I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to do it
. It's the fashionable thing to do and therefore I am very much opposed to doing it. It didn't vex me, so it really had no place on People Covered In Fish, but that hasn't stopped me before. But now I find myself needing to get it off my chest, having added lengthy contributions to other people's blogs on the subject. You all are most likely sick to death of hearing about it, since it's a SOTW - already the media has grown weary; it's dropped off of Drudge and the front page of Wall Street Journal.
Since the shrillness of those debating the topic seems to have waned (which I probably think because I have been avoiding reading anything about the story until now), I think it's time to add my two cents to the debate
over the Dubai Ports World
(DPW) purchase of British company Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company
(P&O) .Ann Coulter
, acerbic as always (and sometimes I like that), says the Bush administration is spending too much time trying to befriend muslims and not enough time killing them, or something like that. Then her column breaks down into incoherent ranting and raving about the cartoons and "9/11 was caused by muslims, therefore all muslims are evil" rhetoric. Yes, the radicals
are bloodthirsty savages
. But not everybody in America is Fred Phelps or Ward Churchill, and neither is every Arab working for Osama Bin Laden or supporting a worldwide caliphate. Most of us, and the people in the rest of the world are just people trying to go about their business without getting blown up.
So I find myself at odds with lots of people I normally tend to agree with, but I think I've figured out why: Nobody understands anything about what's going on. It's the same with the NSA wiretapping program; people know so little about it that they are jumping to all kinds of conclusions. You know, the less one makes declarative statements, the less one is apt to look like a fool in retrospect. (Sometimes I think I should follow my own advice.)
The first fundamental misunderstanding of this whole kerfuffle is that most Americans haven't the slightest idea of how port operations work or what is actually being purchased. DPW is purchasing terminals. They move and track cargo throughout the world. Most major ports' terminals are run by one of several multinational corporations based overseas. What people are opposing is a supply chain manager
; to whom, incidentally, we are not selling Baltimore. Port of
Baltimore and five other terminals have been owned by P&O (a foreign
company!) for years. For an overview of how cargo is moved from place to place, click the graphic to the right (TFHT: Intellectual Insurgent
brings up some excellent points:
-- Everything comes through United States ports.
-- We search a fraction of the materials shipped in containers, the primary form of transport
-- A management company would have choice over who works for management, who works for the company, who vets the internal hiring process and more importantly:
-- Who has access to what information about the things that routinely and uniquely come and go through various ports and when, where and how long they are stored on site, and
-- Who has access to these containers unquestioned.
Look, I'm not going to be able to do anything to assuage your paranoia here. Here's a couple things to chew on. First, the fact of the matter is that only about five percent of cargo moved through U.S. ports is monitored in any way, and 46 percent
of all cargo that enters the U.S. arrives by ocean-going cargo container. Six million containers entered U.S. ports annually as of 2002. The Department of Homeland Security
has dramatically increased its examination of all cargo information
but only inspects cargo they identify to be high risk. Kind of like old ladies at the airport. That's without any specific intelligence that something dangerous or contraband is coming through. The overall impact of P&O changing hands on this situation will, I'm just guessing here, be minimal if there's any at all.
Second, sure, it's possible
that al Qaeda could infiltrate DPW, maybe
even more likely than another company. And maybe they could then smuggle weapons and people into the country undetected, if that was something they wanted to do. It would probably be easier for them to do it with their own ships
, though, wouldn't it? The links between crime, organized or otherwise, and terrorism are well established, to include the drug trade, piracy and smuggling. Where's that outrage
The second fundamental misunderstanding is the expectation that the Bush Administration should have been doing something about it and that the President should've known about the transaction. I don't think I'd be too far off in saying that this particular item was not (and still isn't) the most important thing on the President's plate these days. Furthermore, the Department of the Treasury's Committee on Foriegn Investment in the United States
(CFIUS) has been on top of the transaction since DPW outbids PSA International
for P&O in October. Even the President can't possibly know what goes on in the day-to-day activities of every obscure government agency or every transaction between foreign entities.
Additionally, it turns out the Pentagon used to have a foreign takeover review office that was responsible for security investigations into exactly this sort of thing, until the Clinton Administration dismantled it
after it objected to Loral Corp.'s sale of rocket technology to China. But that doesn't matter because the world was full of puppies and rainbows in the 90's, not terrorists.
But it doesn't matter, since the White House and DPW had a secret agreement
... to cooperate in future security investigations
. See what I did there? This is typical of the "information" that's been floating around out there. You actually have to dig for the piece and assemble for yourselfSandy
wrote on Mahndisa's blog
: "After all, the Flight school instrutors didn't get excited when a few men from some muslim countries wanted to learn how to fly a big commercial jet. They weren't interested in landing, just flying. RED FLAG anyone." That's an excellent point, it's a different world these days. Things that are seemingly benign can turn out to be extremely dangerous. Thing is, how nefarious could this extremely public transaction be? The Arabs are so evil that they requested
a more thorough 45-day review to put you
at ease. Are they hiding in plain sight? Is Karl Rove really Bin laden? Is George Bush an alien pod person?! Give me a break, DPW doesn't want to kill you, they want to make money.
Many of you have a problem with foreign investment, period. Well, I've got to tell you that you have a long fight ahead of you, Sisyphus. It's fine to be against globalization, but quite another to do something about it. Me, I'm going to go tilt at a windmill or two. The ability to adapt to a changing world is what makes a nation succeed or fail; trade is the lifeblood of the world. When you cut off the flow of blood to a body part, it dies. Isolationism and protectionism is a sure-fire way to guarantee that America becomes a nation in decline, with growing economic interdependence throughout the world. International trade has driven economies for thousands of years, and those that close their borders stagnate. Look at North Korea, the USSR, East Germany, and China. America will never go back to a pre-WWII isolationism without causing the economy to go into a tail spin.
The third misunderstanding is no one knows anything about the United Arab Emirates. Start with this
. The CIA World Factbook
is chock full of great data about every country in the world. The UAE has also been a force for moderation in the politically turbulent Middle East, cooperating closely with the United States and its allies to defeat aggression by Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 1993, along with the other Persian Gulf Arab states, the UAE supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Politically, the country has been stable for decades, with Abu Dhabi emir Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan leading the country from its inception until his death in late 2004. His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, succeeded his father as ruler of Abu Dhabi and became the new president of the UAE.Kip Esquire
says that human rights abuses and totalitarianism are more than enough reason not to allow DPW to purchase P&O. Yet, you don't hear this kind of outrage when China buys American companies
. To be fair, Kip's position on China is consistent with his position on the issue at hand, unlike more famous and opportunistic people
we know. Playing the human rights card is awfully convenient when it benefits you but conspicuous when you don't mention it if it doesn't benefit you.
Now we can talk about national security. I am distraught to find that I agree with Jimmy Carter. But I think that's more because he doesn't believe that there is a terrorist threat at all
, than he thinks that this particular thing isn't threatening. Although the U.A.E. was used as a financial base for Al Qaeda and the government was sympathetic with the Taliban, things have changed in five short years. The U.A.E wants to be a global financial and trade center and it can't do that and maintain ties to extremism.
Mahndisa said I addressed the economics involved very well, but I should address the security issues. My dirty little secret is that in addressing the economic issues, I was
addressing the security issues.
"Whether it succeeds matters beyond the emirate. If Dubai works as a hub where oil wealth can be recycled into long-term Middle East investments, it could help integrate into the global economy a region that has been left behind in recent years. Dubai's historic links to places such as Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and East Africa - while raising concerns for some about terrorism or money laundering - could help seed opportunities in lands soon to be swamped by waves of young peopleentering moribund job markets. Without such opportunities, the new generation could be prime recruiting ground for extremists." (WSJ)
Economic power, more than military power, will be the driving force for long-term change. Not many people see this, but I like Atlas Shrugs' take on it
. Good, interdependent economies make good neighbors. (EDIT: Read this one, too
. Pam found some good stuff from Tommy Franks.)
From a post I wrote on Mahndisa's blog
"I think this whole thing is purely the media and politicians' preying upon post-9/11 xeno/arabophobia. I do understand the DPW is a government-owned company, and deserves some scrutiny, but nothing like what has been touched off here. And this is basically why I didn't want to get into it on my blog, because of the emotional knee-jerk reaction that just about all the sensible people I know have had to it. As the ignorance subsides, so will the fear."
From the beginning I have been disgusted with the MSM and politicians in Washington taking advantage of this relaitively minor thing for political gain. Chuck Schumer AND Norm Coleman (I never liked him anyway, that's why I voted for Jesse Ventura for governor) and other senators are trying to kill the deal, because they can use their constituents' fears to control them and gain more votes come election time. This opportunism seems to goad the White House into what I think of as the "Katrina Effect". Being "burned" by the media and ranted at by people on both sides of the aisle, they go overboard and make sure everybody knows everything that CFIUS has on its agenda
, just like they wanted to be extra prepared for Hurricane Wilma
due to Katrina criticism.
Daniel Ikenson, a trade-policy analyst at the Cato Institute, agrees with me
"The chilling questions have more to do with the proclivity of certain politicians to exploit understandable American anxieties about security for their own political purposes. Do members of Congress have legitimate reasons to question the administration's efforts at protecting the homeland? Do they really believe the administration would subordinate national security concerns to other considerations? Have they no faith in an oversight process they themselves authored?"
... and adds:
"Encouraging moderate Arab states to remain moderate and to embrace capitalism and other western institutions is the quiet success of the administration's Middle East policy.
It is also threatened by reflexive political opportunism that is driving the furor over the port deal.
Maybe a debate about CFIUS, its processes, and the possibility of involving key members of Congress in decision-making is warranted. Maybe Arab investment should be held to a higher security standard than that of other would-be acquisitions. Maybe it already is."
So what I'm trying to say, before I lose my whole post again (AGAIN!), is that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. When ignorance and fear rule our decision-making processes, we get nothing but chaos. So from now on, can we please take a deep breath and try to learn a a bit before we rant and rave?
Addtional analysis:Atlas Blogged: Calling Out Kip
)The Chatterbox Chronicles: The Port DealMike's America: UAE: With US, Not the Terrorists