Saturday, March 4

NATIONAL SECURITY MUST TRUMP CERTAIN BUSINESS DEALS

On February 27th, in the context of the controversial UAE-owned Dubai Ports World deal, I wrote:

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?

I continued:

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!"

And I then went on to observe editorially:

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.

Now Hugh Hewitt writes an impressive exposition of the Ports Deal imbroglio and, I think, delineates the sharp distinction between the opposing camps' points of view as well as anyone has in the blogosphere (albeit I don't care for the "Realist"/"Retreatist" designations he uses).

Writes Mr. Hewitt:

There are two categories of assets/businesses in the United States: those that have no or little bearing on the nation's security, and those that do.

Generally speaking, all nations that are not enemies of the U.S. are welcomed to invest in the former. We encourage our allies to do so, even those allies with whom we have deep foreign policy differences on such matters as the boycott of Israel. The country is committed to free trade and the global economy, and that commitment is not subject to suspension over particular differences in foreign policy, even on such a crucial matter as trade with Israel. The boycott of Israel is not for us a national security issue.

Assets/businesses in the latter category are different. Defense contractors and their wares, strategic resources and the companies that develop them, some supercomputing businesses etc. --these sorts of assets/businesses are not open to market purchases, as the very existence of CFIUS attests.

The first question is: Are port operations in the first or the second category. I, and most of the country, assumes that even though security at the ports is the duty of the Coast Guard, that nevertheless these are operations in the second category because they are border functions. After the attack on the Cole we became aware of the possibilities of port terrorism. After 9/11 we became aware that terrorists are willing to think way outside of the box and competent enough to carry out such schemes. Since 9/11 there have bulletins of alert focused on ports and a variety of stories about slips in port security and warnings that ports are our weakest link.

That's the divide in a nutshell: the business prerogatives of globalization versus national security requirements in an age of terrorism and during a time of war.

To illustrate further Hugh Hewitt's point about "assets/businesses in the latter category," I cite for readers of this blog the fact (likely little known) that the federal government is currently vetting yet another UAE-owned company's interest in purchasing a British company with plants in the United States that manufacture "precision parts used in engines for military aircraft and tanks." Just how far should this sort of thing go -- is anything and everything open to purchase by the highest bidder in the world, regardless of its strategic value to the national security interests of the United States?

Some things in this country must remain beyond the reach and control of foreign governments and the companies they own. As blogger Frank Laughter writes:

It’s easy to see the REAL question: whom do you trust? To me, that’s pretty simple: Nobody. That’s exactly why the operations of ALL American infrastructures should be under the control of companies and agencies here in this country, so that WE THE PEOPLE can keep a close watch on what’s happening. Even that isn’t foolproof but at least we can reduce the risk considerably.

In short, there’s no good reason for China, the UAE, the British, or any other foreign government or company to be involved in U.S. port operations or U.S. port security.

If I had to select the lesser of two evils, I would certainly choose a publicly held corporation from an established democracy over any foreign government.

The most astonishing thing in this whole debate is how readily people lean on verbal assurances of an UK judge; P&O of the UK; the UAE; Bill Clinton; Bush (who never saw a guarded border he liked); CFIUS; admin spokespeople; etc.