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February 22, 2006

Pass the Popcorn

-- by Battlepanda

It doesn't happen often, but I happen to think that Bush is right on "Portgate" -- if we let a British company run those ports for all these years, there is simply no reason not to let a UAE company run it now. Like the Drumstir sez:

Would we really be any safer if P&O were acquired by a Singaporean company?  Frankly, the real scandal is that we're not already handling port security as if every port management company in the U.S. had a member of al-Qaeda on its board of directors.

Exactly. Remember that the customs and the security side of the operation is still going to be the responsibility of Homeland Security. The UAE is an ally. Allies, especially strong, friendly allies, are precious in the mideast nowdays. We should wecome the opportunity to do them the way big solid. I don't think that the government-run Dubai company will be doing anything but meticulously and obsessively protecting the security of the ports they run. After all, in doing so they will be protecting their own financial interests, as well as their interest in not getting their country razed by the U.S. military if they do mess up. As for the "bad apple" fear, remember that the 7/7 bombers were British, born and bred. Unless you want to advocate religious profiling for all port employees, fearing a company just because it is from the Middle East just does not make sense.

Of course, politically, Bush have stepped in the doodoo bigtime. His erstwhile cheer-squad is turning on him. Not that I'll be shedding a tear for him. As a commenter chez Publius quipped "  Live by symbolism, die by it.  Petard, hoist." Pass the popcorn.

February 22, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Funny how Bush doesn't give a flying fuck when the Dems are right about something. When progressives start winning elections and making decisions then being right means something. Right now you are giving aid and comfort to the enemy (to use the beloved Freeper phrase).

Posted by: matt | Feb 22, 2006 10:31:25 AM

I agree. I don't have much to add, but I agree. Also, it's not like US ports are going to be flooded with UAE citizens (and thus potential terrorists in the eyes of opponents of this deal). The UAE is tiny. They already have to import thousands of construction workers for the stuff they build in Dubai.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Feb 22, 2006 10:33:23 AM

Would we really be any safer if P&O were acquired by a Singaporean company?

Drum's missing the point: a corporate entity's character changes when a government is the major shareholder. As for the UAE as ally: the 911 Commission Report points out that it's had a history of helping and hindering counterterrorism at the same time.

Posted by: ahem | Feb 22, 2006 10:37:04 AM

This is just another example of globalization. either you think it's run amok or you don't, but either way the corporate ownership of P & O isn't going to affect the operations on the ground very much. There aren't any American companies that can run those ports--DP World (the Arab-owned company in question) has bought CSX's port operations a year ago. Those Congresspeople clamoring for American ownership of port operations should look into having the government buy P & O, if they're really serious about it. It's only $6.8 billion, which is within the limits of our ever-increasing Homeland Security spending.

Posted by: D. J. | Feb 22, 2006 11:06:44 AM

No, I completely disagree. "if we let a British company run those ports for all these years, there is simply no reason not to let a UAE company run it now". Tony Blair and Prince Charles did not own the company in question. The UAE Royal family does. That is a HUGE difference you seem to have no problem over looking. Why look what Tenent had to say about the royal family to the 9/11 commission:

http://www.9-11commission.gov/archive/hearing8/9-11Commission_Hearing_2004-03-24.htm

MR. TENET: There's also a question, I believe, as to whether bin Ladin was inside or outside the camp --

MR. FIELDING: Of course.

MR. TENET: -- it was a complicating issue in this whole thing -- and whether he was there or not. So there's a second complicating factor here.

The third complicating factor here is, you might have wiped out half the royal family in the UAE in the process, which I'm sure entered into everybody's calculation in all this.


I'm sorry, but this deal should not go through.

Posted by: J | Feb 22, 2006 11:35:21 AM

No, Battlepanda, he's wrong about the ports. He's correct that it is the job of the Federal government to provide for the national defense; port security is properly the government's job.

Posted by: TJ | Feb 22, 2006 11:51:02 AM

I should add-

I think that's germane because there's just very little chance that you can administer a port complex without being part of securing it. The coast guard, departments of agriculture (under the DHS) and treasury may "provide" security, but they're really constrained by the practices imposed by management. It's all very crazy.

Posted by: TJ | Feb 22, 2006 12:24:04 PM

I think there is a bigger question that alot of Americans (red staters included) are asking, and that is "why does the US hire any company from anywhere to look after our security?" The US has the most expensive, most technologically advanced defense in human history, and we hire a private company from a foreign country to come look after our ports at home?
I know there are complicated and uncomplicated answers to this question, but really, most people don't feel good about this. Especially when the biggest part of our national defense is bogged down indefinitely in Iraq for still unclear reasons.

Posted by: sprocket | Feb 22, 2006 12:24:33 PM

"No, Battlepanda, he's wrong about the ports. He's correct that it is the job of the Federal government to provide for the national defense; port security is properly the government's job."

Well it's a good thing the Coast Guard is responsible for port security then.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Feb 22, 2006 1:09:27 PM

Matt:Right now you are giving aid and comfort to the enemy
Are you seriously advocating that people should put aside their sense of what's right and what's wrong in order to toe partisan lines? Besides, if you want to go machiavellian, I'm sure Bush would be blasted even harder by his own side if the Dems "backed" him.

Ahem:Drum's missing the point: a corporate entity's character changes when a government is the major shareholder.
No, Ahem. You're missing the point. The fact that the UAE basically runs Dubai Ports World makes us safer. They know that if they fuck up, some missiles with their name on it is going to come their way for sure. America's problem is not with states. We can take out states. It's the stateless networks we have to fear.

TJ:There's just very little chance that you can administer a port complex without being part of securing it.
I just don't think the government that made such a royal mess out of Katrina can run the ports as effectively as Dubai Ports World or other companies whose business it is to run ports. Danger is more likely to come from incompetence than anything.

I hope that answers J, DJ and Sprocket along the way as well. And thanks, Ginger Yellow, for adding the lone voice in agreement.

Posted by: Battlepanda | Feb 22, 2006 1:24:55 PM

No thanks needed. It depresses me deeply to see so many lefty bloggers (and commenters) succumb to essentially the same Arab=terrorist mentality we decry when displayed by the right. The administration may well have bad reasons for letting the deal through (the Sanborn nomination is remarkable timing) but that doesn't mean it's wrong. There's been no uproar at all in the UK at the sale.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Feb 22, 2006 1:36:39 PM

American port security should be handled by American authorities. Period. If we were living with anything but this Republican "leadership" hell bent on slashing taxes (or any other notions of civic responsibility) for the wealthy and powerful, we would have the funding necessary to handle the matter, and then some.

Posted by: Rob | Feb 22, 2006 1:41:37 PM

American port security should be handled by American authorities. Period."

It is and still will be.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Feb 22, 2006 2:01:39 PM

This is profililng, plain and simple......and I think it's smart. Thank you Democrats for understanding the value of profiling and keeping us safe.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 22, 2006 2:13:21 PM

Ginger,

Not arab=terrorist; way to go with the broad brush. I don't at all appreciate being tarred with it. You also nicely ignored where I acknowledge the Coast Guard's role, along with DHS and their subsidiaries, in port security.

I frankly didn't know that many ports were administered by foreign entities. Now that I do, it seems to me that this situation is unacceptable.

If you'll think about this for a minute you may agree: the entity managing the ports has a profit motive. That will not necessarily lend itself to maximizing both security and profitability. The conflict of interests sirens should be wailing in your head, right about now.

Battlepanda,
Fair enough, but you draw the line somewhere; I draw it somewhere else. It seems to me that removing the responsibilities of the gov't because they've fouled up is a bad way to go. Rather, we hold them accountable in a meaningful way.

Posted by: TJ | Feb 22, 2006 2:48:38 PM

"If you'll think about this for a minute you may agree: the entity managing the ports has a profit motive. That will not necessarily lend itself to maximizing both security and profitability. The conflict of interests sirens should be wailing in your head, right about now."

Private companies run airports too, and any number of security-critical things like nuclear power stations. Airport security was only nationalised after 9/11. The UK has just floated its defence research agency on the stock market, for Christ's sake. Now you can make a principled argument against that approach, but you have to be consistent. People never kicked up a fuss before about private ownership of vulnerable installations, but suddenly a ME country is involved and it's a horrendous abdication of responsibility. Frankly I'd much rather DP World, which is one of the world's most experienced port operators, was running a US port than some two bit domestic outfit.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Feb 22, 2006 3:07:37 PM

Glad I'm not the only one who has to swallow hard and think Bush may be right about this one. It is some consolation that he's probably right for the wrong reasons--supporting his friends and lashing out at anyone who dares to question his authority--but too much of the opposition seems to be knee-jerk, "Eek! Arabs!"-type stuff.

Posted by: DaveL | Feb 22, 2006 3:57:50 PM

Exactly, Dave L. I am frankly disappointed by how many of the Democrats have picked up on the same reactionary rhetoric as hard righties like Michelle Malkin.

This reminds me a little bit of the immigration issue -- another one in which Bush and I "agree", but for totally different reasons. It seems that the only time our commander in chief stand up to the hard right is to suck up to his business cronies.

TJ,
I can understand different folks having different comfort zones for how much government should undertake. Wherever people draw the line on this issue, I hope that they do so in a consistent manner and think through their reasoning. If you can truly say that you just plain don't like any aspect of our security in foreign or private hands, that's a tenable position. But for a lot of people, I suspect that Ginger Y is right, and they are freaking out very specifically about arab ownership.

Posted by: Battlepanda | Feb 22, 2006 4:15:39 PM

The fact that the UAE basically runs Dubai Ports World makes us safer. They know that if they fuck up, some missiles with their name on it is going to come their way for sure.

The way we sent missiles after their banking system was used to shuttle the funds around for 9-11? I seem to recall hearing that Treasury was complaining afterwards that UAE wasn't being very cooperative in helping track Al Qaeda bank accounts.

Or how about the way we bombed the Saudi's for funding the Wahabis all these years. I'm sure they've learned their lesson.

Posted by: gswift | Feb 22, 2006 5:05:46 PM

gswift,
Are you being obtuse on purpose? Or do you really don't see the difference between monetaries ties to terrorists (which as you yourself pointed out, even our staunchest ally in the mid-east is not free from) and physically using their control over the port system to engage in a stealth attack on the United States? Since we are talking about the ramifications of letting a UAE company take over the U.S. port, we're looking at the possibility of the latter rather than the former. Make no mistake, if an attack happens on Dubai Ports World's watch, there will be serious consequences for the UAE. If it appears that the UAE government engineered the attack, then they will be bombed back into the stone age and they know it.

You don't seem to realize that though the UAE are Arabs, they are also serious businessmen set not on sabotage and terror but growing their successful ports business and making Dubai a world-class city. If all Mid-east nations shared the UAE's worldview and a fraction of their prosperity, we would have no terror problem.

Posted by: Battlepanda | Feb 22, 2006 5:46:59 PM

And are you too obtuse to realize that a lot of the countries we call "allies" in this part of the world are not in fact tremendously concerned with our security issues?

No, the Saudi's and the UAE governments might not be set on sabotage and terror, but they don't seem to mind that these elements operate pretty freely in their countries.

UAE might just be the best of the bunch, but that ain't saying much. As I said above, this is the country that our Treasury department is having difficulty get aid from to track Al Qaeda bank accounts. UAE is a major destination for human trafficking for sexual exploitation and young boys as camel jockeys. Ir's a country known for it's lax banking regulations. There's 0 government transparency as the rulers aren't elected. Sharia courts flog people for offenses like marrying across their religion. Internet is only accessed through a censored government monopoly.

Maybe, just fucking maybe, this is NOT the sort of country that should have control over our port operations.

Posted by: gswift | Feb 22, 2006 7:08:03 PM

Oh, so now it becomes a lot clearer: You're afraid that the UAE will ride camels with underaged jockeys through our ports while enabling the white slave trade and flogging people?

Pulling in a bunch of cultural objections to the UAE has no bearing on how well or badly Dubai Ports World would manage our ports.

Posted by: battlepanda | Feb 22, 2006 8:00:26 PM

And I'm the one being called obtuse?

Unelected quasi dictatorial ruling class of royals? Check.

Lax law enforcement in their home country, ie human trafficking and lax banking regulation? Check.

Previous occurrences of terrorists taking advantage of said lax banking system to facilitate attacks? Check.

Ruling royal family known associates of Osama bin Laden, mastermind of previous terrorist attacks against the United States? Check.


But how dare I oppose this with my cultural objections.

Posted by: gswift | Feb 22, 2006 9:17:26 PM

Battlepanda-

I wasn't disagreeing with you, really. "if we let a British company run those ports for all these years, there is simply no reason not to let a UAE company run it now" is totally consistent with my thinking about it:

http://www.waletzky.com/dj/permalink.php?uid=220

All I'm saying is that globalization and jingoism don't mix. I think a lot of the supporters of the Washington consensus did so because they thought it was a way to protect U.S. hegemony. But we can't take it as well as we can dish it out.

Posted by: D. J. | Feb 22, 2006 9:52:21 PM

I hope you don't doubt DPW's competence when it comes to running ports. They're one of the biggest port operations in the world, and you don't get to that capacity without competence. So you obviously fear malice on the part of the UAE despite the fact that they are an ally. Yet I already outlined why they would do the best they could to keep us safe, out of self preservation, if nothing else.

So what else is there? You don't like the way they run their country? Fine. Neither do I in a lot of ways. It's no reason not to do business with them unless you're also going to boycott all the crap from china and all petroleum products.

Posted by: battlepanda | Feb 22, 2006 10:44:26 PM

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