Trump’s wall isn’t evil. It’s me­dieval

The Record (Troy, NY) - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank Colum­nist Fol­low DanaMil­bank on Twit­ter, @ Mil­bank.

Pres­i­dent Trump, in his ad­dress to the na­tion, de­fended the right-eous­ness of his pro­posed bor­der wall.

“Some have suggested a bar­rier is im­moral,” he said, but it’s re­ally an ex­pres­sion of “love.”

He has a point. The trou­ble with the wall isn’t that it’s evil, but that it’s me­dieval.

If the plan is to bet the United States’ na­tional se­cu­rity on the siege-war­fare tech­nol­ogy of the an­cient and me­dieval worlds, which is what a wall does, then our strat­egy has to be much more Byzan­tine.

I there­fore reached out to var­i­ous me­dieval­ists around the world to get their rec­om­men­da­tions on how the United States can use tech­nol­ogy that be­came ob­so­lete in the 16th cen­tury to de­ter the mur­der­ous hordes of Trump’s fan­tasy amass­ing on the Mex­i­can bor­der. Just as the Pen­ta­gon un­der­takes a Nu­clear Pos­ture Re­view ev­ery few years, I did a Me­dieval Pos­ture Re­view — and we’re slouches.

To turn the 2,000-mile bor­der into the walled fortress Trump de­sires, my ex­perts sug­gest a me­dieval arms race as ter­ri­fy­ing as the plague. Not only will we need a 30foot “glo­ri­ous wall” (Trump will like that term) with tow­ers ris­ing to 50 feet, but we’ll also need two more “cur­tain” walls, a moat and an earthen berm to keep away the in­vad­ing mi­grants’ siege tow­ers, lad­ders, bat­ter­ing rams and pole axes.

Atop the 10-foot-thick walls, crenelated para­pets, screened by an­i­mal skins, will pro­tect our archers from ar­rows and stones. The tow­ers, rounded to de­flect in­com­ing boul­ders, will project out­ward — the bet­ter to hit il­le­gal im­mi­grants with en­fi­lad­ing fire from cross­bows.

We’ll also need a full arse­nal of bal­lis­tae to fire spears at the in­vaders and man­gonels to launch pots of burn­ing pitch at their siege weapons. Above all, we will need peo­ple — lots of them.

Leif Inge Ree Petersen, a siege­war­fare ex­pert at the Nor­we­gian Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol- ogy, ex­plained to me that to do this right — and Trump wants only the best — we should match the “gold stan­dard” in de­fen­sive walls: the Theo­dosian walls that pro­tected Con­stantino­ple from Ge­orge Soros­funded mi­grant car­a­vans for 1,000 years, un­til 1453.

Prob­lem is, this wall had tow­ers ev­ery 50 to 80 me­ters and re­quired at least 20,000 peo­ple to de­fend its six-kilo­me­ter perime­ter. To scale that up, Trump’s bor­der wall will need 51,200 tow­ers and 10.7 mil­lion peo­ple to per­form its var­i­ous chores: pour­ing hot oil and drop­ping rocks on in­vaders, push­ing away their lad­ders, fir­ing flam­ing ar­rows, dig­ging counter-tun­nels to in­ter­cept in­vaders’ tun­nels and pulling ropes to op­er­ate the tor­sion cat­a­pults.

‘There is no cri­sis’: Three bor­der­town neigh­bors re­act to Trump’s wall de­mand

With a par­tial wall near their homes, three neigh­bors in Pen­i­tas, Tex., re­act to Pres­i­dent Trump’s call to ex­pand the bar­rier on the Mex­i­can bor­der. (Drea Cornejo, Jon Ger­berg/The Wash­ing­ton Post)

An­other mem­ber of my­war cab­i­net, his­to­rian Craig Nakashian of Texas A&MUniver­sity at Texarkana, pro­posed a skele­ton crew of the type the Ro­mans used de­fend­ing Hadrian’s Wall in the sec­ond cen­tury. But even that re­quired some 15,000 peo­ple over 73 miles — so Trump’s bor­der wall, by ex­trap­o­la­tion, would still re­quire more than 400,000 de­fend­ers. Siege war­fare is la­bor-in­ten­sive. “You do kind of need peo­ple,” Nakashian ex­plained.

Whether 400,000 or 10 mil­lion, the wall’s de­fend­ers are all go­ing to need chain ar­mor. And many must be trained in the most fear­some weapon of me­dieval times: the tre­buchet. This mon­ster, 100 feet tall and thou­sands of pounds, can hurl huge pro­jec­tiles 1,000 feet.

Can­cel the F-35 con­tract. Lock­heed Martin is go­ing to have to build these suck­ers by the thou­sands. On­the pos­i­tive side, my ex­perts said it will not be nec­es­sary to stock the moats with al­li­ga­tors (this was a Hol­ly­wood in­ven­tion) nor to hurl dis­eased an­i­mal car­casses at the mi­grants (in­ef­fec­tive).

This is all go­ing to cost well more than the $5.7 bil­lion Trump has re­quested for the wall and re­quires mass con­scrip­tion of civil­ians. But if we don’t win the me­dieval arms race, we risk a bloody re­peat of the

Sas­sa­nian Siege of Amida in 359, when Ro­mans hold­ing the city were over­run and killed (much as Trump claims il­le­gal im­mi­grants are do­ing to Amer­i­cans). With­out match­ing the en­emy tre­buchet-for-tre­buchet, Petersen told me, “you have to sally out and burn the en­emy’s tre­buchets, and that can get nasty re­ally fast.”

Of course, there is an eas­ier way to pro­tect our wall. We could use drones, ground-pen­e­trat­ing radar and that new­fan­gled in­ven­tion called “gun­pow­der.” But this would de­feat the very pur­pose of build­ing a wall in the first place: the friv­o­lous nov­elty of us­ing a fifth-cen­tury so­lu­tion to a 21st-cen­tury prob­lem.

How­else can we hope to recre­ate the es­prit-de-corps that war­riors of yore felt launch­ing bar­rels of burn­ing oil from their fortresses with a mighty bat­tle cry?

“God help the Ro­mans,” cried the an­cients.

“In the name of God and St. Demetrius,” cried the Byzan­tines.

“Lord have mercy,” cried the me­dievals.

And from the para­pets of Trump’s wall will come the sa­cred cry: Make Amer­ica Great Again.

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