In the wake of the storming of the Capitol on January 6, the acting chief of the Capitol Police has called for a protection barrier to be erected, with the hope that permanent fencing will ensure the event never occurs again.
While protection is important, are lawmakers just diverting attention away from more effective measures and covering up the issues that need to be addressed?
Admittedly, we’ll never go back to life pre-metal detectors. But kids should still be allowed to go sledding on snowy days, the public should still be able to go on tours and visiting the seat of government should be as frictionless as possible. Allowing the U.S. Capitol to become a fortress would seriously damage the nation’s reputation as a free and open democracy.
The failures by Capitol Police on January 6 could not have been prevented by more funding. We cannot just throw money at the problem here. The failures were the result of poor leadership. Fixing operational problems does not require fencing. The threats Washington faces require a confident security posture, agile intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and clear missions and lines of authority.
Fencing is the kind of solution the Capitol has been repeatedly taking since 9/11. A solution that does nothing to deter repeated breaches of the White House, and definitely will not deter an army of protesters like the one that marched on January 6.
The National Guard demonstrated the speed at which temporary barriers can be put into place, but the real solution is not in a physical form. The real solution is better surveillance, better leadership and better operation of specialized forces like the Capitol Police.
There will always be those who hope to use violence to achieve political ends, but installing a barrier will only encourage those people by saying “we fear you,” while further alienating an already polarized nation.