Dubai Port “Scandal”
Michelle Malkin cites the fact that President Bush did not personally approve of the impending sale of the company that handles port operations to a Dubai company and several other reports as evidence that “due diligence” was not done here. Further, she charges that, “The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has been little more than rubber stamp on sensitive foreign acquisitions since its founding.” Both strike me as quite likely.
My only point in any of this is that people like Rep. Sue Myrick seem to think that we have somehow sold our ports or even security control of our ports to the Arabs. That’s not the case. Whether the government-owned Dubai company in question can be trusted to carry out the functions previously assigned to a private U.K. firm is not something about which I have any particular insight. I merely note that the fact that there are Arabs involved not does not constitute a prima facie case that we should deny the contract.
Foreign companies already own most of the maritime infrastructure that sustains American trade — the ships, the containers, the material-handling equipment, and the facilities being sold to the Dubai company. It’s a little late now to start worrying about outsourcing seaborne trade, but congressional hearings could serve to clear the air.
What happens when one foreign-owned company sells a U.S. port service to another foreign-owned company. Not much. Virtually all the company employees at the ports are U.S. citizens. The Dubai firm is a holding company that will likely play no role in managing the U.S. facilities. Likewise, the company is owned by the government, a government that is an ally of the United States and recognizes that al Qaeda is as much a threat to them as it is to us. They are spending billions to buy these facilities because they think it’s a crackerjack investment that will keep making money for them long after the oil runs out. The odds that they have any interest in seeing their facilities become a gateway for terrorist into the United States are slim. But in the interest of national security, we will be best served by getting all the facts on the table.
A few commenters have raised the point that Abu Dubai is considered to be the hub of Middle Eastern money laundering. This is a) true; and b) irrelevant to the question at hand. Dubai is the center of money laundering in the Middle East because it’s the principal financial center in the region. It is undeniably true that pre-9/11, Dubai was remarkably uncooperative on terrorist financing. That did change with the terrorist attacks, however. Furthermore, this issue is irrelevant. Why would the UAE’s government — which has been an ally of the U.S. for decades — use the ports as a source for money laundering?
Sounds about right to me.
Thomas Barnett is a bit less restrained:
After lecturing the Europeans over the cartoon flap, it’s awfully weird to watch the paranoia, racism, and pure political nonsense at work on the proposed purchase of a British port-managing firm by a Dubai corporation.
The message we send on this is clear: if you’re Arab, you’re immediately untrustworthy. Dubai seeks to become the Singapore of the Middle East, and watching that rather progressive model of capitalism + Islam reach out for this strand of connectivity in a venue it knows all too well (shipping) makes perfect sense, just like CNOOC reaching for UNOCAL last summer.
Is it the pretense of these “hawks” that America somehow “secures” itself in a globalized world, not being able to trust any others in this process?
This thing is so overblown on so many levels as to be truly, madly, deeply stupid as a political football. Shame on any presidential types for grabbing this one and running with it. Our goal in the GWOT is to connect the Middle East faster than the jihadists can disconnect it, so again, what do we say here to the people of Dubai,who have–believe it or not–done plenty to aid our efforts in the region at great personal risk to their national security?
This is something I harp on in BFA [His book, Blueprint for Action -ed.]: either we reward countries tying to make the journey from Gap to Core or we stop pretending we’re in this GWOT for anything other than our own profiteering–political or otherwise.
The biggest joke? This labeling of the contract as somehow putting the company in question in charge of our port security, when it’s only about managing commercial activities. The Coast Guard runs security for our ports–always has and always will. This is misrepresentation of the worst sort, and it’s why I argue against a strategic communications strategy with the Gap: our own politicians screw up that sort of effort on a daily basis. Better to police our own loose lips than seek any singular voice abroad.
That’s my default position, too.