Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More on the ports deal

I am pleased to see that the hawkish Wall Street Journal agrees with me (and unusurprisingly makes the case better than I ever could):
Some of us are scratching our heads all right, but we're wondering why Mr. Graham and others believe Dubai Ports World has been insufficiently vetted for the task at hand. So far, none of the critics have provided any evidence that the Administration hasn't done its due diligence. The deal has been blessed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multiagency panel that includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.
Yes, some of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens. But then the London subway bombings last year were perpetrated by citizens of Britain, home to the company (P&O) that currently manages the ports that Dubai Ports World would take over. Which tells us three things: First, this work is already being outsourced to "a foreign-based company"; second, discriminating against a Mideast company offers no security guarantees because attacks are sometimes homegrown; and third, Mr. Graham likes to talk first and ask questions later.
Besides, the notion that the Bush Administration is farming out port "security" to hostile Arab nations is alarmist nonsense. Dubai Ports World would be managing the commercial activities of these U.S. ports, not securing them. There's a difference. Port security falls to Coast Guard and U.S. Customs officials. "Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday. "The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation."
The timing of this sudden uproar is also a tad suspicious. A bidding war for the British-owned P&O has been going on since last autumn, and the P&O board accepted Dubai's latest offer last month. The story only blew up last week, as a Florida firm that is a partner with P&O in Miami, Continental Stevedoring and Terminals Inc., filed a suit to block the purchase. Miami's mayor also sent a letter of protest to Mr. Bush. It wouldn't be the first time if certain politicians were acting here on behalf of private American commercial interests.
Critics also forget, or conveniently ignore, that the UAE government has been among the most helpful Arab countries in the war on terror. It was one of the first countries to join the U.S. container security initiative, which seeks to inspect cargo in foreign ports. The UAE has assisted in training security forces in Iraq, and at home it has worked hard to stem terrorist financing and WMD proliferation. UAE leaders are as much an al Qaeda target as Tony Blair.
Do read the whole thing. What I find most upsetting is that this politically motivated campaign on the part of Congress will damage the War on Terror (which I strongly support). Though threatening a veto is a good start, the White House now needs to forcefully and repeatedly attack those Members of Congress (from both sides of the aisle) who have been going around spewing utter nonsense and innuendo, doing everything in its power to delegitimize and expose this disgusting and wrongheaded campaign.
To avoid any misunderstanding: the above comments in no way mean that I have changed my mind on US foreign policy. I have always thought and still firmly believe the Iraq War was justified and necessary and the concomitant GWOT should be vigorously pursued. Which is precisely why I am appalled by the current furore which appeals to America's worst (thankfully rare) populist and protectionist instincts.

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