Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Several questions, need answers

Like many Americans, when I found out about the deal to let UAE-based Dubai Ports World run U.S. ports, I was more than a little concerned.

And also like many Americans, I have questions about whether this company can guarantee security and whether this deal is in the best interests of the United States, and so I support efforts of Congress to obtain answers.

But when President Bush asks why it's okay for a British company (or, one would assume, a Japanese, or German, or Australian company) to run our ports, but not an Arab one, I think I'd like an answer to that one to.

And I don't think "just because they're Arab" is a very good one.

17 Comments:

Blogger L.Austin Bernard said...

How about

"No State owned companies" as a clause

(for starters)

7:30 PM  
Blogger aladdin said...

Larry,

But "no state-owned companies" . . . what? ". . . may run our ports"? Or "may run anything in this country"? I wonder what other state-owned companies have holdings here; I have no idea.

While that might well warrant some examination, I can't imagine that the opposition to this arises from the fact that Dubai is state-owned.

But thanks for dropping by. RPGs, eh?

7:45 PM  
Blogger L.Austin Bernard said...

#1) Y/W and Blame will Collier (and I added you to my Blog link-list)
#2) I do think a state owned company is a part of the reasons behind the opposition. ( a similar deal was opposed in the mid 90s when a PRC owned company bought a decommissioned US naval base and turned it into a port... with slightly less political opposition)

Their are a great deal of reasons but very few of them are rational reasons. Right now the government has pretty much been subverting Border and Port security. And this gives the folks who want to appeal to that visceral sense and need to "defend the border" a way to do so without having to actually do anything. I think that could have been nullified if the President handled the issue better.

I think the President (frankly) used the Trade policy poorly -on this issue- and didn't use it to liberalize access to the UAE economically. I think for those folks who wanted more of that to happen they have to play the demagouge card.

I think the fact how allied the UAE is to us is a matter of great debate and I think the UAE could have been pro-active and should have been on this issue.

Now I think in a real objective sense the deal is on the whole better for US policy... but things in government don't happen for objective reasons more often the realm of the subjective hits.

8:46 PM  
Blogger aladdin said...

Thanks. I probably need to start one of those blog link lists myself.

9:15 PM  
Blogger L.Austin Bernard said...

yep yep :-)

and also. I think their are a lot of reasons regarding State owned companies but...

#1) I think it sets a bad example when a outside US state owned company performs a US state service. And thats what running the port in the way they are is.
#2) I think in general the role of State owned corperations should be limited as much as is possible if their countries government is more restrictive then we are on access to their marketplace. Now a non-state owned entity from that country should not be handcuffed in such a way.

But yeah... ;-) good times

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Marc said...

How about "No State owned companies" as a clause.

APL is owned by a "State," Singapore and they have run a number of US ports for years. Singapore, althought not the haven for terrorists other places are al-Qaida and Jemiah Islamiah both operate out of there.

A quick note to L. Austin Bernard: If your thinking of Subic Bay R.P. as the decommissioned US naval base your flat out wrong. Subic was turned over lock stock and barrel to the Philippine Gov. They in turn contracted out sections amoung 6 Asian nations to develop the port, China being one of them.

5:45 AM  
Blogger eLarson said...

I think a lot of the opposition is coming from UAE's past recognition of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and their refusal to open up Osama bin Laden's bank records for us post-9/11.

What is the role of the management company with respect to security and at-the-port operations?

I'm guessing all the same union guys will be working, but who else is there? Will it automatically be easier for an al-Q operative to case the joint?

6:49 AM  
Blogger aladdin said...

I'm certain there are exceptions, but I have a hard time believing that much of the outrage stems from awareness that the company is state-owned or that the UAE recognized the Taliban.

Would the reaction have been any different if it had been some privately-owned corporation from Lebanon? And how many people know anything about the UAE? I probably know the geography of the Middle East better than most, but I only have a vague sense of where it is on the map, and I don't anything about the UAE's dealings with the Taliban or their form of government.

I don't doubt the sincerity of people who know more and object because of that, but I know my first, ignorant, knee-jerk reaction was "What the hell??" and I suspect that accounts for most others' reactions as well. There's some demagoguery at work here, on both sides of the aisle.

I think we should have hearings, discuss the issues, get the facts, and stop jumping to conclusions.

8:16 AM  
Blogger L.Austin Bernard said...

No I am refering to the former Long Beach Naval station we turned over to a PRC owned company.

and Had i known about the singapore deal i'd have opposed it to (on principle)...but if their was a need to get singapore on board with a major policy iniative I might have been willing to sacrifice principle (as -depending- on things i might have if i were a cabinet officer right now)

I think with one of (and rightly so)the promotion of capitalist styled liberal democracy being a major US goal we should avoid giving government contracts to state owned companies for jobs happening within the US borders. I think it sets a terrible example.

I think that when your in some one elses country -especially- when their is no other game in town then you have to play by their rules. but when its your game board you simply shouldn't.

But this is more about larger (not bigot) us racial issues

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm perfectly comfortable with "no Islamic control over our ports just because of their religion," given that adherents to thier religion regularly gather in the tens of thousands to chant "death to America."

The entire concept seems counter intuitive.

Anonymous Because I Don't Want to Be Blown Up

1:13 PM  
Blogger aladdin said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by. My ignorance regarding Islam is well-documented already, but I don't think it's fair to generalize.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometime being 'fair' isn't the top priority. e.g. when you tell your teenage daughter not to pickup hitchhikers, it's not 'fair' to generalize hitchhikers. Most hitchhikers aren't rapists or murderers. But it only takes one.

5:33 PM  
Blogger aladdin said...

Anonymous,

It also only takes one black to mug you; therefore, to follow the line of reasoning you seem to be advancing, one should stay away from all blacks.

That, to me, is generalizing. And it wouldn't even matter if only blacks were muggers, if the vast majority were not. It would be wise to avoid places where one might be mugged, just as it would be inadvisable to pick up hitchhikers. But to judge a set of people based upon a small subset is, yes, unfair, very likely unfeasible, and it seems to me that it wastes a great deal of energy that might be better focused on dealing with the actual threat.

I'm not ready to make the leap to say that just because some Muslims mean us harm we must stay away from all Muslims. That to me is of an entirely different scale than staying away from hitchhikers. I'd rather evaluate this case on its individual merits, rather than turn it into a clash of civilizations.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should note that I'm not the same anonymous poster as the first 'Anonymous' poster who said "Actually, I'm perfectly comfortable with "no Islamic control over our ports just because of their religion...". This is the 2nd anonymous poster (hitchhiker analogy).

Aladdin: "I'm not ready to make the leap to say that just because some Muslims mean us harm we must stay away from all Muslims."

No one has even remotely suggested that Americans should stay away from all Muslims. What's been suggested is not allowing an Islamic state-owned company to control some of our ports, b/c it may increase the security risk to our country. That's a big difference.

And I'm not 100% convinced that the transfer should be blocked, but I'm not convinced that it shouldn't be either. I think caution is warranted. The cost of being wrong is very high.

9:54 AM  
Blogger aladdin said...

Anonymous2,

I share your ambivalence about the port deal; even at second glance, there are still plenty of questions that need answering.

My comment wasn't directed at the general debate, but rather at anonymous1's remark that (as I understood it) it's okay to reject it simply because they're Muslim--followed by the hitchhiker analogy.

I think it's more than appropriate to ask questions about the deal based on the UAE in particular and the state-owned aspect (even if no one's made much hay about that before, it's still worth discussing). You're absolutely right about the high risks.

I also think it's worth examining Islam itself. I think--and hope--that many Muslims are themselves examining their faith. I frankly wish a friendly Muslim would come across this site and engage us in a good-faith discussion.

10:49 AM  
Blogger TRES CEE said...

i want to know why they up north are so concerned about ports and security when the company does no security but does ship and take care of shipping ad if shipping is a hazard, every foreign country ships freight here, the coast guard and customs take care of security, the problem i see is that they in north east don't want president bush to get intelligence in abu gharib prison, they don't want him to protect against terrorists by monitoring telephone conversations with terrorists in arab countries, they get upset with every spy leak instituted by the news casters and they finally caught some terrorists in Ohio, plotting to kill president, do they want success for terrorists and do they want to see president bush attacked, why do they not care if we loose but they want us to loose, or do they know what is being planned and are not really afraid of terrorists, and so they only are afraid if Bush wins election, maybe all they are afraidof is loosing election, eh what,

11:23 AM  
Anonymous zmarv said...

Hello Y'all,

Aladdin, I've been reading your posts and others comments here. I'm answering in response to your call for a friendly Muslim to engage in discussion.

I'm a Canadian of Lebanese descent dating two generations back... I'm also a muslim by birth.

On this issue of the ports (although a little late), I would be against any foreign company, yet alone a state-owned company, have control of any Canadian port. However, given the fact that some ports are currently run by "other" state-owned companies while others are run by foreign companies and now being refused based on the differentiator that it's an Arab company really ticks me off. On the other hand, I didn't and don't want this deal to go through but feel that the whole policy on foreign companies running national ports be changed to be off limits to ALL foriegn entities, private or state-owned.

If I can steer off the subject here, there is one point about generalisations that gets to me and especially so since it's all based on lack of knowledge and ignorance. I hear all the time people insulting the Muslim's God, Allah, while in fact, the Arabic word for "God" in Christianity is also "Allah" and the same applies to "Lord" amongst other words dedicated to God. Having looked into the three major religions somewhat in depth, Judaism, Christianity & Islam have the same understanding of Who/What God is and share the same name for him in their own respective languages.

I hope that this piece of informations spreads and quick as some may be commiting blasphemy without even knowing it.

Looking forward to hearing from all of you...

zmarv@hotmail.com

3:05 AM  

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