From the Left



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

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- President Trump, in his address to the nation, defended the righteousness 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 30-foot "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 siege-warfare expert at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 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 Soros-funded 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.


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