On Point: Time To Protect America's Vulnerable Sea Borders

by Austin Bay
September 28, 2023

America's land borders are vulnerable.

Sad truth: Our sea borders are even more exposed.

America's land border vulnerability has become a shared fear, for good reason. Drug cartels smuggle narcotics and traffic human beings across American land frontiers. TV cameras following reporters who actually visit the southern border document the onslaught.

Given the federal government's failure, several states have acted to defend their citizens, most notably Texas and Arizona. Texas and Arizona state police, National Guard troops, and sheriff and local police departments confront the criminal cartels 24/7 and try to stem the flow of illegal migrants. Other savvy states have helped fight what amounts to a form of economic and social attrition warfare our deadliest enemies encourage.

The land border situation has so deteriorated that federal policies might be forced to change. If they do, credit Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to bus illegal migrants to northern "sanctuary cities" as the instructive riposte to their regressive foolishness.

America's land border disaster is costly. Unfortunately, America's shorelines, territorial waters and offshore Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) are also vulnerable to piracy, smuggling, terrorism (to include environmental terrorism) and enemy attack in war.

This fact illustrates the overall vulnerability. From 18% to 20% of America's energy comes from the Gulf of Mexico, most of it produced by platforms offshore Louisiana and Texas. In 1942 these platforms did not exist, otherwise they would have been easy targets for Nazi U-boats. In 2023 they are easy targets for Russian and Chinese subs or for terrorists seeking to create an environmental disaster or criminals seeking ransom. Think 2010's Deepwater Horizon oil spill writ large.

Our enemies could use proxies -- pirate proxies. Pirates already operate in the Gulf of Mexico, specifically in the southern Gulf of Mexico also known as the Bay of Campeche. These 21st century pirates -- cartelista marine thieves is the sound bite identifier -- target Mexican oil production and drilling platforms and offshore support boats.

The pirate threat spikes gas prices at the pump because it directly puts major oil and gas resources in the Western Hemisphere at extreme risk. Given their geographic proximity to the U.S., they present a border security issue of economic and military significance as well as a sophisticated 21st-century physical threat to seaborne trade.

Protecting offshore resources, especially the energy-producing assets, is a vital national economic and military security issue.

The U.S. Coast Guard is overtasked and lacks the resources to patrol much less protect the EEZ. "Overtasked" and "lacks resources" are bureaucrat terms meaning the Coast Guard doesn't have the ships and personnel to protect our coastlines and continental shelves.

Perhaps the states can lead the federal government to fiscal, energy and environmental sanity.

About 30 years ago I took a three-day Texas "oil and land man" gas course. I can't find my textbook, but the relevant forms are online. Check Section 26 of the standard Texas Lease Security Clause: "Lessee shall take the highest degree of care and all proper safeguards to protect said Leased Premises and to prevent theft of Oil Gas and other hydrocarbons produced from said lease."

Translation: a lessee can protect an oil and gas lease with deadly force.

Texas penal code Section 9.41: PROTECTION OF ONE'S OWN PROPERTY. A person in lawful possession of land ...is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other's trespass..." This applies out to 11 miles offshore.

That means some 90% of our offshore energy assets in the Gulf of Mexico are unprotected by government-permitted firepower.

The Coast Guard is overtasked. U.S. assets beyond the line of state control need firepower and legal mechanisms to protect themselves.

One legal answer: Federal government offshore leases should be like Texas and protect leases and permit immediate defense with weapons.

Another solution, one I favor: Allow states and corporations to hire private maritime security firms with offshore security patrol vessels to provide police security and firepower to protect offshore assets.

Bonus: Have the private firms use warships that the U.S. Navy can employ in a war with Communist China.

Read Austin Bay's Latest Book

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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