Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The UAE ports management kerfuffle: get a grip 

It may very well be that it is unwise for the United States to hire an Arab company to manage some of its key ports. Or it may be very wise. The harsh reality is that there is no evidence that the United States is better at detecting jihadi infiltration than the government of the United Arab Emirates, or a company owned by it that happens to be expert in port administration. I, for one, think that it takes an Arab to catch an Arab. Will it really be easier for jihadis to penetrate the security of an Arab company that has, frankly, protected the Westerners on its watch elsewhere?

Point is, we need to be thoughtful about this decision and others like it. We cannot beat the jihadis without help from Muslims. While the developments of the last few weeks suggest that moderate Islam is not so prevalent in the world as we might have hoped, you are unlikely to find a hotter hotbed of anti-jihadi sentiment than in the luxurious halls of the Emirates.

In addition to knee-jerk irrationality, there is an ugly side to this debate, too. Regular readers know that I am far from politically correct, so I trust that they will not toss me overboard when I suggest that rank, irrational nativism is dangerous influencing the public discussion of this subject. Haitham Sabbah, correctly, sees anti-Arab racism in this opposition -- quite surprisingly, actually, coming from Hillary Clinton, whose husband and VEEP-in-law have made a point of sucking up to Arab princes. Don't like Sabbah? Then read John Chilton, who is very worried about blowback.

Get a grip.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 08:47:00 AM:

Over at Homeland Security Watch, they raise the issue that everybody should be talking about:

I wish that everyone who is expressing outrage about this deal would channel their anger into the issue of the government’s underinvestment in port security over the past 4 1/2 years. That’s the real issue. The potential vulnerabilities created by this deal are nothing in comparison with the real vulnerabilities that exist in our port system today due to the failure to make adequate security investments in port and supply chain security. The Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 provided a solid framework for improving port security, but Congress has not supplied the resources to effectively implement MTSA, which the Coast Guard had estimated would require a total of $7.3 billion over the 2003-2012 period. Congress has provided only a fraction of that: $175m for port security grants in current fiscal year, which itself was a significant improvement on the administration’s request. There have been many solid steps taken for port security, such as C-TPAT and the investments in radiation portal monitors at ports, but not the same system-wide commitment that we see today in the federal government to commercial aviation security.  

By Blogger PeterBoston, at Tue Feb 21, 08:55:00 AM:

The UAE princes already have a track record of international business dealings that shaped into a mafioso-terrorism funding organism. Why should we expect higher ethics with the port deal than we got with BCCI?  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Tue Feb 21, 09:14:00 AM:


Your sentiment is echoed by a Recommended Diary at Daily Kos:

"There is a British company (not American) called the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company or P&O for short. Before 9/11 and until this year, this entirely foreign company was operating six maritime ports in the United States. A company called Dubai World Ports (DWP) spent a few billion dollars (close to 7) and bought P&O, which means that DWP is now the third largest port operator in the world.

DWP also operates terminals and/or ports in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Romania, Germany, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Djibouti, India and Saudi Arabia. Notice anything odd about those countries? There have never been any international terrorist incidents in any of them. If DWP was such a terrorist-lovin' company, why haven't their sprung their hordes of Qur'an-wavin' suicide bombers on all those other despicable, capitalist, western imperialist nations?"

Check it out.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Tue Feb 21, 10:17:00 AM:

All fine arguments, TH. From a political perspective, the issue is a disaster for the administration, because the headlines look horrible. If they've done the due diligence to give them comfort on this, fine, but they'd better get transparent, or they will accomplish something practically impossible: make the opposition look stronger on security. I think it is going to be a tough sell.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 11:28:00 AM:

Thank you for a butterfly fart of sanity in the gale of hysteria that whirls about this subject.

Seems clear to me that the same stevedores, port administrators, and security personnel will be operating our ports, just under a new name. The chances that there will be a signficant change in the security and operation of the ports is low to nil.

Should it be looked at? Of course (and seems it already has), but the letterhead on the stationery does not have a whole lot to do with the personnel on site doing the work in ports around the world.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Tue Feb 21, 11:47:00 AM:

'Villain - I don't disagree that the politics of this are a disaster for the administration. That does not make the administration wrong, though. And it fascinates me that it has driven Hillary to spout nativist -- or, as Haitham Sabbah argues persuasively -- racist nonsense, all in the cause of pandering.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 12:00:00 PM:

Not only has Bush sucked up, he's sucked , face
and post- 9/11 I might add.

I agree with Sam (above). $175 million for port security? Hell, we spent more for that a bridge to nowhere in Alaska. The inspection and security oversight of our port system is utterly frightening. We can do more, and we must do more.

The government needs to increase x-ray and gamma ray scanners, the number of hand-held radiation detectors, and require shippers to install electronic seals on all containers bound for the US. Moreover, we should be installing security measures and inspection sites in the cities that are shipping the containers to the US before it leaves Rotterdam or Singapore and arrives on our shores. Before its too late. A number of officials/politicians have been urging for this reform for some time but to no avail. The shipping industry and WH claim it's expensive to install new security procedures or to buy more scanners (not unlike the airline industry claimed immediately after 9/11.) Well, if "they" think that that price tag is high, wait until some dirty bomb is discovered in a container unloaded in San Diego, and the entire shipping industry grinds to a halt. The ripple effect will be staggering, and the shipping industry/administration will find itself scrambling to eat its words faster than the airline industry did post 9/11.

Once those precautions are in place, I'll feel alot more comforatble with the Government's decision to approve a deal to outsource our ports. Until then the "gift" we are offering our enemies--every single day--far outweighs any NYTimes story "announcing" that we're listening to phonecalls made by the bad guys (duh!).  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 12:13:00 PM:

Tigerhawk wrote:"I suggest that rank, irrational nativism is dangerous influencing the public discussion of this subject."

Fascinating. If Al Gore had stated such a thing, you would have written about how outrageous it was to attack America like that.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 12:22:00 PM:

Fascinating. If Al Gore had stated such a thing, you would have written about how outrageous it was to attack America like that.

Huh? I don't agree with TigerHawk on Gore's speech, but that seems totally irrelevant (in fact, it's consistent with his earlier views). Care to explain?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 12:37:00 PM:


What do you need explained?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 01:09:00 PM:

Well, how TigerHawk's quote above is relevant to Al Gore and his speech.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 01:26:00 PM:

Well, lets see:

Gore stated that certain US actions against Arabs were mistakes and that it is important to maintain 'channels of friendship and mutual understanding'. Tigerhawk had a conniption.

But now TigerHawk states that certain US attitudes against Arabs are the result of 'rank, irrational nativism' and are dangerous (this seems to indicate he thinks this behavior is a mistake) and that we 'cannot beat the jihadis without help from Muslims'.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 01:43:00 PM:

Tigerhawk can speak for himself, but I don't think he had a problem with Gore stating we need to maintain 'channels of friendship and mutual understanding'. He was upset because:

Whether or not one agrees with Gore on the substance, if he wants to change American policy to let in more Saudis the only way he can do that it is to campaign for that change among influential Americans. It is, however, another thing entirely to travel to a foreign country that features pivotally in the war of our generation for the purpose of denouncing American policies in front of the affected foreign audience. It is especially problematic to mess with Saudi political opinions, which are subject to intensive influence and coercion by internal actors and the United States, al Qaeda, and Iran, among other powers.

That's far different from being critical of citizens in America who are xenophobic towards Muslims and their handling of our security. It was so different, I couldn't understand your comparison at first.

If Gore gives a speech on that topic to American citizens, who cares?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 02:03:00 PM:

"Tigerhawk can speak for himself, but I don't think he had a problem with Gore stating we need to maintain 'channels of friendship and mutual understanding'."

Tigerhawk certainly gave the appearance of having a problem with Gore's statement.

"If Gore gives a speech on that topic to American citizens, who cares?"

Probably the same people who are all in a fit now. Tigerhawk's rant about Gore was irrational. Thus my amusement when he critiques others for being irrational about the port deal.


By Blogger John B. Chilton, at Tue Feb 21, 02:50:00 PM:

Zzzzz. Oh well, I guess the loonies are here feasting on their own inanity for a while. I think own of them must have paid me a visit when I first posted on this subject several days back. Whoever thinks that Dubai closed the deal at just this time to help get Cheney off the front pages needs some help. And, yes, Gore coming to Dubai as he does from time to time to collect a big check to spin out some tripe about loving one another is one thing. Where is he on the port acquisition? I guess that would make a nice subject for a post. Ditto Bill Clinton's routine visits to Dubai - I guess that means he'd be perceived as a hired gun if he pointed out his wife is a opportunstic pandering nativist. But then again she does love pork bellies so I guess that qualifies her as an Islamaphobe.

To bring us back to the subject at hand, I bring you An Emaratis Thoughts.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 07:38:00 PM:

If Mohammad can’t get to the mountain, he does a corporate take over and uses the ports to go by ship. And that’s ok! If anyone thinks for one second that having Arab foreign interest owning our ports is a good thing. Or even marginally acceptable, you need to have your head examined. Am I Isalamaphobic? Yes- I- am. It does not take a rocket scientist for figure out that this religion has become a cult like breeding ground of lunatics. Too bad really, Islam –was- at one time a cradle of scientific knowledge and held some of the most brilliant scientist. As for the monarchies that govern them, they will continue to turn a blind eye to this religions activity. For no other reason they become wealthier from their activities… National Grid Power Co. (Formally NIAGRA Mohawk) Is a British corporation and now one of the largest in the Northeast. Just like the ports that are selling out to UAE. I wonder what is going to happen when UAE offers them enough money? The precedence has been set.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 08:49:00 PM:

So it turns out Dave Sanborn, former DP World executive, was appointed to a plum DoT position in the Bush admin last month, just before this deal went through.

The cronyism in this administration is truly galling.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 21, 11:14:00 PM:

I was involved in the Navy from 1987-1995, and the UAE was allied with us during that time. In fact, during Operation Praying Mantis, the Iranians, tried to avenge themselves on the UAE after we attacked their oil platforms and SAM frigates. The UAE also helped patch up the USS Samuel B. Roberts so she could make it home.

They are a moderate voice and government in the region. They are an Ally in the WoT. If the security system that they are agreeing to hold to (as part of the deal, mind you) is sufficient, then it's not a danger to us for them to operate the ports.

Lord, people, they aren't going to start training for jihad there, they are being contracted to operate the ports.....and if there is some sort of breach, it will be the last thing the UAE would want.

The country is in a strategic point, right between Saudi and Iran, and sits on the Straits of Hormuz. It is a country we can get along with, and have for a generation.

Bush isn't an idiot....why would he OK this agreement if he wasn't damned sure it was a good, safe deal?  

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