Tuesday, February 21, 2006
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What's the big deal about the port deal?
I can certainly see why there's some political controversy about a firm owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates helping to run ports on the Eastern seaboard -- but after reading this Christian Science Monitor story by Alexandra Marks, I don't think there's any real basis for the kind of outrage I'm seeing. This section in particular stands out:
Companies like P&O don't provide security at the ports. The US Coast Guard and Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement do. For instance, in New Orleans, P&O is one of eight terminal operators responsible for marketing the port, signing agreements with shipping lines, hiring labor, loading ships, and moving cargo.Then there's this from Heritage's James Jay Carafino in National Review Online:
What happens when one foreign-owned company sells a U.S. port service to another foreign-owned company. Not much. Virtually all the company employees at the ports are U.S. citizens. The Dubai firm is a holding company that will likely play no role in managing the U.S. facilities. Likewise, the company is owned by the government, a government that is an ally of the United States and recognizes that al Qaeda is as much a threat to them as it is to us. They are spending billions to buy these facilities because they think itís a crackerjack investment that will keep making money for them long after the oil runs out. The odds that they have any interest in seeing their facilities become a gateway for terrorist into the United States are slim. But in the interest of national security, we will be best served by getting all the facts on the table.Except, of course, all the facts were reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) earlier in the month. People aren't upset that there's been a review -- they're upset because there's been a review and the outcome is one they disagree with on a gut level. [Yeah, but hasn't CFIUS approved over 99% of the cases brought to its attention?--ed. Yes, but I dare the readers to find a case where CFIUS screwed up.]
There's been a lot of hot air in the blogosphere on this -- and even hotter air from the United States Senate, the House of Representatives, and local politicians -- but I haven't seen anything approaching a rational, reality-based argument against this deal.
I've been quite critical of President Bush as of late, but he deserves significant credit for sticking to his guns on this one. There is little political upside -- but in this case, George W. Bush has made the right decision.
I have every confidence in the ability of my readers to try and persuade me that I'm wrong. But you had better have a better argument than American ports + UAE firm = terrorist attack in the U.S.
UPDATE: A few commenters have raised the point that Dubai is considered to be the hub of Middle Eastern money laundering. This is a) true; and b) irrelevant to the question at hand. Dubai is the center of money laundering in the Middle East because it's the principal financial center in the region. It is undeniably true that pre-9/11, the UAE was remarkably uncooperative on terrorist financing. That did change with the terrorist attacks, however. Furthermore, this issue is irrelevant. Why would the UAE's government -- which has been an ally of the U.S. for decades -- use the ports as a source for money laundering?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds is mystified why Bush is digging his heels in on this issue. I'm not -- I'm sure that Bush views the Congressional hullabaloo as legislative interference in routine executive branch functions. And we all know how Bush feels about that issue.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Steve Flynn has been concerned about homeland security for quite some time, and he's not exactly Polyannish about the state of security in American ports. So I think it's telling that in this Time story by Tony Karon, Flynn is untroubled by this port deal:
[T]o call the United Arab Emirates a country "tied to 9/11" by virtue of the fact that one of the hijackers was born there and others transited through it is akin to attaching the same label to Britain (where shoe-bomber Richard Reid was born) or Germany (where a number of the 9/11 conspirators were based for a time). Dubai's port has a reputation for being one of the best run in the Middle East, says Stephen Flynn, a maritime security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. And Dubai Ports World, which is a relatively new venture launched by the government of Dubai in 1999, has a number of Americans well known in the shipping industry in its senior leadership. It operates port facilities from Australia through China, Korea and Malaysia to India, Germany and Venezuela. (The acquisition of P&O would give them control over container shipping ports in Vancouver, Buenos Aires and a number of locations in Britain, France and a number of Asian countries.) "It's not exactly a shadow organization for al-Qaeda," says Flynn. Dubai, in fact, was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to join the U.S. Container Security Initiative, which places U.S. customs agents in overseas ports to begin the screening process from a U.S.-bound cargo's point of departure.Flynn has more to say to the Washington Post's Paul Blustein and Eric Rich:
Stephen E. Flynn, a specialist in maritime security at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that although the company is state-owned, several members of its top management are Americans -- including its general counsel, a senior vice president and its outgoing chief operating officer, Edward H. Bilkey, who is a former U.S. Navy officer. And since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States has increasingly depended on such foreign port operators to cooperate in inspecting cargo before it heads for U.S. shores.YES, I'M STILL UPDATING: David Sanger and Eric Lipton do raise a small but valid and reality-based concern in their New York Times story:
The administration's review of the deal was conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a body that was created in 1975 to review foreign investments in the country that could affect national security. Under that review, officials from the Defense, State, Commerce and Transportation Departments, along with the National Security Council and other agencies, were charged with raising questions and passing judgment. They found no problems to warrant the next stage of review, a 45-day investigation with results reported to the president for a final decision.I do get some hives whenever I hear that the Bush administration has circumvented standard operating procedures -- but, again, there's nothing in the reports I've seen to suggest that there is any substantive reason for concern. The alarmists on both sides of the aisle are making the kind of conspiracy-based arguments that would make Michael Moore blush. See, for example, this nice debunking by Dick Meyer of CBS News, or this Financial Times story by Andrew Ward, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Edward Alden. And see also this fact-laden Q&A by Eben Kaplan at the Council on Foreign Relations website. This sentence stands out in particular: "Calls from lawmakers to reconsider the approval have come after the thirty-day period to raise objections had expired."
WHAT THE HECK, ONE
Finally check out Mansoor Ijaz's defense of Dubai in NRO. Key section:
Whatever the UAE's policies in the pre-9/11 world (whether as home to A. Q. Khan's illicit nuclear network, one of three Taliban embassies, questionable banking practices, or as an alleged repository for Iranian-terror funds), Dubai's record under these young leaders in the post 9/11 world reflects serious and structural change in national strategy. As Jim Robbins noted Tuesday, in December 2004, Dubai was the first Middle East government to accept the U.S. Container Security Initiative as policy to screen all containers for security hazards before heading to America. In May 2005, Dubai signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to prevent nuclear materials from passing through its ports. It also installed radiation-detecting equipment ó evidence of a commitment to invest in technology. In October 2005, the UAE Central Bank directed banks and financial institutions in the country to tighten their internal systems and controls in their fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.posted by Dan on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM
One problem--perhaps a slight one, but there nonetheless-- with Dubai in particular is that it's the main conduit for every Russian and former FSU mafiya organization's money, and many other criminal organizations as well. Not at all inconceivable that the Dubai firm could be funded in part by one of these organizations.posted by: thibaud on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Heaven knows I'm not a big fan of Bush, but this seems like a non-issue, being played up for politics.
As long as the actual security and inspection functions are carried out by government employees, there should be little concern if a competent organization runs the ports.posted by: erg on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Dubai is a major money center for the Middle east, Central Asia and South Asia. Money laundering is very common there (and in the past smuggling gold into India was very common), but I'm not sure that its more than Luxemburg or the Caymans.posted by: erg on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
At one level, it's fairly certain that this IS a tempest in a teapot, being manipulated by various interests (left and right). And the President was quite right, too, to ask the obvious question: why should a British company (well, he said "a Great Britain company") be OK, but an UAE company ipso facto a security risk. So, bully for George.
Yet it's also a sign of the times that I find it hard to imagine there isn't a corrupt angle to this somewhere...if not in the PO sale to the UAE company, per se, then in the swift vetting by the CFUIS...or _somewhere_. The systematic way that the current Administration has undermined administrative processes (see the LA Times article over the weekend, the NASA flap, heck-of-a-Brownie, almost anything having to do with science, etc., etc.) for the benefit of cronies, insiders, corporate allies and loyalists has destroyed the President's credibility, in my mind, that the case in question is simply an up and up deal.
And I hate conspiracy theories, usually! Indeed, I acutely resent being forced to recognize that, just because much that is wrong in the world doesn't require conspiracies does NOT mean that there are no conspiratorial activities underway.posted by: PQuincy on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
What's the political lesson four and a half years after 9/11? Xenophobia is alive and well in America. It doesn't make any difference whether you're a Democrat or a Republican -- drum up some fear about the Arab threat and you're sure to win applause. (more...)posted by: Paul Woodward on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
erg - acc to my sources, the Russian and FSU mafiya do not use Luxembourg or the Caymans. The former's too clean and the latter's too far away.
Dubai is money laundering central for those regions that border the grand candy store of WMD and other arms that is the former Soviet Union. It's far more significant to our anti-proliferation and anti-terror efforts than any other offshore center, and I'm frankly skeptical of all the love being showered on Dubai/UAE by the administration and the Pentagon. A sinkhole like Dubai doesn't clean itself up overnight-- if ever. Far too much $$$$$$$ involved.posted by: thibaud on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
This strikes me as a typical case of an academic losing touch with common sense. No matter how you twist or turn it, by putting Arabs in charge of the ports rather than Brits or -woah!- Americans, you're placing the ports one step closer to islamic terrorists.
Now, we can argue how far removed down a very long and strong chain of guarantees this easier access for islamic terrorists is. But it's there. The Bin Laden family is a perfect example of the tightness, the proximity, the interwoven character, of the world of islamic terrorism and Arabian civil society/government. The Saudi royal family donates money to charities that are linked to other charities that fund terrorists. And yes, I know this firm is not based in Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, simply because the company does not have an interest in destroying its investment it does not follow that there aren't employees who have perfectly different motives.
All in all, this deal strikes me as an astonishingly absurd and stupid move. There's a reason our gut revolts. One thing I've learned is that my gut is almost always right. Repeat after me: in case of doubt, follow your gut and say no.posted by: Disturbed on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Dan - the problem with Dubai isn't the arabs, it's the Russian criminal organizations who are tightly dialed into the massively corrupt Russian military and security services and therefore have access to any WMD stocks a terrorist could desire. Dubai's where these mafiyosi do their deals-- including potential deals with any of those dozens of arab middlemen who facilitate the flows of WMD materiel and know-how across the world.
Why take the risk?posted by: thibaud on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
It is pandering of the worst kind, further exacerbated by sloppy research and xenophobia.
Dubai has gone out of its way to create a business-friendly and relatively liberal environment for the huge number of Western expats living there. It has been a strong ally of the US and certainly doesn't deserve this kind of scaremongering and hysteria in return. Alienating Arab allies in the region is a stupid and shortsighted move.
Anyway, we've discussed this to death over at 'Aqoul. No point repeating it here.posted by: eerie on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
So, in the 1930s you would have sold the ports to a private Austrian firm?
As Thibaud says, "Why take the risk?"
As far as it concerns upsetting the Arabs: ahem. These people are upset by cartoons. I was upset by 9/11.
Go ahead. Call me a xenophobe. Sticks and stones.posted by: Disturbed on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I think Bush is right. Even more astoundingly, Bill O'Reilly produced an intelligent defense of the approval this evening. If I were in charge, I would approve the transaction conditioned upon the acquiring company waiving any rights to object to searches and seizures and agreeing to allow random audits, and federal acess to its internal communications systems.posted by: Robert Schwartz on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I'm with erg, as much as I dislike the POTUS, this issue should be a non-starter. The ports weren't leased by an American company to start with, and the whole reason why this is happening is because that company is being bought, and so they also bought the lease.
I think where this administration blew it is that communication thang that they've got going on, where "we know what's best, and to hell with you, we're not going to tell you all the information because we know it, and it's not pertinent to anything you may be thinking about."
In otherwords, a real class(less) act.posted by: Bryan Price on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
You might want to look into the firm that operates several West Coast ports before freaking out about the UAE.
Not Arabs, but based on your criteria, just as scary.posted by: eerie on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
So? Because we've not been as careful with the security of our western ports (I'm taking you at your word) we're morally obliged to repeat that with our eastern ports? Surely not.posted by: Disturbed on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Actually, I'm questioning your "foreigners bad because they're foreigners" criteria. With a little digging, you might find that a large number of firms operating in the US have foreign stakeholders/owners (and not comfy foreigners like the British either).
Dubai already has existing security relationships with the USG (e.g. US aircraft carriers already dock in Dubai's own ports, DPW has signed an agreement with the US Coast Guard to inspect containers). It is not in the UAE's interest to damage this good relationship, nor is it in American interests to reduce the number of allies it has in the region.
Xenophobic foreign policy is a bad idea. Even Bush realizes this.posted by: eerie on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I'm sorry, but your logic amounts to 'we've done it before, so why not do it again.' That's absurd.
Second, I'm sure the UAE government has interests and perhaps even wishes to protect those interests. But that doesn't alter the fact that dealing with UAE owners puts the ports into the orbit of people who are closer to terrorists than is necessary (as alternatives are readily available). Again, why take the risk?
If the UAE is going to stop being our ally because of this then it must not have been such a good ally in the first place. That reinforces my side of the argument - not yours.
Finally, this has nothing to do with xenophobia. To coin a phrase, it's strictly business.posted by: Disgusted on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I'm sorry, but your logic amounts to 'we've done it before, so why not do it again.' That's absurd.
A quick summary of US-UAE relations wrt port operations: The US military has already used DPW-operated ports to dock their carriers. The USG has already inspected containers in DPW-operated ports overseas (because homeland security isn't just about assets on American soil). DPW has already signed agreements allowing the US Coast Guard to inspect containers here.
Now, if the US and the UAE have pre-existing security arrangements where the UAE has been nothing but cooperative, you are saying the US shouldn't expect cooperation in the future because that would be absurd?
Perhaps the USG should rethink all of its alliances, as none of them could possibly be trustworthy if past relationships have no bearing on future actions.
Oh, and if you're using a Thinkpad, best throw it out right now as the Chinese are probably spying on you with it.posted by: eerie on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
As far as I know, Bush hasn't ever vetoed anything as President (as Governor, I don't know). There's a first time for everything, but given his many past threatened vetoes of bills that he then acquiesed in, his veto threat has zero credibility.
The scary thing is that Jimmy Carter has endorsed it, and that is scary for a reason other than the obvious - consider what happened to the Congressmen and Senators who supported Carter on the Panama Canal treaty. Many were defeated for their next relection - Howard Baker's presidential ambitions died right there - and no one, but no one, received any positive benefits from supporting it. Michael Barone devotes a whole page to the political disaster the Panama Canal treaty was in his book, Our Country.
Jimmy Carter's endorsement of this port sale is reason for elected officials to run away screaming.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
good job dan. i obviously disagree with you often, but you are right on this one. i was scared you would fall for the base racism that other people have, but it seems the libertarian in you won out. considering how strongly you fight the "outsourcing" argument, it would have been a pretty big blow if you were against UAE on this one. so, good. you believe more in the free market then you are scared of "terrorism". now, all you have to do is see that 99% of the "terrorism" debate is smoke like this and you will be pro-palestinian in no time.posted by: joe m on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I've not made up my mind on this, but your argument is probably the most rational one I've heard that isn't opposed to the deal. Honestly, if one looks at this on the surface level, there's the inclination to make the UAE = 9/11 terrorists connection. One does have to look beyond that. I'm still concerned, but I'm willing to wait for all the facts.posted by: Rafique Tucker on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Too many big names sticking their neck out on this for it not to be credible in some way - but where?
All Things Beautiful TrackBack The Sum Of All Fears.posted by: Alexandra on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
To those opposed to the deal: What precisely is the risk that concerns you? What is it that the UAE might do with its authority over these ports that worries you?posted by: Tom T. on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
This whole situation mystifies me. Instead of a British CFO, CTO, and COO at the port and the profits going to Europe there will be a UAE CFO, CTO, and COO and the profits going to the middle east. That is pretty much all.
I don't know what people are expecting is going to happen. This is becoming scarely similar to German Jews before WWII.posted by: Chris Albon on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I'm just glad that this happend under a repub. admin. if Clinton had done something so tone deaf, the hack element of the right wing talk radio establishment would have been screaming treason!
This is becoming scarely similar to German Jews before WWII."
Think before you write. This isn't even close to that.posted by: Rick Latshaw on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
This arrangement seems akin to an airline leasing terminal space at an airport. Should the US monitor these types of leases at critical facilities? Sure, but I'm not sure what the fuss is about.posted by: shawn on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
The issue is Bush's hypocrisy with respect to the war on terrorism. He has decided to override our civil liberties (NSA wiretaps) because of the remote chance that doing so could improve our national security. Handing the ports management to a UAE company does increase by that same remote chance.
Is UAE a terrorist state? No. But they are a country that has only recently taken on reforming itself to be a legitimate player in the last few years. This just isn't the same compared to a company that resides in UK, which has been a long standing ally. Just as Bush has been overly cautious with the surveillance, he should be doing the same here.
What is the difference? Civil liberties versus dollars.posted by: Rick Latshaw on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Shouldn't the "fuss" be welcomed? If this deal is such a good one, then its defenders should welcome the chance to open it up to the sunshine, making its many evident virtues clear to all and greasing the glidepath for further such wonders of free trade.posted by: TBA on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Many Americans do not trust anything Bush says or does, let alone the competence of the Bush administration.
And most of us thought running ports was a government function, since the taxpayers likely paid for most or all of the infrstructure.
This isn't about foreign policy, this is about money and the American taxpayers are likely getting screwed - again.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
eerie suggests that this matter is "business as usual." The problem is that if too much smoke is raised and POTUS does not back down there might be an investigation. Should some foulness be discovered in the "business as usual" process, something along the lines of the Grant administration, let us hope that that story breaks in 2009. A more weakened and enraged Presidency is not something our country needs at this juncture. bstrposted by: Ben Stewart on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Rick hits the nail on the head. It's not the racism (though that's obviously what put it on the front pages), it's the cronyism.
And there is an important political question here, which IS substantive, that one must answer before one commits to carrying water for this administration. Essentially, it's "Are you willing to stake your reputation on this Administration not only having done the job right here, but are you still willing to go to bat for them once you realize that endorsing the process on this deal will give them carte blanche when it comes to every other deal that puts American security up against corporate interests?"
I for one am not willing to do it. I'm not entirely convinced there isn't something rotten in the state of UAE, but more importantly, I am totally convinced this Administration does not give a damn if there is. These are the same people who can't bear to tell the American chemical industry they have to start getting serious about security. Why would I give them the presumption of competence, why would I support them in their contention that they do not need outside review, when the entire history of this administration has been incompetence, corruption, and putting the interests of corporations ahead of the American people?
And when it comes to race, I'm not willing to bail out an administration that has shamelessly stirred up and exploited racism, and used it as a cover for its own incompetence. Bush is the one who made the "every Muslim is a terrorist and doesn't deserve rights" argument when he started rounding up Pakistani goatherders and sending them to Guantanamo. And though it had no security value, Guantanamo had great domestic political value, because its blatant racism infuriated liberals, who George Bush could then call "soft on terror." If stirring up racism for domestic political gain now makes it hard for George them to get crony deals for his rich UAE buddies past a racist base, boo hoo for him!
The way you fix racism isn't with classism--it's not by saying, "well it's OK to assume poor Muslims are terrorists, but rich Muslims you actually have to PROVE are terrorists."
The way we address racism is by starting at the bottom. We give due process to the goatherders at Guantanamo, which is what I and every other goddam liberal have been screaming for years that we should be doing. Defending instead George Bush's special treatment to the rich Muslims (perhaps we could start calling them "house Muslims" or "our Muslims") isn't striking a blow against racism. It's playing into the racist tradition of "well, our town's n**** are decent," and "I mean, the ones I know are okay, but the rest of them are terrible!"
I don't know how to break this to you, but George Bush calling you a racist doesn't make you one. Smart people can think approving this port deal is a bad idea on the merits--if for no other reason than it'll allow George to approve whatever deal he wants to in the next 3 years. Just because Bush's bace are racists, we don't have to be suckers and fall for the Jedi mind trick he's pulling by playing the race card: "must prove I am not racist...must support George Bush!"posted by: theorajones on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
One thing that people seem to be missing here is that the UAE is not "running" the port. It is taking over the management of longshoring contracts. Or as one commenter put it, they are leasing terminals at the airport. The USCG and Customs still provide security, all the UAE company will do is hire the unionized longshoremen.
Putting it another way, a UAE firm is purchasing a British company and some of the assets are contracts to handle cargo at 6 US ports. I guess this is much more mundane, but accurate description of the transaction.
Did the administration handle this poorly, absolutely, but that does not make it right to scuttle it.
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
"there's nothing in the reports I've seen to suggest that there is any substantive reason for concern"
Think really, really hard about what this statement says.posted by: TBA on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Good golly! Wisdom from a Rush Limbaugh transcript:
I am stunned.
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Dan, actually it seems to be 'circumventing the law'.
How can anybody who's observed this administration for the past five years not automatically assume the worst about this administration? And when they're breaking the law, that just ups my suspicion level.posted by: Barry on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
if hearing the admin has circumvented standard op procedures gives you hives....
Oh man. You must be in constant pain.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
For true conservatives, there is the issue that it's a state run company. A private firm competing on equal footing in a free market would be preferable. I'm sure domestic private entrepeneurs don't like the idea that another business opportunity has gone to a firm subsidized by a foreign governmentposted by: dweeb on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Full text transcript of Bush's initial comments on the UAE port deal available via Vital Perspective.posted by: Adrian on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
If someone puts something in a container coming out of a port in China (a port not run by DP World (though they do run three ports in Hong Kong)) there is a minimal chance (1 in 5) that it's going to get checked. That's not going to change.
Management of these facilities and staffing isn't going to change significantly... if we're worried about it we need to secure the system, not our individual ports. The ports are not going to change no matter who runs them (Halliburton, as Sen. Schumer suggest).
Agree also on the issue of circumventing the procedure. Politically, I think it offers all those venting right now a way out of the xenophobic rhetoric.
Best, Mattposted by: Matt (@ Fletcher) on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Is it xenophobic to point out the fact that the pakistani nuclear program used Dubai ports as a shipment point for its program of proliferation?posted by: centrist on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
This issue has resonance because it creates some cognitive dissonance between the jingoistic nationalism the administration generally projects on the one hand, and the highly cosmopolitan "we're all rich oil men" coziness the Bush family has always had with their peers among the Arab elite on the other.
I think some in the Bush coalition are scratching their heads asking "do we have a problem with enemy identification here?"
The truth is, GWB is friendlier with Prince Bandar "Bush" than he is with most Americans. You just don't hear about that a lot.posted by: STS on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Bush .. deserves significant credit
and all the blame. He fanned the flames whenever it suited him, and now he is getting burned by them. He exhibits all the pre-911 thinking he accuses his opponents of.posted by: Lord on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
STS is dead on.
I'd push it a little futher- it goes beyond "jingoistic nationalism" and into policy-making as well.
Bush himself didn't know ANYTHING about the deal
Shoot the deal down. It's simply not a good idea.
Plus it sets things up that when there IS another
Here's another perspective.posted by: California Conservative on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Bill o'Reilly questioned the wisdom of "spitting in the eye of ally(dubai)...they wont want to help you in future" Freedom Fries from Old Europe anyone?
I don't consider this a big deal. I don't think Dubai is particularly suspect.
But the no-big-deal argument cuts both ways.
If this is so unimportant, why is Bush pitching a fit about it and threatening the first veto of his term?
It just floors me that Bush feels he has the political capital left to spend on something like this. Doesn't he have more important issues to push? What about this new energy policy he's trying to promote right now?
Kinda hard to talk about organic fuel when you have these little interruptions. If he'd just said "Oh sorry, oversight on my part. We'll just get that arrangement taken care of." Or even refusing to comment except to say "Congress has the right to legislate for the good of this nation and I'll agree to whatever they decide." That might have worked too. If it's such a non-issue, why didn't he just drop it and let Congress fight it out?
This has to be one of the most politically stupid presidents we've ever had. Why does he keep doing this to himself?posted by: Irensaga on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I've been split in thinking about this. Part of me says to shoot down the deal based upon the whole "rubber stamp" nonsense.
But if I think about it a different way, I can see that this UAE company wants to generate revenue and be a player in the world economy, possibly akin to the way Singapore is an economic powerhouse. Oil will not keep generating the Middle East revenues in the long run (and we are talking LONG run here). But I think that this is a good move for Dubai to pick up these ports and create a new means of profit making, and possibly making more citizens in their country better off and less dependent on a type of trading that will not last.
This makes good economic sense, even if it is turning into a political nightmare. I am going to hope that the deal goes through, and that economic success will take root in an area that needs it in sectors other than petroleum. That should make everyone involved happier.posted by: Matthew on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Counter arguements are welcome, personal insults are just childish.
In 1936, Jewish businessmen are banned from professional jobs and many business dealings solely on the basis of their ethnicity/nationality. By April 1939, nearly all Jewish companies had either collapsed under financial pressure and declining profits, or had been persuaded to sell out to the Nazi government.
In 2006, Muslim businessmen are (possibly) banned from completing a business deal solely on the basis of their ethnicity/nationality.
I'm not saying it will go that far, but you have to be wary when comparisons like the above can be made.posted by: Chris Albon on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Yeah, 'cause its not like the UAE royal family has ever been invited guests of Osama bin Laden, or anything. Oh, wait...posted by: Anomolous on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
There is no American company that can manage a port? Smells like an Abramoff type of deal.
Again, most of the ports were probably built and are secured using taxpayer dollars, so why are we outsourcing management?
We get dumber by the day.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
The Dems are being Racists and Islamophobes. The Prez should call them that.posted by: a_jagers on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Also read Frank Gaffney's excellent piece at NRO:
Im all for free trade, but "we are at war" this is not the type of critcal infrastructure one just hands over to UAE in "a time of war".posted by: centrist on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I'm sure Rove will get around to giving 'the Prez' your "racist/islamophobe" talking point shortly.
But why is it ok for the administration to go around profiling individual Arabs in airports or by abrupt arrests over INS technicalities that used to be treated more diplomatically or by holding them incommunicado in Guantanamo Bay w/o access to legal representation, etc. etc.?
The net/net here is that Bush is a casually racist jingo about "the little people", but a super-suave cosmopolitan internationalist where "respectable corporate interests" are concerned.
The snafu over the ports deal is just a jarring illustration of the Bush/Rove class-war. Nothing -- but *nothing* -- must stand in the way of globalized, virtualized, off-shored, outsourced multinational capital. Even the usual terrorism scare tactics playbook is suspended when it's time for Bush to make a corporate deal.
I rather hope Bush *does* come out and call the Dems racist/islamophobic. Even better if he used the word "paranoid". Once Bush connects "fear of terrorism" and "paranoia" in a sentence, we might be ready as a country to develop a more rational approach to dealing with Islamicist anger and violence.posted by: STS on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
If this is so unimportant, why is Bush pitching a fit about it and threatening the first veto of his term?
Because he perceives a risk to relations with the UAE? Because he fears that in the aftermath the UAE might be less cooperative in the War on Terror?posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
How about this: the UAE is an arab country. The arabs are, for the most part, horrible, evil people whose influence should be confined to the desert.posted by: Mark on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Can anyone answer this simple question: Why take the risk?
What, exactly, do we get from having a UAE firm rather than a US one operating these ports?
If it's a cost savings of several million $, then I'd be glad to donate two or three additional tax dollars to reduce this risk.posted by: thibaud on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I wish people would think through the alternatives to P&O being bought. Who else do they think run shipping contracts? Who else operates ports? an "American" company? What does that mean anymore?
No, American companies don't do this work, largely speaking. And conservatives should think long and hard before they continue to whine about this: all they do is make it easy for the Democrats and more left members to argue that the ports should be federalized.
I'm tired of hearing people whine about how "why aren't american companies doing X anymore?" The answer is because it's not financially to their benefit. Comparative advantage exists. Look at what port running/management means, and where you'd find efficiencies to make a profit. Ports in this country require the use of unionized longshoremen, and their contracts look quite similar to those of the airlines and autoworkers: they are too expensive. The future of ports is too be automated, but until that time, we work with what we've got. Until then, companies with more expertise, with economies of scale, etc. will more effectively run these enterprises.
Over and over again, cumbersome legislation, unions, etc. have forced "american" companies (whatever that means) out of "american" jobs. You want to stop foreign investment and companies? Make it profitable for such other "american" companies to do this work. But at the same time, look at the reality of what you're suggesting: lower the financial incentives for "american" companies to make money in other venues.
I'd love it if the posters would work hard at defining "american", too, while they're at it.posted by: anonymouse on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
"Robert C. Bonner, who until November headed U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agreed. Although U.S. dock workers have occasionally been caught colluding with drug traffickers, the possibility that terrorists or their sympathizers would end up working in U.S. ports is remote because of the strong role of unions in hiring, he said."
It's ironic that an administration apologist would rely on unions as the first line of defense in port security.
Jack Heyman, business agent of the San Francisco Longshore Union (ILWU), tells CounterPunch that [Tom] Ridge called Spinosa, the ILWU international president, about 7 to 10 days ago in the midst of negotiations. "He said that he didn't think it would be a good idea if there was a disruption in trade and went on to say that it is important to continue negotiating." Since then, according to Heyman, Spinosa has been talking not only to Ridge but also to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Ridge's astounding and sinister intervention comes in the midst of tense negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association representing shipowners and stevedores operating on the West Coast and the ILWU. The prime issue is technology, where the employers seek change in work rules. Today, Thursday, Longshore workers are staging a rally in Oakland.
"The big thing," Heyman says, "is the hiring hall. The PMA wants to computerize the hall. Longshore workers died in the 1934 strike for the hiring hall. It dictates who controls distribution of jobs, who controls the waterfront. We eliminated corruption and favoritism with establishment of union hiring hall. They want to put computer cards. When you go to hiring hall you schmooze, see what is going on. Employers don't want that."posted by: Netromancer on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
There are so many bright academics on this site...lets do a little intellectual exercise...remove the names and politics from the issue...a couple of case studies.
COUNTRY A:Rulers have close personal relationship w/ Bin Laden...they hunt together.
COUNTRY A: Ports of this nation were used to proliferate NUCLEAR material to numerous rogue rulers.
COUNTRY A: Maps in this nation do not show Israel.
Policy would be to invade Country B and turn over ports to Country A.posted by: centrist on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I just went and checked, and every map I could find at the Abu Dhabi mall does include Israel! Freaky!posted by: bartman on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
While it is not, IMHO, a determining argument, there is a plausible argument that the port sale has an effect on national security.
The security function is not carried out by the port manager. Nevertheless, the port manager necessarily knows a great deal about port security, its schedules, it procedures etc.
Almost all of the employees of DWP would be US nationals. However, it only takes one employee with a secret affiliation. That one person could pass information about, e.g. what percentage of what kinds of containers are searched, whether there are particular times or particular days when security is less vigilant.
Not enough, in my view, to upset the transaction but enough that we should be cautious about the staffing of DWP and political affilitations and views of those employees. Our ports are now our most insecure points of entry. Any person trying to bring in a WMD would see them as a likely way to import a weapon without being detected.posted by: ursus on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
There was no personal insult. If you selectively choose your facts, then fine, make the comparison.
But to ignore the fact that the UAE had been complicit in terrorist financing prior to 9/11 is ridiculous. Deciding that four years with insufficient reform have occured is a justification for not allowing UAE to partake in a business so closely related to security has NOTHING to do with nationality/race.
Here are the facts you've ignored and twisted:
1. The ban against Jews was about religion, the ports is about a country, not religion. (It may be religion for some people, but legitimate criticism can be made on country, UAE, alone).
2. There was no reason why Jews were ostracized based on facts, read the 9/11 Commission report for the role UAE played in terrorism.
3. This only has to do with ports, not all businesses. Ports are directly related to security, most other businesses are not. UAE/Arabs/Muslims partake in many businesses in the US, this is the first major exception. The German bans were signficantly more broad and not related only to businesses with a national security interest.
These three facts are extremely significant differences between the two situations. That's what I meant by: think before you write.posted by: Rick Latshaw on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Regarding the National Review Article talking about paying all this money, so why would they want to blow it up:
I think this argument misses the point. The person who smuggles the bomb probably won't be the one who paid the money. Also, many people are willing to die just to kill others, is it inconceivable that somebody would be willing to pay money for that opportunity?posted by: Bill on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
"1. The ban against Jews was about religion."
It certainly wasn't religion but rather ethnic. No distinction was made between secular and religious Jews therefore it cannot be religious. If you have evidence to the contrary I would love to be proven wrong (best way to learn), otherwise: think before you post.posted by: Chris Albon on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Think before you write. This isn't even close to that.
There was ZERO backpedaling from the above first comment. I simply had to explain to you why the the comparison wasn't even close in a follow-up post.
Ethnicity versus religion is not the issue. It's that UAE/DP World is about a nation rather than ethnicity/religion.
Keep on nitpicking on silly, irrelevant details. Everyone else reading this has seen that you were completely wrong on your initial post.
Think before you write.
"Keep on nitpicking on silly, irrelevant details."
I was taught never to be casual with the truth. Those "silly, irrelevant details" are the difference between right/wrong, fact/fiction. As they say: "God is in the details".
"Everyone else reading this has seen that you were completely wrong on your initial post"
I will admit this made me laugh, as if I was debating the point to impress "everyone else reading this". Proving my rhetorical prowess in Dreznerís comment section was never a reason I visited the blog. I don't have a problem being wrong, I am wrong everyday. However, you have yet to provide any solid proof that I am in fact wrong, mainly just passive-aggressive attack on my ability to think and type at the same time.
I am going to be a big man here and step out. Passive-aggressive attacks are going to lead this discussion nowhere. If you would like to continue this feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org but I won't be posting on this topic anymore.posted by: Chris Albon on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Rick: you keep claiming that the UAE was "complicit in terrorist financing". This implies that the government was actively involved in getting money to al Qaeda. Can you cite any evidence to this effect?
Banks were used in the UAE for the movement of funds. But there is no indication that anybody in power knew the purpose of those funds and personally approved the movement. Using your "logic", we could say that Germany was complicit in planning the deal, because much of the planning took place in Hamburg. Or one could raise damning indictments of the country that supplied the terrorists with flight training. How can we trust Jed Bush if he allowed Mohammed Atta to learn how to crash planes into buildings in his state?
Do you follow?
You cloak your argument in civil and rational tones, but at its base it is little more than "we can't trust Arabs."
Okaying this deal presents zero harm to the US. Pissing in the face of the US's strongest and most reliable allies in the Gulf region does risk doing concrete harm to the war on terror.posted by: bartman on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Read my posts carefully. I haven't opposed this deal.
The 9/11 Commission report discusses the UAE government's role in blocking sufficient surveillance of terrorist funding. Drezner's update posts to this thread acknowledge this as well, although they state the UAE has done better in the last few years.
My issue is with Bush's hypocrisy. The above facts provide some risks, no matter how small, to our national security. Bush has already decided that trampling on our civil rights is OK on the small chance that NSA can pick up something worthwile on wiretaps. By his standards, the same small risk exists here.posted by: Rick Latshaw on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
Your comments are hilarious and surreal.
The "irrelevant detail" I was referring to was the fact you were playing on the semantics of whether the Jews targeted by Germans was based on religion versus ethnicity- a distinction that does not change the validity of my counterargument- that the difference here is about a nation-state, not religion OR ethnicity. So tone down your truth-finding mission.
Passive-aggressive attack? I made three direct points explaining why you were wrong, and that the two situations were not comparable unless you want to selectively ignore very signficant facts. You made one comment back (above) that made no difference, and didn't argue with the other two.
To anyone reading this rationally, you've gotten it wrong.
Don't feel the need to post again, there is frankly nothing left for you to say.posted by: Rick Latshaw on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
IT'S DEAD, JIM
"Seventy-two percent (72%) of Americans say they have been following news about the Dubai Ports deal somewhat or very closely."This 72% of the public paying close attention is unquestionably fatal. It also proves (again) that the Bush administration is absolutely clueless. But we knew that.
Rasmussen has a new poll up in which -- hold on now -- Democrats in Congress are outpolling President Bush on national security. By a margin of 43 to 41 percent, Americans say they trust Congressional Democrats more than Bush when it comes to protecting our national security. And by a margin of 64-17 percent, they oppose the sale of the ports to Dubai.
The deal is dead. It won't survive after a 45-day extension or a 450-day extension. Congressional Republicans have no choice but to be extremely aggressive and nasty toward the president and the White House, because they will be properly terrified of looking like Bush's lapdogs on a hugely unpopular matter that goes to the heart of the Republican party's political advantage in the United States.
If the White House doesn't handle this well in the next three days, the political consequences could be catastrophic. (Hat tip: Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics.) Posted at 12:52 PM"posted by: Tom Holsinger on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
I donít dispute that the port deal makes good policy sense. But the context of the whole thing is revealing. Last week, Dick Cheney accidentally shot somebody and the administration did not handle that well. Two weeks ago, a scathing report came out blaming the Dept of Homeland Security and the administration for mishandling the Katrina situation. A month ago, people started talking about the NSAís wiretapping scheme and how some conservatives view that as the ultimate breach of liberty and autonomy. Thatís why Lindsay Graham has called the port proposal ďpolitically tone deaf.Ē
Either way, my first point is: why take the chance that something could go wrong as a result of the transaction? If something did go wrong, at least we would have no one but ourselves to blame. Weíre not opening the door to terrorism by allowing the deal to go through, but we are not keeping it closed either. Even if it makes some policy sense, why bother taking the security risk?
My second point is that, no matter how much sense this might make, Bush is not on the offensive when it comes to policy proposals because he is spending his time defending himself against so much else. He should have known that his position is POLITICALLY untenable. Pataki and other big governors are against him, half the Republicans in Congress are against him, and public opinion is not on his side. Where does that leave him? The answer is threatening a veto, but Iím not sure he can sustain that language (especially not having vetoed one single bill in 6 years). I am puzzled by the President's lack of political calculus on this issue.posted by: Rick G on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
"lack of political calculus" is exactly it. Bush's only real talent is "political calculus" and it seems to be AWOL of late.
This crowd probably isn't ready for the "character issue" -- that line of thinking only applies to Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter after all -- but my perception is that Bush is a petulant brat who has just gone off the deep end with the whole "my way or the highway" thing. Too much enabling from too many Republican power-brokers who shoulda known better. But the GOP has been really hungry for "all three branches" and Bush was their vehicle. Responsible government be d**ned.
Gotta go read Bruce Bartlett's new book now ;)
Why are you libertarians so anxious to sell these operating rights to a foreign GOVERNMENT? Back in the day, libertarians would get upset when some local community decided to, say, run their own cable TV. Is your committment to globalization such that you want to sell off US assets to foreign governments? Is your skepticism about normal feelings of concern for the (American) nation so strong you would throw aside libertarian concerns about government ownership of anything?posted by: Mitchell Young on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
White House and Congress Trade Away American Security
The United Arab Emirates ports management deal finally exposes our economic and trade policies for what they are: a government's pursuit of money (for a select few) over the interests of most Americans.
The ports management deal is not an isolated mistake. Far worse has happened, but perhaps nothing as nakedly blatant. For example, how does it benefit Americans when:
Drug companies are allowed to write a new Medicare prescription drug benefit that keeps prices artificially high for seniors by forbidding government-negotiated prices based on volume?
The majority of our oil comes from abroad, much of that from countries with unstable, unfriendly populations
Most in Congress have demonstrated that they will not change course; they are simply too indebted to big-money campaign donors and lobbyists. We must replace them.
QAEDA CLAIM: WE 'INFILTRATED' UAE GOV'T
By NILES LATHEM
The explosive document is certain to become ammunition for critics of the controversial UAE port...posted by: johnkonop on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
125 militants captured in Gulf waters since January
DUBAI: Fourteen dhows intercepted in Gulf waters since January carried 125 suspected Al-Qaeda members who have been detained by U.S. or other authorities, a counter-terrorism expert in the region said Monday.
Maritime authorities are "also finding a lot more drugs. Al-Qaeda are financing weapons and logistics via opium", because the U.S. has "seized their money" since the September 11 attacks, he said.
Saudi Arabia, which has been battling a wave of violence since May 2003 blamed on Al-Qaeda sympathizers, has thwarted "an incredible number of attacks."
I just found your blog via your new Slate article...
Way to pick and choose what information to present in this entry, especially with the National Review link.posted by: Shawn on 02.21.06 at 06:16 PM [permalink]
what a big deal with six port deal ???
One fact i saw no one talk about was asymetrical access.
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