Feb 21 2006

Port Deal Short Sightedness Runs Amok

Published by at 2:17 pm under All General Discussions,UAE-DPW

** Updates Continuing At End **

Man, mob think is ugly. I have been reading some of the most crude and disgusting comments on conservative sites the rank right up there with Ann Coulter’s ‘Raghead’ debacle. Made me proud to be an independent.

My posts on the UAE port debate are here, here and here. In these posts I tried to call for reason. But the mob left the station and burned down the town.

I was not going to point this out until I felt the damage was so far gone it wouldn’t matter. But since Frist is now calling for the end of the deal, maybe it is time to discuss what was lost in all this. First from Frist:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said on Tuesday the Bush administration should put on hold a deal with a state-owned Dubai company to manage major U.S. seaports, saying it needed a “more extensive review.”

“If the administration cannot delay the process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review,” Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said in a statement.

Frist is the most senior member of Congress and of the president’s own party to call for the government to reconsider a decision to let state-controlled Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates manage U.S. sea ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

While everyone is conjuring up scenarios and fantasies of turban wearing Arab Muslims running around our docks, I challenge you all to now imagine the other side of the coin.

This UAE company manages major ports around the world, ports which ship goods here. The UAE is actually a very pro-West Middle East nation. They have much to lose in Bin Laden’s brand of Islamic nation. And they have been trading partners with the west for decades.

So, try imagining the potential security and intelligence benefits the US government could wrangle out of such a partner in return for not making a big deal out of a stock acquisition on the London Stock Exchange. Think about the opportunities for US visibility into activities in ports and nations that could be used to transport deadly weapons to the US.

For every short sighted scenario of a Mad Muslim sneaking a WMD in through these ports still manned by Americans and guarded by the Coast Guard, I can envision a scenario of US agents now employed on docks and in ports on the look out for WMD before they even get loaded on a ship….

Fear of stereo types has driven people crazy with worries about the downside. But did anyone even stop to think about a scenario where moderate Arab Muslims work as partners in the Global War on Terror?

Apparently not enough did. This deal looks dead. And all this classified conditions the Administration was keeping under wraps are dead too. And the liberal media and liberal politicians have AGAIN, by presenting false and incomplete information, probably undermined this administration’s efforts to win this war. Did anyone pause to think why they were siding with Schumer and Hillary??

But this time the conservatives went along for the ride – blinded to all the possibilities. How else do you take down a President other than to seed mistrust among his supporters. Who is pulling the strings???

UPDATE:

Just to be clear, I have no information that this is the case. I see indicators that it is possible, but nothing tangible. It is simply an exercise engineers and scientists do to test theories and designs and such. We look at best case and worst case and nominal case. In this debate all the emotion and most of the posting has been on the worst case side. I could not help but test the other options, as is my due. But I resisted saying much because the upside scenario, when explained, could tip off our enemies. I just tried to think out the implications if I decided to post the information – not that I was holding any special information.

Just like with the NSA story we seem to have stories being spread in the media that are inaccurate and which generate a lot of debate. As with the NSA story, when things got mired in the details of surveillance, I resisted presenting really sophisticated examples. But if you think about it, what a perfect way to gain intelligence. Put a half baked story in the press and we all jump to correct it with ‘the facts’.

Watch for strings folks. There are some very sophisticated puppet masters out there. For all we know the flow of stories from Al Qaa Qaa to the Niger Forgeries to Wilson-Plame are a single long term plan to seed distrust in Bush’s base.

The view from the Financial Times

The current furore in Washington about the takeover of P&O, the UK-based ports operator, by Dubai Ports World says more about the United States Congress than the United Arab Emirates. The bluster about national security conceals one of the uglier faces of US protectionism – the one with the slightly racist tinge.

That’s the view from across ‘the pond’.

UPDATE:

Some people are starting to understand this issue is getting too hot, too overblown, and way too irrational.

This issue is more complicated than the cheap political demagoguery we have seen, especially from Democrats now preening about how tough they are on national security – and particularly from those who resist any profiling of young Arab men, but now somehow “know” this UAE company is a security threat. Isn’t this a degree of profiling?

I ask those politicians who want to “profile” this company why can’t we profile young Arab males. What’s the difference? It seems pretty common sense that if Arab companies should probably not be allowed to be contracted to run the operations at U.S. ports given the current environment, then young men from those same Arab countries should probably receive a higher level of scrutiny as well.

More here:

I do business in Dubai and for the life of me can’t understand the hysteria surrounding the Dubai Ports deal. Anyone with any familiarity with Dubai understands that the executive leadership of every major corporation is expatriate, usually British, Aussie or other non-US anglophone. And anyone with any familiarity with corporate outsourcing understands that the model is to take over the employment of the existing local employees (e.g. the US citizens who currently run the ports) and simply try to make them more efficient.

So my question is this: precisely what threat are the existing US employees supposed to pose that they didn’t before the deal? And why is one group of anglophone brit managers (P&O) not a threat and another group is?

Finally, Dubai Ports is a big corporation. Precisely why would it allow terrorism anywhere near its largest revenue sources?

UPDATE II:

More sanity from the Glittering Eye. More at GOP bloggers and Blogs For Bush. Also Bloggedygook (also here again), who points to this post at Lounsbury which covers how a US firm is trying to use this to gain an non-competitive edge plus much, much more background. My good friend Jeff at the Bernoulli Effect reminds us all that to communicate well requires to communicate accurately. And Homeland Security Watch demonstrates how to digest and contemplate a news item, not react to it – something I need to learn. Lorie Byrd chimes in and detects the media pullings some strings.

Junkyard Blog has some great pragmatism here, and got me to thinking why Congress will NEVER override Bush’s veto: they do not have the political spine to take responsibility for a future attack – which is what a veto override would do.

Can you see Bush after the next attack saying “I tried to set up a deal to push our intel assets out, but an opportunistic Congress trashed the deal”? For those who do not appreciate the fact that a President’s power stems from the meakness of Congress, watch and see how DC really works.

20 responses so far

20 Responses to “Port Deal Short Sightedness Runs Amok”

  1. pbsssmith says:

    Why do we need a port-operator deal to gain from UAE’s security people? We should have already been learning from Dubai World’s loading port security. The deal is totally unnecessary to furthering port security if we are really serious about fighting GWOT.

  2. AJStrata says:

    PBSSSMITH,

    So you know for a fact this deal had not opportunities to expand our security?

    Why do I sense you are not trying to convince me, you are trying to convince yourself?

    You want to convince me prove your point with something substantial.

    My scenarios are as valid as the Chicken Little ones. More so actually. I don’t have to assume Bush and his teams are complete morons for mine to stand up.

  3. sbd says:

    AJ,

    Everything you point out is probably true, but it does not change the fact that President Bush has no credibility when it comes to securing the pathways into this country. We have been waiting since 2000 for Bush to honor his pledge to secure the border which was before 911.

    In order to appease the Mexican government and avoid an International incident, this administration, and all administrations before it, allow our border patrol to be attacked by Mexican Para-military forces smuggling drugs into this country, on a DAILY basis.

    Why should I believe this administration would not do the same with the UAE, to avoid and International incident and provoke the Muslim world?

    If the President had secured our borders, I would have no problem with this deal. Until then, I will not find this administrations ascertion that there is no security concern with this deal even remotely to be credible.

    SBD

  4. clintsf says:

    AJ-

    I’m still scratching my head, and trying to figure out what to think about this one.

    Do you know of anywhere I can get detailed information on what exactly the “Port Operations” contract with P&O (and presumably now with D.P.) entails?

    The list you quoted below (“Operation of waterfront terminal;Marine cargo handling; Other operations“) is just a bit on the vague side. I’d guess that we’re talking basically about just maintenance and stevedoring with a bit of assigning docking berths to incoming ships thrown in, all with thorough oversight by the Coast Guard and local Port Authorities — but I haven’t seen anything that confirms or denies that.

  5. sbd says:

    Things like this don’t help matters either!!

    Dubai company set to run U.S. ports has ties to administration
    BY MICHAEL MCAULIFF
    New York Daily News

    WASHINGTON – The Dubai firm that won Bush administration backing to run six U.S. ports has at least two ties to the White House.

    One is Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose department heads the federal panel that signed off on the $6.8 billion sale of an English company to government-owned Dubai Ports World – giving it control of Manhattan’s cruise ship terminal and Newark’s container port.

    Snow was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to DP World for $1.15 billion in 2004, the year after Snow left for President Bush’s cabinet.

    The other connection is David Sanborn, who runs DP World’s European and Latin American operations and who was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.

    SBD

  6. AJStrata says:

    SBD,

    You are the last person I expected to be yanked around by your chain. I wrote about that article earlier – it is full of errors.

    As I said to you in the email, you will not see or hear about the protections being put in place – they are classified. The only way you will know they are there will be (and has been) the lack of attack.

  7. BurbankErnie says:

    Too much hysteria (mine included) fogging this issue up. Bottom Line: Americans will not trust this Company. Period. All of the explaining will have no effect. Not after 9/11. Not after an attack on our soil, not from a Company in the ME with a HINT of ties to said Terror Attack on US SOIL. No. F’n. Way.

    BTW, I am still waiting to hear from those “rational, centrist, peaceful” Muslims on the Cartoon Killings. Haven’t heard a peep about this debacle either, nor Hamas. I have a feeling that appeasment is working well… for them and the ROP.

  8. HaroldHutchison says:

    On this issue, the verdict has been reached already. Facts (and a trial) are not necessary.

  9. sbd says:

    You are right AJ, if I had paid more attention , I probably would have seen it. Which leads me to the authority I was misguided by which quoted the above article.

    Maybe I stumbled on who or what is pulling the strings!!

    SBD

  10. Don Surber says:

    Do Buy, Dubai

    Matt Drudge reports Bush may issue his first veto to allow a Dubai group to take over management of a few U.S. ports.
    Take that, xenophobics.

  11. Port Sports.

    President Bush has announced that the DPW ports deal should be allowed to go through and that he will veto any bill passed to stop it. The ball, as they say, is now in the other court. Things may actually

  12. Kaz-Man says:

    Bush: He said he would veto any legislation to hold up deal and warned the United States was sending ‘mixed signals’ by going after a company from the Middle East when nothing was said when a British company was in charge…..
    Good point. Let’s chill out for a while and let the Dems do all the “racial profiling” they are so against otherwise.

  13. Giving the fox the keys to the henhouse?

    Ok, someone call the Vice President and ask him to shoot me.

    Why are we even discussing handing over 6 of our ports to Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates? Personally, I’m none too keen on ANY foreign country cont…

  14. OleJim says:

    AJ,
    You may be right, that there may be some useful quid pro quo for the White House approval of this deal to make Dubai money.
    But this president does not have credibility on this issue because of the Mexican immigration stance.
    After 9/11 is a “maybe helpful” quid pro quo enough?

    http://www.seekingtruth.us

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