It has taken me over a month to finally formulate an opinion on the entire port sale issue, and there is one thing of which I am absolutely certain.
There is no way that anyone who had any type of knee-jerk response to the idea of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) purchasing an interest in a half-dozen U.S. port operations was basing their opinion on anything other than either emotion or ignorance.
However, that is not to say that in the end, many of those people are not right. The sale of any interest whatsoever in our ports, or in any vital American infrastructure, to the UAE is a mistake that should not be allowed to stand.
That is not an easy statement for me to make. I am a converted, hard-core capitalist who believes firmly in the ability of the free market to be left alone to sort out most any issue.
As I read over the positions of the pro-deal folks, I was swayed towards their capitalist arguments, and was prepared to take up the mantle of the unpopular “let the deal stand” side.
But then, I would read and research some more, and be swayed to the anti-deal side. The side that does not trust an Islamic government that has previously shown outward and covert support for terrorists who murdered Americans, and which continues to take political positions such as the refusal to recognize Israel as a legitimate sovereign nation.
In the beginning, there was one other very good reason to mistrust my gut reaction that this was a ludicrous proposal. The fact that President George W. Bush, the primary architect of Americas response to 9/11, the Commander-in-Chief in our War on Islamofascist Terror, and a devoted champion of American security was on the pro-deal side.
Couple the President’s strong support of the deal, threatening to use his first-ever Presidential veto if the Congress should take any action to block it from going through, with those who initially publicly were against the deal. Ted Kennedy. Fritz Schumer. Hillary Clinton. The folks who have led the undermining of our most important national security efforts at almost every turn.
As I continued to listen to the initial reaction, I heard support for the deal coming from Karl Rove (to be expected), but also from former President Jimmy Carter, and from the Los Angeles Times, two ultra-liberal sources. And there were cries against the deal coming from individuals and entities as politically disparate as Senator Bill Frist and the New York Times.
To paraphrase Al Pacino from “And Just For All”, there was something wrong here. Something very, very wrong here. There was something most definitely out of order. Was I really taking the side of Teddy, Hill, Fritz and the New York Times against my President on an issue of national security?
That simple fact required me to take a good, long, hard look at the issue from all sides. What was the President seeing that many others were not? Why was our Commander-in-Chief leaving us open to such on obvious danger? It seemed a ridiculous notion.
But I also know that I have many problems with the approach of the President on other issues of vital national security that continue to go unaddressed, such as fully and properly securing our borders, and creating a solution to the massive problem of illegal immigration.
Then I began my research, and began to hear the arguments and opinions on all sides. The fact is, this is not such a cut-and-dried issue, and there is much more than one way to skin the national security cat.
First, the highlights of the deal, to catch up those of you who may have only heard the rhetoric and not actually gotten the facts.
Dubai Ports World (DPW) is a government-owned holding company in the UAE. They purchased a management interest in six U.S. port terminals from the former owners, who were a British-based company.
They did not actually purchase the ports themselves, which are located in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans, Newark and New York. Their management interest basically meant that, as “The Patriot Post” put it in their 2-24-06 digest, “American managers and longshoremen will now get their checks cut by DPW instead of P&O” (the former British managers).
The pro-deal side has also made a number of other reasoned, intelligent arguments: DPW already provides support for US Navy ships in the middle east. As only a “holding company”, they would have little to do with day-to-day management at the facilities. Almost all of the employees at the ports are, and would remain, Americans.
Then there are the security arguments. DPW would not have any involvement in security at the ports, which would remain the domain of the U.S. Coast Guard. And the UAE has become a significant ally in helping us to combat terrorism since 9/11, having provided significant support in the areas of staging, intelligence, and actual pursuit and arrest of al Qaeda terrorists.
Finally, the pro-deal side puts forth that any purchase of this type, of a vital U.S. interest by a foreign entity, is reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Direst Investment in the United States (CFIUS), known in slang as “sifius”.
The CFIUS is headed by the Secretary of the Treasury, and includes a dozen agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. This committee approved the deal.
So the purchase is only a management interest in which no real day-to-day control is exercised. There is no involvement in security issues. DPW already manages ports that are home to our Navy. The UAE has become a proven ally against terror. CFIUS has approved the deal after an apparently thorough review. What could be wrong, really?
Plenty, as it turns out. And most of it goes back to our initial negative gut reaction.
Former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, put it this way: “DPW is a responsible company from everything I know. Should that make a difference? Yes. Will it? No, because of the symbolism and the political reality.
Charles Krauthammer, the noted conservative pundit, described it in his 2-24-06 column “Harbour Exit” posted at Townhall.com. Krauthammer postulated on the rank hypocrisy of Democrats who oppose the deal because it is an Arab company, while fighting against profiling of Arabs in national security:
“If a citizen of the UAE walked into an airport in full burnoose and flowing robes, speaking only Arabic, Democrats would be deeply offended, and might even sue, if the security people were to give him any more scrutiny than they would to my sweet 84-year old mother.”
“Democrats loudly denounce any thought of racial profiling. But when that same Arab, attired in business suit and MBA, and with a good record running ports in 15 countries, buys P&O, Democrats howl at the very idea of allowing Arabs to run our ports.”
“Democrats are rank hypocrites. But even hypocrites can be right.”
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (www.defenddemocracy.org) has stated that the UAE may be in felony violation right now of a 1996 law that is the cornerstone of U.S. counter-terrorism enforcement by providing material support to Hamas, a specially designated terrorist organization, and in it’s relationship with the terrorist organization PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad).
The FDD points out correctly that no nation supporting terrorist organizations in any way can be considered a reliable ally in the war on terror. Islamofascist terror expert Steve Emerson points out that the UAE facilitated a cash transaction by Hamas as recently as last year.
On February 24th of this year in a FrontPage magazine article, analysts described “extensive strands of UAE funding” for Hamas, which included a UAE “compensation” plan for the Palestinian intifada, meaning it made or facilitated cash payments to the families of terrorists who martyred themselves as suicide bombers for the Islamic cause.
Add this to the fact that the UAE continues to fail to recognize the legitimacy of the nation of Israel to fundamentally exist at all, and you have a political nightmare in the making. No matter your view of capitalism, no matter your feelings of what the deal is in practice, in this particular deal principle has to stand for something.
t has been reported that DPW has backed off the deal in part. In actuality, that is misleading. Nothing has changed as to the sale, it has still gone through. DPW has promised to turn over all operations involving the American ports to an American-based “entity”, but has already gone back on that promise in Miami. There is supposed to be a current 45-day review period happening. We don’t need that long to make a decision.
President Bush himself said that “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
The President needs to back off supporting this deal in the name of capitalist principles, which I fully understand his supporting, and he needs to back off the deal for regional security purposes.
Though we do need to cultivate legitimate friendly relationships in the middle east, a nation such as the UAE needs to fully meet our terms before we can embrace them fully ourselves.
The greatest American President of our generation, Ronald Reagan, had a short but famous quote for these types of situations: “Trust, but verify.”
I trust the President has our best national interests at heart at all times. I trust the Coast Guard to effectively secure our ports, no matter the owners. I trust CFIUS to do full and proper reviews of these transactions. And I trust in the principles of capitalism. I can perhaps even be persuaded to one day trust the UAE, and in turn DPW.
But I took Reagan’s advice, and took the time to verify. And in doing so, found much at this current time that does not warrant my unwavering trust. And thus, my call in this stormy port situation is “no deal”.