Monday, February 20, 2006

More Decry the Administration's Tone-Deafness on UAE's Port Control

The Washington Post has the story here. Hat tip to Captain Ed.

The details:
U.S. terms for approving an Arab company's takeover of operations at six major American ports are insufficient to guard against terrorist infiltration, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said yesterday.

"I'm aware of the conditions, and they relate entirely to how the company carries out its procedures, but it doesn't go to who they hire, or how they hire people," said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).

"They're better than nothing, but to me they don't address the underlying conditions, which is how are they going to guard against things like infiltration by al Qaeda or someone else, how are they going to guard against corruption?" King said.

King spoke in response to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's comments yesterday about conditions of the sale. King said he learned about the government's terms for approving the sale from meetings with senior Bush administration officials.

Chertoff defended the security review of Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates, the company given permission to take over the port operations. Chertoff said the government typically builds in "certain conditions or requirements that the company has to agree to to make sure we address the national security concerns." But Chertoff declined to discuss specifics, saying that information is classified.

"We make sure there are assurances in place, in general, sufficient to satisfy us that the deal is appropriate from a national security standpoint," Chertoff said on ABC's "This Week."
The Captain has this to say:
The US could have exercised a veto over the deal by cancelling the contracts held by British-based P&O before they got acquired by DP World. Instead, we seem to have done nothing while control of our ports transferred from a privately-held British corporation to a Arab-state-owned consortium.

Some have claimed that the US should not object to a free-market decision, and others claim that foreign investment should be encouraged. I agree with both of those statements ... within reason. We do not allow foreign ownership of our media because we want to make sure that the American press is not used for foreign propaganda. (Whether it gets used for domestic propaganda is a favorite topic of the blogosphere, of course.) More to the point, we do not allow foreign companies to compete for defense contracts in order to maintain national security.

With that as a precedent, why would we allow a foreign company of any kind control over our ports when we are in the middle of a war against Islamofacist terrorism? Many among us have continued to note the vulnerabilities of our ports as a potential entry point for terrorists, and yet we treat them with less care than a defense contract for toilet seats.
Many Reasonable Market Absolutists may find reasons to praise this decision. Fool that I am, I won't join them. While a market economy--operating within a sound juridicial structures and a moral culture--benefits society, it's not an all-serving panecea. There are times when society's other priorities, such as national security, must trump the efficiency of the market. Besides, since when do market absolutists believe that a state-owned company most efficiently allocates resources?

Unless this aparatchik of the United Arab Emirates can gurantee that it will not become infiltrated by Al Qaeda operatives or sympathizers, it has not business administering US Ports. Period. The Bush Administration should reverse this decision as quickly as possible. Our society can't afford to allow entry to our borders to be so compromised by foreign governments--particularly government dictatorships that have become so emeshed in the islamofascist culture at which we are at war.

End this farce immediately!