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Safe harbor, or any port in a storm?

I don't read Strategy Page anywhere near as often as I should. For example, they currently have a bit of analysis on the UAE - ports deal that provides a few things sorely needed to the discussion -- easily-overlooked items such as facts, perspective, and history.

Is there an innate danger in letting a foreign nation run our ports for us? Yes. But that's not what's happening here. A foreign corporation from a nation that has been a great ally for decades that had been managing our ports quite successfully is being bought by another foreign corporation, this one owned by a government that has been a pretty good friend of ours. The company in question has a long track record of successfully managing ports, and has agreed to extra scrutiny on this highly-sensitive issue.

And more to the point, not a single American company -- not even the evil incarnate Halliburton -- expressed any interest in managing the ports.

This is a tempest in a teapot, full of sound and fury. That's the main reason I speculated that the brouhaha might have been either engineered or exploited by the unions -- such hype over trivialities is a hallmark of the Left.

It is understandable why so many otherwise-rational people got so bent out of shape over this -- it infringes on border security, a "gut" issue to many (myself wholeheartedly included). But now that more and more facts are emerging, and truth is winning out over speculation, unfounded rumor, and partisan-motivated out-and-out lies, the responsible commentators (as opposed to the irresponsible ones) need to step back, reassess, and stop typing with their glands.

Yeah, the Bush administration screwed the pooch, PR-wise, on this one. This SHOULD have had big red flags all over it, and they should have gotten out in front of it and sold it to the American people, instead of letting the left run with it and stir up the flames of fear, bigotry, protectionism, and hateful stereotyping with innuendo, half-truths, and outright lies. But that mistake should not be allowed to trump a few basic facts:

1) If Dubai Ports Worldwide does NOT take over management of the ports, they will essentially be unmanaged -- NOBODY ELSE expressed interest in the job.

2) Port security will, in all likelihood, NOT be affected in the least by the changes.

3) The potential risks in this are utterly negligible, while the potential benefits are great.

A bunch of us got suckered. That's a harsh but true statement. (In our defense, when one has Jimmy Carter on one side and Senators Schumer and Clinton on the other, one is going to find oneself taking a side with someone one would rather not. But Carter usually errs out of gullibility, stupidity, or ineptitude, while Shumer and Clinton usually take the side of self-interest and political gain. That should have been a key tipoff.) The question is, what do we do now? I'm choosing to step back from the position I got suckered into taking, deciding on my own what is the right position, and remembering just who suckered me so I'll be better prepared next time.


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Comments (25)

I said it when this issue f... (Below threshold)
Hershey:

I said it when this issue first came up, it's not a big deal. The media is retarded, I rest my case.

Oh, I think it is more than... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Oh, I think it is more than just the media. We have politicians on both sides of the ailse being politicians. We have the Bush admin's tin ear for public relations. We have the activists on the left that will latch onto anything that makes Bush look bad, looking to either win an election of find that near-mythical impeachment moment.
No, the media just acted as the lubricant for everyone elses dysfuntion this time, IMO.

Correct, but the bottom lin... (Below threshold)
Mrs. Davis:

Correct, but the bottom line remains that there is no substantive issue here, only political theatrics intended to influence the ignorant.

jay i commend you for rethi... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

jay i commend you for rethinking your position on this whole thing.

I would have to say in my o... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

I would have to say in my opinion the public was disguntled with the decision first and then the Democrats latched onto it.

In the Democrats pro-multicultural vision, they didn't automatically see a problem with this. It had to be pointed out to them by others.

I do feel that eventhough the UAE is one of the better allies in the region, having them run the ports will increase access to operating procedures, security procedures, and the ports themselves for groups like Al-Queda.

I advise skeptics to review... (Below threshold)
John:

I advise skeptics to review the daisy chain between Dubai, The Carlisle Group, C.S.X. Bush and Snow.
This can be accomplisher by going to www.wikipedia.com-- search Carlisle Group then Dubai World Ports (draw your own conclusions)

<a href="http://www.dpiterm... (Below threshold)
Tee Jay:

http://www.dpiterminals.com/fullnews.asp?NewsID=39

"Dubai, 24 January 2006: - Global ports operator DP World today welcomed news that one of its senior executives, Dave Sanborn, has been nominated by US President George W. Bush to serve as Maritime Administrator a key transportation appointment reporting directly to Norman Mineta the Secretary of Transportation and Cabinet Member.

The White House has issued a statement from Washington DC announcing the nomination. The confirmation process will begin in February.

Mr Sanborn currently holds the position of Director of Operations for Europe and Latin America for the Dubai-based company"

The good indicator of poorl... (Below threshold)
CharlieDontSurf:

The good indicator of poorly researched positions is...strange bedfellows.

You're right, basic facts a... (Below threshold)
arb:

You're right, basic facts are important.

"1) If Dubai Ports Worldwide does NOT take over management of the ports, they will essentially
be unmanaged -- NOBODY ELSE expressed interest
in the job."

Wrong. Singapore's PSA International was outbid.

2) and 3) are not facts, but suppositions.

Jay:Please don't p... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Jay:

Please don't perpetuate the "managing the ports" misconception. That is like saying the retail manager of the Guess? jeans store is "managing" the mega-mall in which it resides.

UAE will NOT be "managing our ports." It will merely run its own terminals--alongside the terminals of other companies--within the ports.

Our government does, and will continue to, manage the ports.

Jay:"1) If Dubai P... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Jay:

"1) If Dubai Ports Worldwide does NOT take over management of the ports, they will essentially be unmanaged -- NOBODY ELSE expressed interest in the job."

This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what a port is, and the activities of private companies within those ports.

If you need further clarification, I could hook you up with a collegue of mine who served as the President of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission until last July (which governs the Port of Los Angeles). I could also connect you with my neighbor and friend, who served as the Mayor of Los Angeles until last July. I could also hook you up with the current Los Angeles City Counsel Woman from the Harbor District, as she is the aunt of my daughter's best friend, the sister of the former mayor, and a frequent companion at the local sushi bar. Each of these people could clearly explain this issue to you.

Or, I could just snap photos from my ex-wife's back yard which overlooks the harbor--so you could see the layout of a port and the private terminals residing within it. Thirty percent of the container traffic that enters the entire U.S. is visible from the patio, so you can get an idea of how it works.

>>The question is, what do ... (Below threshold)
blueguitarbob:

>>The question is, what do we do now? I'm choosing to step back from the position I got suckered into taking, deciding on my own what is the right position, and remembering just who suckered me so I'll be better prepared next time.

A silver lining in this dark little cloud is exactly that: it has better sifted the sober from the hysterical among the commentators I regularly read, helping prevent being "suckered" in the future.

If this episode has expsed one of the weaknesses of the blogosphere -- the tendency toward knee-jerk reactions -- it has also displayed one its strengths. That is, full historical disclosure of its commentators. For any blogger, I can search their archives and see their reactions toward any number of controversial topics, allowing me to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as a source. I have no way to do that with legacy media, which means that blogs are still more reliable news sources. Provided you don't shirk your responsibility to do your own verification through research, that is. Trust, but verify, and all that...

One last analogy--and proba... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

One last analogy--and probably the best:

El-Al and Air France have a few gates and ticket counters in most of our major airports. Yet no sane person would claim the governments of Israel or France are "running" or "managing" our airports.

Similarly, P&O didn't "run" or "manage" our ports, nor will UAE. They operate their own "gates" and "ticket counters," but that's it.

I really wish the hysterical claims of port-wide control are dropped. To do that, writers need to get their terminology correct.

Starboard,To take ... (Below threshold)

Starboard,

To take your comparison one step further Emirates Air operates gates at several US airports and recently opened their own first class lounge at JFK.

Here's the link to Emirates... (Below threshold)
Dear Ed,You said: ... (Below threshold)

Dear Ed,

You said:

3) The potential risks in this are utterly negligible, while the potential benefits are great.

Could you please tell me the risks. Even the negligible ones.

Thank You

Stephen Macklin:Th... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Stephen Macklin:

Thanks for the tip.

Now where was all the outrage over that???

Marine terminals versus Airport gates. Is the nature of security risks any different between the two? I think not.

I'm surprised how easily yo... (Below threshold)

I'm surprised how easily your opinion changed. Let's take a look at the arguments you've cited in favor of this deal:

(From the article you linked):
1) The UAE is a partner in the WOT
2) Nothing about security will change
3) The UAE is makign it less hard to launder terror money in their country.
4) If we don't allow the deal it's a victory for Al Queda

Those are pretty weak arguments that I'll bat down with a mere swat:

1) Doesn't matter that they are on the right side in the WOT. Allowing them to take over operations at our ports allows employees they may hire who might NOT be our partner in the WOT to infiltrate their compadres. Port Security is not an issue where the United States should "trust" a "partner." We should not outsource our port security to ANY nation, much less a Muslim dictatorship.

2) The security considerations must change SIGNIFICANTLY; to account for the fact that the camel has his foot underneath the tent, to use an Arab colloquialism. How many British militants have run planes into skyskrapers, I ask you. (Richard Reid was not a "British militant" he was a "Muslim militant" who successfully infiltrated Great Britian, despite many security checks and balances intended to prevent his infiltration of that Democracy.

3) The fact of the matter is that the UAE and specifically banking in Dubai, is the NEXUS of TERROR FINANCING. Think about that when you attempt to convince me that we should "trust" our "partner" in the WOT. Dubai is only a partner because we protect THEIR interests. As soon as THEIR interests are not OUR interests, that friendship will dissolve like the shifting sands of the desert. Countries do not act out of friendships, or trust; they act in their interests. In Muslim countries, today's "friend" is frequently replaced by tomorrow's Taliban. Afghanistan, after all, was a key ally of the United States once.

4) If we don't allow the deal, al Queda will say that we are "against Muslims." So freakin' what. Are we going to do, or not do, according to whether we are satisfying Osama bin Laden? No, we aren't.

Now to your own arguments, which I will distill to this:

1) Nobody else wants the job
2) Security won't be affected
3) The risks are negligable, but the benefits are great

1) No private American business wants the contract because they are bidding against a totalitarian GOVERNMENT. Private business CANNOT COMPETE against a government that can simply tax its people to outbid private businesses. If the playing field were levelled, many American companies would and could do this work. So, this argument is a red herring.

2) Port security will "in all liklihood" not be affected, you say. Nice bit of footwork there. I noticed you left yourself an out should, in the future, it be discovered that low-level employees are using the ports to smuggle in Al Queda recruits in containers that do not get searched. And how did they know which containers don't get searched? Because they operate the terminal, that's how. We needn't accept this risk.

There are few benefits. As you say, nothing much changes here (except now Muslims run the operations). Are all Muslims suspect? Of course not. So which ones ARE suspect. Well, there's the rub, isn't it?

The port deal is D.E.A.D. It will never occur, because your average Joe voter doesn't want Muslims running ports in this country because they believe Muslims have proven themselves to be untrustworthy people who believe that their "Bible" tells them to kill us. The politics of this deal truly suck.

I'll pose this final question: The UAE is an oil exporter. Every time a bomb explodes, the price they charge us for that oil goes up. If they are such a good friend to the United States, why aren't they selling us oil at a 25% discount to our enemies?

Because its BUSINESS. It's not friendship, it's not trust, it's BUSINESS. And in this BUSINESS deal, they lost.

There are lots of American ... (Below threshold)

There are lots of American companies operating terminals in American ports. It is not an area that we were first in, or even tenth. That's why the big players in the game are from overseas.

Like in many other industries, maritime terminal operation and the provision of stevedores has become an international affair. In the Port of Los Angeles, thirteen of the fourteen terminals are operated by companies owned overseas, including one by the Communist Chinese.

The loser in the bidding war for P&O was PSA, a firm located in Singapore, which has several connections to Communist China. Dubai World wants all of P&O, not just its American sites. They make it far more economicly attractive, but P&O is far more than six terminals and some stevedores in the U.S.

Any security concerns are nonsense. Thousands of ships dock in American ports each year. Nearly all of them are flagged by foreign countries, and nearly all their seamen are foreign nationals. There are very few secrets to be preserved. This trade, frieght from all over the globe, shipped on vessels from all over the globe crewed by seamen from all over the globe, will continue no matter who operates the six terminals that P&O currently has a contract for.

P&O has no say over security at any port. It probably employees several overweight guys to sit at the gates to its terminals, but that's it. If Dubai Port takes over the P&O terminals, nothing at all will change regarding port security.

This is a minor business transaction that has come to symbolize many things for many people. Closed borders, trade imbalances, anti-Moslem bias, whatever.

And, it is no surprise that Bush picked someone very familiar with maritime trade to head the Maritime Commission. In fact, this American had only been with Dubai Port for about a year before his nomination.

[email protected] Muslim Unit... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

@ Muslim Unity

3) The potential risks in this are utterly negligible, while the potential benefits are great.

I didn't write that. Please direct your comment to Jay Tea.

Chuck:I just peeke... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Chuck:

I just peeked at your site, and saw you linked to the LA Times article. I, too, thought it was a good article--expecially for the LA Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-022306ports_lat,0,5137457.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Another good article is here: http://www.dailybreeze.com/news/articles/2363226.html?page=1&c=y

And for one that demonstrates how ignorant Diane Feinstein is, see this: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/W/WST_PORT_SECURITY_WEST_CAOL-?SITE=CATOR&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Apparently, she must think the New York Port Authority is a private entity. Sheesh.

Pardon me for going too far... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Pardon me for going too far into oversimplification here, but I submit that if we, as a nation, are this antsy about Arabs, even a highly corporatized company from a highly corporatized country ... then Osama bin Laden has certainly scored a significant victory.

When I look at this, it occurs to me that if the deal involved, say, a Berlin-based company taking over port management, there wouldn't be nearly the outcry that there is now. But a quick examination of the demographics in Germany, or, indeed in many European countries, reveals that Muslims and Arabs are growing populations there. And a quick read of current events reveals that Islamism has taken root among European Muslim communities, in part because of poor social conditions.

So, if a European company takes over, too much chance of radical Muslims blowing up our ports. No good.

So, perhaps, we should only trust African companies with port managing ports? No dice. Radical Islam has a home in Africa, or have we forgottan Sudan and Egypt? OK ... let's try Asia? Nope. Indonesia has lots of Muslims ... not to mention Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

If we keep going with this cultural paranoia, we'll eventually conclude that only an Antartica-based company can run ports, and we'll end up turning over America's security to a bunch of penguins.

My point is twofold. First, the idea that we can avoid terrorist infiltration by screening out certain countries (aside from obvious ones like Iran) is ridiculous. Nearly every country, America included, has its share of disaffected Islamic radicals who could conceivably obtain employment through a port-management company and work dastardly deeds. Any politician, Republican or Democrat, is being unrealistic, and possibly opportunistic, when he waves a bloody shirt over this deal. At the very least, such a politician is catering to our own worst fears.

Which leads to my second point. Like many Americans, I'm sure I would get the heebie-jeebies if I settle in on my trans-Atlantic flight, and I see suspicious-looking (in my mind) Arabs talking to each other in Arabic. I'm not proud of that reaction -- it's evidence of my basest nature, an expression of my fear. Perhaps I (and other people) can't help feeling that fear. But all of us can choose to recognize that fear as irrational, set it aside, and act accordingly. To do otherwise is to surrender our reasoning ability to our basest animal nature.

And, finally, to my third point, about giving a victory to Osama bin Laden. Look at what's happened in Iraq this week. A sacred Shiite mosque was bombed, and now Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites are at each others' throats.

That's how al-Qaida works. Its attacks do little physical damage. Their real damage is the fear and discord sowed in the target populations, setting Sunni against Shia. Muslim against Jew. American against Arab.

Today, this country has tied itself up in knots at the prospect that an Arab company could manage ports. And somewhere in a cave, Osama bin Laden is laughing. If he wants to win his war, he has to do very little. Our baser natures will win this war for him.

--|PW|--

--|PW|--

Pardon me for going too ... (Below threshold)

Pardon me for going too far into oversimplification here, but I submit that if we, as a nation, are this antsy about Arabs, even a highly corporatized company from a highly corporatized country ... then Osama bin Laden has certainly scored a significant victory.

Nah, we had xenophobic nitwits before UBL.

Why did this get to be pre... (Below threshold)
BETH MCNEELY:

Why did this get to be prejudice against Muslims (a religion, not a race..just sayin'). This is a war against infiltration, not armies. To win the enemy needs to infiltrate our country and blow stuff up. If they are working right smack dab inside of good places to blow up, which political side is going to make the best excuses after the explosion? Who cares? Let's just not have Muslim countries running major industries for now, we can always change our minds later.

This is not a private company. I don't know why you aren't more alarmed by that. You are putting a lot of trust in the future stability of a Muslim kingdom. There is a history of the US doing that in the region.

And what's all this business about hurting their feelings? Cartoons hurt their feelings, western culture insults them, how is that a reason?

Someone should get ahold of the statements of the royal family over the past few years, newsclips or video. How moderate or modern they are within the palace is the question, rather than the efficiency of the port operations (Burkas kill the deal).

Who are these guys?

Beth:It's not abou... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Beth:

It's not about hurting somebody's feelings. It's one-third not giving in to Osama bin Laden and two-thirds economic necessity.

--|PW|--




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