The more I hear about the UAE port deal, the more it seems like a non-story. Sure, when I first heard, I had the knee-jerk reaction that it was bad policy. Who in their right mind would outsource port security to a Middle Eastern regime? Then I learned that nothing of the such was happening.
Some further research led me to find nothing really substantive about the opposing arguments. Basically, as far as I can tell, those who are angry are angry because the United Arab Emirates is an Arab country (Most – Bob Krumm being an exception – won’t admit this.). That alone isn’t enough to convince me the policy is bad. I say this as someone who has argued in favor of strict border enforcement and defended profiling. I have nothing against giving the UAE company closer scrutiny – I’m all for it. But refusing to do business with Arabs because they’re Arabs does not strike me as a good way to win the war on terror. It is also worth noting that P&O hires local labor (read: Americans) and has no responsibility for port security. The Longshoremen and Coast Guard handle that, just like they always have.
The UAE ties to terror are pretty tenuous. Yes, it’s true that two 9/11 hijackers came from that country. It’s also true that the attack plans were made in Germany. Shoe bomber Richard Reid hailed from Great Britain. Jihad John Walker Lindh called California home. Get where I’m going with this? People who believe in individualism over collectivism, well, believe in judging individuals on their own merit, not what other like them do. The UAE isn’t perfect, but it is one of the most open and Westernized countries in the Arab world. Winning the war on terror requires us to cultivate such nations. Refusing to do business with them doesn’t seem like an effective strategy for this.
The argument that Americans should run American ports is a good argument – if you don’t believe in free trade. If you do, it’s necessary to recognize that foreign companies are going to do business in America, just as American companies do business abroad. Either you believe in free trade, or you don’t. Or you favor total nationalization of our ports, which is a different argument and is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Ultimately, P&O wants to make money. Do you think smuggling terrorists or weapons into its client nation is a good way to do this?
Politically, this will damage Bush. Everyone agrees it’s bad politically. But does that make it bad policy? I say no. This won’t stop politicians from taking advantage of the situation, though. I received a press release from the Van Hilleary campaign which contained plenty of Van-isms. One quote: “How do we expect Americans to take the War on Terror seriously… when leaders in Washington are turning over control of several of our seaports… to the enemy?” When did the UAE become “the enemy”? I though Islamofacists were the enemy? Van by far isn’t the only one (see Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, et al.), but he’s the only one who sent me a press release (twice, actually).
In the meantime, if anyone has any evidence of P&O ties to terrorism, I certainly want to hear it. I am completely prepared to change my view if additional evidence surfaces. Until then, I stand behind my belief that this whole thing is a non-story.
Elsewhere: Glenn Reynolds, Opinion Journal, Outside the Beltway, Jay Bush and Mansoor Ijaz