Port Recall

I honestly don’t know what to make of the port management story. I’m not clear on what the implications of the whole deal are. On the one hand, I can certainly understand the “What the hell are they thinking?” instinctive reaction. That initial response to a country from the Middle East ‘taking over US ports’ is not hard to sympathize with.

On the other hand, I think Bush has a point when he says we aren’t doing ourselves (or anybody else) any favors by taking a “no Arabs need apply” position on doing business. That’s a bad way to make friends–and enemies. Whether or not you buy the line ‘we are not at war with Islam,’ we are not at war with every Arab on the planet. We really are trying to win people over in that part of the world. Throwing what appears to be a normal business transaction back in the faces of a decent ally is not going to help our cause.

And UAE is an ally. At least as I understand it, the UAE is easily the most Americanized of the Gulf states. We already sell them the most sophisticated version of the F-16 ever built; the new jets they’re getting are more advanced than any US F-16 (no kidding). That’s a pretty big statement of trust, and that deal was done well before Bush came to power; I remember seeing the first models doing flight tests back in the 1990’s.

That’s not to say that the US can’t or shouldn’t be careful here. I have no problem at all with doing extensive screenings of port employees, for instance (I’d be pretty hypocritical if I did, since I had to go through a pretty damn intensive government screening myself for my own job). But after further review, I do have a problem with “no Arabs need apply.” The opportunistic stuff I’m hearing out of everybody from Hillary Clinton to Bill Frist sounds a lot like that, and that’s not something we ought to be standing for.

For whatever it’s worth, I think Bush is going to take a big political hit for the whole affair. Nobody can accuse him of going with polls or focus groups on this one.

UPDATE: The proprieter of Aladdin’s Rant (full disclosure–he’s a friend of mine) has a few thoughts on the subject.

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52 Responses to “Port Recall”

  1. Eric Says:

    Will,

    Good discussion here:
    http://formerspook.blogspot.com/2006/02/port-call.html

    Expands on some of the points that you made.

  2. David Ross Says:

    Muslihoon is in the “coalition of the chillin” here, and he’s both well-informed and anti-Wahhabi, so I’m tempted to give this a pass.

    Unfortunately Jimmy Carter is also for it. It’s a rule of thumb that the US is best served by paying close attention to what he says and doing the exact opposite.

    And “that deal was done well before Bush came to power” / “in the 90s” is not a vote of confidence. Bush I made his deals with the early 90s Arab world because he had to, and Clinton was just plain feckless. Thanks to the policies of both of them, we got the first WTC bombing and then the litany of offenses we all know by heart by now.

    Don’t forget that UAE was in lockstep with Saudi-occupied Arabia in recognising the Taleban as Afghanistan’s rightful rulers.

    I’m not up for trusting ANY Muslim nation till they support the REintroduction of synagogues and churches into Yathrib (so-called “Medina”), frankly. The Saudis won’t even allow them in their Persian Gulf shore.

  3. William Young Says:

    Didja notice how this deal smoked Democrats out of their holes by forcing them to define the enemy? Clearly, they equate Arab with enemy,as does everyone who’s complaining about this deal.

  4. Duane Says:

    One of Michelle Malkin’s readers made a good point:

    “As we understand it the same employees who work for P&O currently will still be the employees that work there after the purchase goes through.

    I don’t think there are suddenly going to be Arabs running all over the ports. Anymore so than there already are. Actually because of regulations and unions, more and more of ocean shipping, port operations and terminal operations in America are being run by non-American companies.”

    Just because a state-run conglomerate in the UAE is purchasing a privately held conglomerate in the UK it does not mean that Bin Laden will be running a temp agency through the Port of Baltimore.

  5. frank martin Says:

    im having the same problem, I cant tell if its another tone deaf “miers moment” or if the old man is on to something.

    I have to say my first reaction was decidedly against the idea, but the more I think about it and the more the public reactions against it begining to sound like some edwardian character talking about “the dirty little wogs”, the more I’m leaning towards” not as big a deal as it would appear-so check your racism at the door”.

    Last time I checked, the Communist Chinese are running the panama canal and most of the west coast shipping. Our entire merchant fleet is constructed and owned overseas and with few exceptions, crewed by the same “ties to terror groups” geographic and ethic groups. As far as the charge of the UAE being “tied to terror supporters”, well I guess I can say I do that every time fill up at the pump. I cant say Im happy that we essentially have the communists chinese in charge of our ports and shipping, but there you go thats the world we live in. The same people screaming about “not wanting to do business with the arab terror supporters like you-know-who ” are more than willing to buy oil from them rather than cramp their style on the north slope of the holy shores of alaska. You cant have it both ways.

    I really just dont know yet. More thinking needed…

  6. Lily Says:

    I have to say that I would have more confidence in our administration and their point of view if they had a better record of border control.

  7. Sister Toldjah Says:

    Bush veto threat on bill that would stop port sale to UAE company (PM UPDATE)

    Via Reuters:
    ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) – President George W. Bush said on Tuesday that a deal for a state-owned Dubai company to manage major U.S. ports should go forward and will not jeopardize U.S. security.
    Bush told reporters traveling back…

  8. kham Says:

    Will makes an excellent point about the fact that we do indeed sell (advanced) military hardware to Arab nations, which in my opinion would technically pose more of a security risk than allowing an Arab company to assume management of US ports.

    I find it pathetic the way this issue has been demagogued by those who obviously know so little about port management. Although much of the fervor could have been mitigated if the administration had better PR.

  9. Dave E Says:

    Eric-Thanks for the link, very interesting.

    I too can understand the instinctive reaction to approving this deal. But if people calm down and look at it rationally there are a number of positives as well. There are security concerns of course, just like there are now with P&O managing the ports or would be for any foreign company. Some aspects may change slightly with DP World, but if so, I’d like to see a substantive explanation of how and why, not the current hysterical and very subjective ones I’ve seen so far. “Arabs need not apply” is what the mob sounds like now to me.

  10. beautifulatrocities Says:

    Frank Gaffney on the military implications:

    “Under a newly extended contract, the owner of P and O will manage the movement of heavy armor, helicopters and other military materiel through the Texas seaports of Beaumont and Corpus Christie.”

    If Bush wants to go with this, he’ll have to sell it to the American people. I can’t imagine Rove or the Congressional Republicans will let him veto it. (Gee, where was that backbone when McCain / Feingold rolled across his desk?)

  11. A Blog For All Says:

    No Safe Harbor From Swirling Controversy

    As for the odd political bedfellows, I noted yesterday that much of the current outrage stems over parochial and home rule issues – the municipalities where these ports are located wanted a say in the decision, and that cuts across party lines. That’…

  12. William Says:

    Heh. Atleast we aren’t selling them to Iran. Anymore. Back in 70’s, before the shah was thrown out, we sold him everything, including our most advanced fighters, at the time the F-16 and the in development F-18, (and a planned 15 nuclear reactors), so long as he helped keep the Middle East anti-Soviet.

    Although that, in retrospect, was a mistake, it didn’t amount to much. Middle Eastern countries collect these advanced weapons like trophies, but usually don’t have the infrastructure, pilots, or even maintenance system, to effectively deploy and utilize them. When the revolutionaries were hit by the Iran Iraq war, most of the air-fleet remained grounded for precisely that reason.

    We can use arms sales to solidy alliances while, in the meantime, billions of our petro-dollars come back home, maintaining an arms industry we take full advantage of.

    My only qualm with the sale is that the company is state run. I want greedy capitalists, not foreign interests, running our economy. But apparently nobody else cares (maybe its a common practice?), so go ahead.

  13. richard mcenroe Says:

    The UAE offers basing and logistic support to US and NATO troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    This is a win-win for the lefties. They get to talk tough on security while alienating an ally of the Bush administration and villifying him for another Clinton-era deal. What is so hard to understand in this?

  14. John Says:

    A couple thoughts: As other posters said, the fact that any deal was done in the 1990s is not a selling point with me. We are constantly being beat over the head with the “you have a pre-9/11 mindset” mantra and evaluating a deal by that standard would certainly be “pre-9/11.” That said, I’m not thrilled about selling our technology anywhere. Take Venezuela for example – we sold them aircraft pre-Chavez and now he’s making noise about reselling them to China. Not cool.

    Specifically about the ports: Sure, the “boots on the ground” staff will remain the same. They aren’t going to import a lot of folks from Dubai to Newark. However, they will have access to strategic information about when things ship and to where. While I’d prefer this not be outsourced at all, if it has to be outsourced, I’d rather it not be outsourced to a region in which there is a history of difficulties. When was the last time there was a revolution in Europe in which a friendly country turned into a problem for the US? I like the Danish idea…

  15. Random Numbers Says:

    Coalition of the Chillin’ part 3: Chillin’ over Dubai Ports

    A lot of people are setting their hair on fire over Dubai Ports taking over the handling of several ports on the Gulf and West coasts. I am not one of them.
    To hear some say it, we are giving Al Quaida a free, unchecked opening to import nukes. What …

  16. ResurrectionSong Says:

    Memo to President Bush

    Re: Port Security It's definitely a brouhaha. Possibly even a full-blown tumult. Anyway, as much as it pains anyone to admit to being wrong, there are times to back away from a position (refer to earlier memos re: Harriet Miers). This is on…

  17. Larry Bernard Says:

    It has more to do with the politics of 06/08 and immigration/border then it does with any substantive issue on the port.

    It has to do with the fact Bush has a bad track record of knowing when an issue will be a political hot potatoe

  18. .:.WitNit.:. Says:

    Bigotry Against Arabs

    Arabs are up in arms about the UAE Dubai/Port Management story. … They say that the perception is that if Arabs are involved it is bad. They are correct. This is a bigoted reaction, and frankly, it’s their own frackin’ fault.

  19. John Says:

    It really would be nice if both sides would get away from the generalities and explan exactly why this deal would be either good or bad for the U.S.

    Bush has more explaining to do, since he has to show the public that the UAE is not Saudi Arabia or some of the other Gulf states that say one thing for international consumption while either condoning or turning a blind eye to the types of incitement to fanatacism that led to 9/11. Meanwhile, the opponents would be far better off getting past the simple idea that because two of the 9/11 hijackers were from UAE, that means the whole country is tainted. If they can point to some specific problem they see with the new corporate structure that would increase U.S. port vunerability, the argument would come across a lot less like they’re against the deal because all Arabs/Muslims automatically are suspect.

  20. Joe Says:

    One question raised on the news hour that made me curious is how many ports are a) managed by foreign companies and b) of those how many of those companies are partly or wholy owned by foreign governments?

    I believe Temasek, which is owned by Singapore, may be one, but I’ve not been able to confirm that.

    (I personally think this is much ado about nothing and is little more than grandstanding by politicians hoping to score points from the distrust Americans have toward Arabic/Muslim countries. I’ve yet to hear ANYONE list specific problems with DPW managing the ports over P&O.)

  21. Aaron Says:

    Anyone thinking about the repercussions in UAE or other countries?

    Why shouldn’t they pass laws that say no US supplier of oil field equipment should be used on the off chance the supplier would help the USA, send in spies, or have Israeli commandos on the payroll to blow up the oil fields?

    It’s using the same ‘national security’ logic as the people who want to lock the Arabs out of this deal.

  22. Swanky Conservative Says:

    It’s the strategery, stupid!

    Ok. I’ve thought about this UAE ports deal for some time and I was never really that put off that the President was making some horrid mistake. After all, the Brits – a foreign nation – had operational control of these six ports for some time, no…

  23. Billy Fish Says:

    I like how the Democrats are now getting so ‘tough’ on security. If they are so concerned about Arabs running our ports, why stop there? Why not simply bar entry of all Arabs in the United States?

    I only wish Congress would show as much vigor in sealing off our southern border.

  24. aaron Says:

    I don’t mean to discount the arguments against this. But, while most concerns are valid and most criticisms, though likely exagerated, are also valid, the hard stance against and quick reaction to this seem like base racism.

  25. aaron Says:

    The most valid concern seems to be not that the people in company would facilitate an attack, but that the relationship could give terrorists access to intel.

  26. All Things Beautiful Says:

    The Sum Of All Fears

    Rescind Mr. President. Faith is a misplaced emotion in the long war on terror, and the assurance that U.S. ports will be secure when they are managed by a firm owned by a government in one of the most volatile parts of the world, is worthless.

  27. aaron Says:

    A big democrat blogger agrees.

  28. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: William Young
    RE: Yeah….

    “Didja notice how this deal smoked Democrats out of their holes by forcing them to define the enemy? Clearly, they equate Arab with enemy,as does everyone who’s complaining about this deal.” — William Young

    I blame Karl Rove; evil genius.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)

  29. Chuck Pelto Says:

    P.S. I suspect plans-within-plans-within-plans is at work here.

  30. Prague Says:

    I agree on the background checks, in a lot more areas than just port employees. Problem is – as I’m sure you know, Will – is that they take so long. They need to be more in depth than the quickie version, where all they check is your credit record and if you’ve ever been arrested.

    The solution to getting it done sooner, and having it still be secure? Better minds than mine have not come up with a sufficient answer.

  31. habu of the west Says:

    As much as I’d like to think there is some hidden issue here that will never see the light of day. I’m only seeing a simple transaction of a company selling itself (or part of itself) to the highest bidder. And we as the capital of capitalism should rejoice.

    While I am concerned about potential access to strategic information, I don’t have a problem with this deal. The UAE supplied the bases to relocate our troops that were kicked out of Saudi Arabia, I’m sure they took some flack for that. And they appear to be providing more than a tiny bit of intelligence (if you can believe the Prez).

    So, let’s put some safeguards in place and promote capitalism. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing isn’t it?

    And Mr. Bush is going to take some major lumps over this issue. I can only say that the timing couldn’t have been worse. Election year and all. The Dems will get some traction with this from folks on the bench about who is better equipped to fight the GWOT.

  32. aaron Says:

    I’m currious, how does the opposition to the port deal correlate with opposition to social security and health care privatization.

    Can bush call out opponents for being nationalistic and racist and at the same time attack privatization opponents? Can bush be working to stack the deck in favor of his policies after 2006?

  33. New World Man - where's my thing? Says:

    Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of ports

    Have you heard? Ay-rabs gon’ run our ports! Dubai Ports World acquired Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., a British outfit, and will now be in P&O’s former positon to bid competitively on contracts to handle cargo coming off or loading on to…

  34. jag Says:

    “Arabs need not apply”

    Precisely. Its amusing to see Hillary, Shumer and others racing to blast this idea when it can so easily be compared to their earlier opposition to “racial profiling”, no?

    If you subscribe to a goal of someday working constructively with Arab nations at what point do you begin to demonstrate that trust to those who have helped us and extend partnerships that prove your intentions?

    Funny how this situation puts Democrats (and oportunistic Republicans) in a “racist” and xenophobic light. Now America (in general)may be in a racist and xenophobic state but, while this condition may be currently popular, its not particularly attractive.

    I think they’ve baited Hillary here and she’s bit, bigtime.

  35. Bill Quick Says:

    On the other hand, I think Bush has a point when he says we aren’t doing ourselves (or anybody else) any favors by taking a “no Arabs need apply” position on doing business.

    Bad framing, Qill. Something a bit more on point would run: “No Arab/Islamic governments with murky terrorist connections need apply to buy control of, or access to, strategic American interests.”

  36. aaron Says:

    So, cozying up to a true ally which would be instrumental in operations, peaceful or forceful, in dealling with Iran is somehow against national security.

  37. Homer Robinson Says:

    Just a small point. We sold f-14 along with f-4 fighters back in the early 70s. If I remember correctly, the vipers didnot come on the flght line till 79-80, and the f-18 till middle of 82, I think.

  38. Anomolous Says:

    One thing I haven’t seen many people comment on is the fact that at one time, the UAE royals and OBL were apparently pretty cozy.

  39. Cold Fury Says:

    Yet more on ports

    Quick on the ports deal:

  40. Don Surber Says:

    Chillin’ For Dubai

    Chillin: ALADDIN’S RANT and DRUMWASTER’S RANTS and SQUIGGLER and STRATA-SPHERE and VODKAPUNDIT and YOU BIG MOUTH YOU

  41. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: habu of the west
    RE: Then Again…

    “I’m only seeing a simple transaction of a company selling itself (or part of itself) to the highest bidder. And we as the capital of capitalism should rejoice.” — habu of the west

    We generally do not sell off national security interests to possibly hostile entities.

    Security operations at several major ports is something of a ‘national security interest’.

    Would we have allowed such a sale to the Soviet Union? Or how about the Communist Chinese?

    We do a lot of business with the Communist Chinese. But then again, on the odd occassion, they’ve threated to nuke US. We do a lot of business with the UAE. But then again, their think tanks make statements like….

    ….THIS

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)

  42. Searchlight Crusade Says:

    Links and Minifeatures 02 22 Wednesday

    Carnival of The Vanities Recommended: Mensa Barbie (goo…

  43. Bob Arthur Says:

    The difference between this and the Miers nomination is that Harriet Miers was objectively and rationally proven to be a bad choice, over time. In defending DP World, the president has taken a principled stand that has the weight of facts and expert testimony to back it up, while critics rant and rave with speculation and base emotion. I’m proud of the president at this moment.

    The logical inconsistencies of the critics arguments are many, but they seen to (at best) flow from ignorance of port operations, and (at worst) the assumption that being Arabic is akin to being a virus. Exposure is certain to degrade your defenses, apparently; better to keep them far away.

    What intellectually lazy, xenophobic claptrap! If we capitulate to the seething mob, and ritually serve up the head of an Arab CEO to sooth collective emotion, we are no better than the _other_ seething mobs of Syria and Pakistan.

    That is, assuming we _are_ better.

  44. William Says:

    I see a real opportunity in all of this. People complain about how troublesome securing our ports could be, but I don’t see the downfall. If we were, to, say, charge all the shipping companies for thorough examinations of their cargos, then where would we be? Secure imports, employed Americans, costlier imports, and more of a hassle to import.

    In effect, we could levy a tariff and call it security. With our trade gap breaking records almost every month, I just don’t see the disadvantage. Let’s move.

    Yes, we never actually gave them the F-18’s, merely made a contract to give them once we had them developed (bad idea).

  45. Mick Wright Says:

    I think you should join our Coalition of the Chillin’ National Security Division blog circle.

  46. Those Bastards! Says:

    UAE, ABC, NRA — I could care less who runs the ports, just as long as it’s not Homeland Security

    I live close enough to one of the largest ports in the United States that I can see the lights run, day and night, from where I live. Day and night, trucks rumble up and down a freeway three miles away, carrying roughly 25 percent of the cargo that is …

  47. Robert Speirs Says:

    Maybe Rove is trying to collect a bunch of video statements by Democrats complaining about what a threat Arabs are to our security. Might come in handy during the Congressional campaign, whenever a Dem might accuse his Repub opponent of Islamophobia.

  48. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Robert Speirs
    RE: Exactly

    “Maybe Rove is trying to collect a bunch of video statements by Democrats complaining about what a threat Arabs are to our security. Might come in handy during the Congressional campaign, whenever a Dem might accuse his Repub opponent of Islamophobia.” — Robert Speirs

    I think that is part of the overall plan.

    Furhtermore, I don’t think Bush is stupid enough to endanger a national security asset wantonly. Not that he couldn’t, but considering how cagey he has been over the last five years, I have serious doubts that he’s succumbing to Mad Cow, or some similar ailment, all of a sudden. That’s the next part of the plans-within-plans-within-plans plan.

    Another part could be to use our own moles inside of this company to collect information on possible terrorist attempts to use the company as a portal to the ports security systems.

    Still another aspect would be a quid pro quo deal of major purchases of our products in exchange for this contract.

    I’m sure there are many other aspects we’ve not begun to appreciate. I’m also confident that with due diligence this could be very beneficial in many, many ways.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    P.S. I’m more concerned over the leaky southern border than THIS.

    Ever read Tom Clancy’s Teeth of the Tiger?

  49. Jeff Cook Says:

    I don’t see anything in the deal that confers extra-territoriality to the port terminals under the UAE company’s ownership. Absent a provision granting extra-terratoriality, the terminal operators will have to abide by all US laws and security measures; including the presence of the Coast Guard, Port authority and Longshoremen’s Union. In short very little will change from a security standpoint.

  50. William Says:

    Heh. Ever read the Sum Of All Fears?

  51. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: William
    RE: Good Reading

    “Ever read the Sum Of All Fears?” — William

    Nope. But I saw the movie. And I’m thinking….combine the ‘money shot’ of Sum of all Fears with the infiltration techniques of Teeth of the Tiger and….

    …VOILA!

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    P.S. Right now I’m reading Executive Orders.

    You know….

    ….biowar. And I’m wondering what our friends in Iran are trying to do with these new virons they’ve recently received.

  52. Chuck Pelto Says:

    P.P.S. Speaking of Clancy novels….

    …I firmly believe that the last part of Debt of Honor, where the lone Japanese pilot flies the 747 into the Capitol building during a joint session of Congress, inspired Osama bin Laden to 9/11.

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