Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Ports

I have not posted on this, in part because I have been busy at work and in part because I have been mulling it over. After much vacillating, I think that allowing the UAE-owned company to acquire the rights to run the ports is a mistake.

I have tried to distill the issue into as simple a question as possible. Does this deal enhance the security of the United States? Clearly, transferring the operation from a British company to an Arab-Muslim company in the middle of a war against militant Islam would not increase the security of the United States, all other things being equal. The administration’s whole argument is that it does not harm the security of the United States. I think that argument misses the point. Since 9/11 Americans have demanded greater security. The insecurity of our ports has been a recurring theme. This transfer goes directly against the wishes of the great majority of Americans.

The President urges us to trust him on this. I do trust this President most than I trust most politicians. But, that trust is not blind.

The President has been flippant about a number of important domestic security issues since 9/11. First, he has done nothing to try to eliminate illegal immigration. If AQ terrorists want to get into this country, they can simply walk across the border with Mexico. All of the government’s watch lists are rendered meaningless by this gaping hole on our southern border. Second, the President too often hidden behind the mantra that Islam is a “religion of peace” despite the overwhelming evidence that many adherents do not think it is a religion of peace or act like it (thus the concept of Jihad). Too much of that “ROP” talk makes one wonder if he really believes it. If he does, then his judgment cannot be trusted. Third, the President has left Norman Minetta in charge of the FAA, and has resisted discriminating on the basis of religion or country of origin for security purposes on airlines (IMHO it would be constitutional given that the government has a compelling interest in protecting the U.S. from terrorism, that most terrorism is perpetrated by Islamic militants, and that some countries of origin have a strong correlation with whether you are Muslim or not). The President might take some heat for such a policy and might have to get Congress to change some laws – but that is why we elected him: to do the tough things that are needed to increase our security – even if they violate political correctness. As its stands, the TSA has to treat an elderly white woman that same way it does a young man named Mohammed. That does not make sense.

The President has weakened my trust in him somewhat by avoiding tough action on some of the domestic security issues. I think he thinks that to deny the UAE would be another kind of politically incorrect discrimination. I do not trust him to make the right choice and discriminate against the UAE where our vital security is at issue.

The President also argues that the UAE is a good “ally” in the war on militant Islam, and we cannot deny this opportunity to an ally. But we are also told that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are allies in the war. Do we want one of their government-owned companies running our ports? How could we deny a Saudi company if we allow the UAE company? The fact that the administration failed to put a knife in this deal quietly and that a public denial would embarrass the UAE is not sufficient reason to take any risk with our security.

Finally, the President argues that we will not be able to win over other moderate Arab/Muslim allies if we deny UAE this port deal. I light of the Mohammed cartoon riots, and the endless Muslim violence against other religions around the world, I look at this from the other side. How are we ever going to convince the moderate Muslims to openly confront and suppress their militant co-religionists if they never pay any price for their tolerance (support?) of the militants? To put it another way, if they can get everything they want from us, regardless of how the militants behave – why on earth would they confront the militants?

Indeed, some of the militancy seems to be paying nice dividends for the “moderates”. The moderates are benefiting from the fact that their religion cannot be criticized in public media anymore. Further, the President of the United States is bending over backward to make sure a deal goes though for the UAE because he is concerned that moderate governments will help us in the fight against the militants if it does not go through. What ever happened to requiring them to fight the militants simply because they are militants, rather than doing it because it’s good for business? To put it another way, if there were no Islamic militants would Bush have been so concerned about scuttling this deal?

I believe many of the Muslim “moderates” are mostly more patient extremists. They have the same goals but believe in achieving them less openly (or at least waiting until they are stronger). In this sense, they are free loading on the militant’s behavior. They are taking all of the benefits of the fear created by the militants to incrementally achieve their goals. I think we need to get wise this tact and force them to fear the consequences of crossing us more than they fear confronting the militants. Denying the port deal would be one small step in the right direction and would not reduce our security.

Update: Troubling - Saudi company runs 9 U.S. ports. Those port deals should be terminated.

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