition of Winning the West, the Mexican War, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Apollo Project, the Great Society, winning the Cold War, democratic nation-building, and most recently President Obama’s Joe Biden Oncological Moonshot. Americans—liberal Americans are certain—can do anything, so long as the anything is something liberals want. If it isn’t, they’re willing to risk having the un-American heresy of “defeatism” attributed to them. Except, of course, it never is (not by people who count, anyway).
Skeptics of Washington’s claim that closed borders are finally an impossibility (though “we” can do “more” to achieve “border security”) have been known to observe cynically that most other of the world’s countries—including those with a small fraction of America’s resources—whose governments take seriously control of their borders have been able to control them. Where there’s a will there’s a way, but where sincere will is lacking there are no ways—including a greatly enlarged Border Patrol, American troops on the border, drones, taller fences, heightened surveillance, and . . . a Big Beautiful Wall. Natural obstructions are, indeed, a challenge, but in those stretches (presumably restricted ones) of the country where the Wall is infeasible, any one or all of the above means can be employed. Emperor Qin couldn’t send a man to the moon or cure cancer, but his efforts at masonry ended by erecting a wall that, in its intact entirety, measured 13,171 miles in length. And it worked.
It was, of course, an expensive project. So are America’s wars in the Middle East. Were those concluded, the U.S. Army could be posted to the U.S.-Mexican border and reinforced by the Army Corps of Engineers. As a developer and a builder, Donald Trump must know something about engineering and construction, certainly more than the Bushes, the Clintons, Barack Obama, and the editors of the New York Times.
So let him carry on with his Big Beautiful Wall if he’s elected president, and defer NASA’s (or whoever’s) project to detect the presence of space aliens tens of light years distant until another day.