Book Review: James Phelps, Jeff Dailey, and Monica Koenigsberg, Border Security (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2014)

By Bunker, Robert J. | Homeland Security Affairs, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Book Review: James Phelps, Jeff Dailey, and Monica Koenigsberg, Border Security (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2014)


Bunker, Robert J., Homeland Security Affairs


The new work Border Security written by James R. Phelps, Jeff Dailey, and Monica Koenigsberg is close to four hundred pages in length and can be considered the definitive tome on the topic as it relates to US border security perceptions, practices, and issues. The work is both comprehensive in scope and holistic in its approach. Underlying themes to the book are that border security is in many ways timeless (e.g., the Great Wall of China and Hadrian's Wall), with past states and peoples coping with similar issues that we have today, that is, allowing those in who should be let into a state and keeping others out who somehow threaten a state and its people. Further, border security within the work is viewed more within the context of a long term defense-in-depth rather than just as a linear defense.[1] Also, the work rightfully argues that short-term border security fixes rarely work as planned and may actually make a bad situation even worse.

The authors, all faculty PhDs in various criminal justice, border and homeland security, and security studies programs at Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas bring a wealth of experience to this work. Phelps, who also is retired US Navy, penned nearly half of the chapters. Dailey, who also has a military intelligence background with the NSA, Navy, and Air Force, and Koenigsberg, with her policing and prison officer background, also bring practitioner expertise to their contributions. This combination of academics with real world experience is very valuable in an applied academic work in the security field.

The book is organized into three parts: I. Defining Borders (ch.1-5); II. Border Security and Transnational Crime (ch. 6-9); and III. U.S. Border Security Today (ch. 10-12) with the following chapter subdivisions: (1) Barriers, Boundaries, and Borders; (2) Border Security in History; (3) Border Security Agency Operations; (4) Physical Border Security; (5) Maritime Border Security; (6) Trafficking: Contraband, Smuggling and the Law; (7) People Movers: Human Trafficking and Population Migrations; (8) Borders, Economic Interdependence, and Internet Crime; (9) Transportation Security; (10) The U.S.-Mexico Border; (11) The U.S.-Canadian Border; and (12) The Future of Borders and Boundaries in the Modern World. Each chapter has accompanying endnotes. Front sections include a foreword, acknowledgements, and author biographies. A detailed index is contained in the back of the book.

The strengths of the work are that it analyzes today's border security issues from a solid historical basis. No partisan politics were detected in the work and so the writing does not appear to be politically motivated or skewed. The work covers the myriad of border security issues as individual and intertwined problems, which allows the reader an integrative perspective on the dynamics of border security. Still, a few weaknesses are evident. As a textbook, it would be appropriate to have some sort of key terms listing at the beginning of chapters or within the text. Also missing are review and discussion questions at the ends of the chapters. These omissions have been noted by the authors and will be added in later editions of the textbook. In the meantime, key terms and review and discussion questions will be provided in the forthcoming instructor's manual. This reviewer very much enjoyed reading the various chapters but at times - given the clinical nature of the text and the analytical writing style taken - certain sections were not easy to comprehend and required a second reading to better understand the concepts and examples provided.

The contribution of the work to this field of study is that it provides a first look at border security as an essential component of homeland security. The work is written from an academic perspective and not from that of a first person storytelling narrative as so many works on this topic have been in the past; see for example, Lee Morgan's The Reapers Line (Rio Nuevo 2006). …

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