Friday, February 17, 2006

The UAE and the Ports: A Fox Guarding the Henhouse

The Administration appears to have selected a firm called Dubai Ports World to operate a few U.S. ports, namely those of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans. DPW is a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates--a nation that is trying to cozy up to Iran of late and who was one of the three nations to recognize the Taliban government of Afghanistan. And while still holding on to its belief in the legitimacy of the Taliban government despite a popularly elected leadership, the UAE makes up for it by failing to recognize Israel. And so this deal raises the very legitimate question as to whether the Administration has completely lost its mind.

The ports are everything. The Port of Baltimore, just 20 minutes from my home imported $31.2 billion in cargo in 2004. But if a lapse in security allows destruction at the port, my state would be devastated. The remainder of the east coast would have to accommodate the load of Baltimore. The economic impact is pretty clear. Lose two of them and it's probably game over. Likewise, a port can be an excellent place to sneak in a weapon of mass destruction. If you don't believe me, read Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears (read it, don't see the Ben Affleck movie), where the ease of slipping a WMD in through a port and the resulting catastrophe are laid out. And while I am not arguing that because this us a UAE owned company that they will enable a terrorist act, we also need to be selective with who we allow to guard the door, because the stakes can be unbelievably high. And something tells me that we'd have to keep an extra close eye on this "ally."

In all fairness to the Administration, DPW bought out the British company which was previously operating the ports, so it is more of a successor in interest. Nonetheless, the very idea of having our ports operated by a nation that, regardless of their stated position of being a partner in the war on terror (like other loyal "partners" such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Turkey and other such nations who are called "partners" because they are not actively thwarting our efforts in the terror war), seems to retain uncomfortably close ties to that very same terror, is profoundly troubling to me. And in the interests of remaining as fair as possible, whatever justifications the Administration offers for continuing with this contract, I would not have bought them if offered by a Clinton Administration, and I likewise won't grant the Bush people what would be a dishonest pass.

And in the further interest of fairness, this really smacks of the same lack of concern over border security with Mexico. When I see things like this, (H.T. RealClearPolitics), I wonder if the Administration is really serious about protecting our borders, or whether they are more interested in easing the way for "guest workers".

It's one thing to keep them from hijacking or blowing up airplanes. But if we fail to take even the most basic and sensible steps to protect our ports of entry, our efforts at homeland security are for naught.


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