Monday, February 27

PORTS DEAL: STRATEGIC SECURITY INTERESTS TRUMPED BY ECONOMIC GLOBALIZATION

The furor over the UAE-owned Dubai Ports World deal seems to have been defused over the weekend by the Bush administration and its stalwart backers. Or, at the very least, the imbroglio has been placed in cold storage, pending a 45-day investigation of "potential security risks" (see: AP story, published in today's Houston Chronicle) that repeats a process (albeit broader the second time around) already completed and blessed by the rubber-stamp Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which consists of twelve (12) federal departments and agencies.

CFIUS blessed the deal on January 17th. I should add that the following happenstance (purely coincidental, I'm sure) occurred in parallel: "... that same day, the White House appointed a Dubai Ports World executive, David C. Sanborn, to be administrator for the Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation." (see: UPI story by UPI Pentagon Corrspondent, Pamela Hess, published 02/24/06).

Interestingly, Dubai Ports World is winning kudos from the mainstream media (and the White House) for volunteering to this second due dilligence even though the law governing this Department of the Treasury body required a 45-day investigation in the first place, since DPW is a state-owned company (see: Forbes article by Jessica Holzer, published on 02/23/06). More telling is the fact that a swift, 30-day government approval was finalized first time around without the President of the United States, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, or the United States Congress, for that matter, being in the loop. Stunningly, in this age of much ballyhooed economic globalization, assistant secretaries, sitting on obscure, secretive committees, are quietly making decisions involving America's post-"9/11" strategic security interests.

And, even more telling, is the fact that the lone, overridden dissent on the CFIUS to the Dubai Ports World deal came from the Department of Homeland Security's representative, Stewart Baker. But President Bush's boondoggle, the DHS, apparently has no more impact on the CFIUS than it does on our borders.

Astonishingly, fact is "the highest ranking official to know about the deal before the furor began to erupt was Clay Lowery, the recently appointed assistant secretary for international affairs, a former career staffer at the Treasury and at the National Security Council." (see: Washington Post story by Jim Vandehei and Paul Blustein of 02/26/08). Wasn't one of the chief, more disturbing findings of the 9/11 Commission that our nation's intelligence agencies didn't talk to one another? Seems self-serving, national security-compromising firewalls continue to exist elsewhere in our federal government 53+ months after a horrific, Islamo-terrorist attack on America.

Which brings me to the essential question that seems to have been lost in the woof and warp of name-calling (example: the NYT's David Brooks describes negative reactions to the deal as a "xenophobic tsunami -- a nativist, isolationist, mass hysteria") from the president's minions in the government, the press, the GOP, and the center-right blogosphere against those of us having genuine concerns about placing a United Arab Emirates-owned company in charge of managing 22 of America's ports: do multi-national business interests under the aegis of economic globalization trump strategic national security concerns?

When the outcry over "the deal" first broke, the best a blindsided president could do was to make this lame claim,

If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward.

and followed by this disingenuous demand of those of us who questioned the DPW deal,

... step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great Britain company.

But, of course, the president has essentially embraced this same rationale in purposefully failing to deal with our country's porous borders during his two-term presidency. Mexico is a "friend" and "NAFTA partner," just as the UAE is "an ally in the war against terrorism," so questioning the motivations of either government is an invidious exercise and, on its face, unseemly. Accordingly, and by the president's logic, 12 - 20 million undocumented, illegal aliens should pose no more a national security threat than a foreign-owned, Middle East-based company operating nearly two dozen American ports in wartime.

But some of us think otherwise. David J. Johnson, in a compelling piece, published in the Canada Free Press on February 25th, writes:

The goal of Islamists, following in the footsteps of Muhammad is to create the Islamic kingdom of God on earth. The strategy to obtain this goal in our lifetime includes the control of the world’s energy infrastructure, the transportation systems, currency, media, elections, immigration and education. The control of the port facilities is hence a critical element. Foreign ownership, in and of itself, although important, is not as significant as the strategy and goals of the owner.

President Bush tells us he awakes every morning to the conscious threat of international, Islamofascist terrorism and asks himself if he is doing all he can do to protect Americans, yet he dismisses out of hand any national security threat posed by an Arab country running day-to-day operations of 22 American ports. That strikes this writer as disingenuous or absurdly naive. Nationally-syndicated conservative columnist Cal Thomas picks up this theme:

On Sunday, the Australian government issued the following alert to its citizens: "We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the United Arab Emirates because of the high threat of terrorist attack. We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against Western interests in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Commercial and public areas frequented by foreigners are possible terrorist targets."

The United States has approved a business deal that would turn over the operation of six major American ports to a company that is owned by the UAE, the very country Australians are to be wary of visiting. The obvious question is: If it is dangerous for an Australian to travel to the UAE because of terrorism, isn't it even more dangerous for a company owned by UAE to own the rights to American ports where terror might be directly, or indirectly, imported?


So what it all boils down to is this: money decisions oftentimes get in the way of national security risks and assessments. Or, as a former president, himself an open borders' apologist and, unlike the current Oval Office occupant, profoundly oblivious to the threat of international terrorism, put it: "It's the economy, Stupid!"

After all, doesn't it follow that if, in the aftermath of 9/11, the nation's borders (north and south) continue to be porous and unsecured and Arab-owned companies run many of our ports, including two in Texas that supply 40% of the U.S. Army's cargo deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom , that this nation's government has yet to do a full-fledged risk assessment in the context of America's national security interests? Goodness, at present we still only inspect 3% - 5% of the millions of domestic and foreign containers that arrive at our ports! That's the so-called security provided by DHS and the U.S. Coast Guard that the president reassures us will not be compromised by the DPW deal. Security? What security?

Removing shoes from elderly air travelers and wanding pregnant women seem to be the staples of what we have; a DHS' color-coded, security advisory system, ignored by most Americans, we have; a costly, national debt-accelerating War in Iraq we have; a new, tax-consuming, federal government boondoggle, we have. And on and on it goes.

But what we don't have is a strategic assessment of those industries vital to America's security and the necessary laws governing their ownership to protect us and minimize the risk of terrorist attack. Seems economic globalization trumps strategic security interests. Money talks. Have enough of it and you can do most anything you want to do (or receive most anything you want to receive) in or from the United States of America.

President Bush has long schooled Americans on why this country gorges on cheap labor: it's because illegal aliens ("immigrants," he calls them) are willing to do the jobs that Americans are unwilling to do. To that canard, he must now add another to his repertoire to explain why the business of America is being recast: it's because Arab-owned and Communist China-owned companies are willing to do the work that American-owned businesses are unwilling to do.

Americans must ask themselves if that dog hunts any better than the first one does.


FOLLOW-UP: Good example here (in the very first paragraph) of the spin being used by the Bush administration, regardless that the law demanded a 45-day due diligence by CFIUS. (H/T: Hugh Hewitt)

FOLLOW-UP II: How apropos! Michelle Malkin cites comments by David Limbaugh on the ports deal vis-a-vis Bush's "inscrutable immigration policy."

FOLLOW-UP III: (Breaking News) The United States Coast Guard has expressed security concerns about the Dubai Ports World takeover of U.S. ports' operations from Bristish-owned P&O, according to AP news accounts here and here. CNN is breaking the story at the top of its 5:00pm EST news hour. Makes one wonder if the Coast Guard will now be branded as a xenophobic, Arab-hating branch of the DOD.

FOLLOW-UP IV: A tangled web of intrigue is the Dubai Ports World deal -- if you question that statement, kindly read this important piece written by Judy McLeod, published by CFP. (H/T: Free Republic)

FOLLOW-UP V: Read the last sentence in my "FOLLOW-UP III" and then read this post of Michelle Malkin's. It'll be interesting to see how the Coast Guard's concerns will be discredited given the fact that President Bush told us the Dubai Ports World deal would not compromise DHS and Coast Guard security measures. Kind of a paradox!

FOLLOW-UP VI (02/28/06): Well now, what have we here? The Jerusalem Post reports today that "The parent company of a Dubai-based firm at the center of a political storm in the US over the purchase of American ports participates in the Arab boycott against Israel ..." Let's see now, UAE is a much-needed ally in the GWOT and disturbing the Dubai Ports World deal, according to the president, could lead to a setback in Iraq; but, isn't Israel our most vital, long-standing ally in that part of the world and are not Jewish votes important in the political realm here in America? I wonder how the optics will play on this revelation? (H/T: Free Republic)

FOLLOW-UP VII (02/28/06): Further to the story cited above in The Jerusalem Post, Michelle Malkin points to a WorldNetDaily piece by Les Kinsolving, in which he poses a relevant question: "Why should any control of our ports be given to a company owned by such a dictatorship that refuses to recognize Israel?"

FOLLOW-UP VIII (03/02/06): The Houston Chronicle runs an Associated Press piece today that a second Dubai-owned company is being vetted -- this one buying a British precision-engineering company that manufactures "precision parts used in engines for military aircraft and tanks." Might such domestic, defense industry-related manufacturing be deemed of strategic importance in wartime? Maybe back in the World War II era, but apparently not today when we don't even get the U.S. Congress to formerly declare war! The beat goes on ...