Maritime Terrorists

So a company named Dubai Ports World is based in the United Arab Emirates and wants to buy six U.S. ports. We’re opening our borders to terrorists. Everybody run.

It’s funny–well, laughable, anyway–how we can outwardly hold American ideals to be so important to us only to roll over on them at the slightest whim. We should try to remember that the ports in question are privately owned by Britain’s P&O shipping company. I’d be willing to bet that P&O does not base its business decisions on the ill-informed American public’s image of an ideal business partner (good thing, too). No, I would be willing to bet P&O bases its business decisions on profit, that omnipresent, ever-powerful motivator serving as the backbone of capitalism. You remember capitalism, don’t you?

Right about here is where I should be pounced upon for implying that the pursuit of a (at least partially) free market economy should necessarily supersede security interests. Yes, let’s take a look at those security interests.

I won’t bother discussing Los Angeles, the largest shipping port in the U.S., to dwell on the fact that 80% of its shipping ports are owned by foreign entities. I’ll keep this post focused on the ports along the eastern seaboard which are currently in such eminent danger of Dubai acquisition. Why is it so typical for the United States to treat an ally with such impunity? The United Arab Emirates IS an ally, after all, and not merely in name. Aside from continual support in our “War Against Terror,” the U.A.E. was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to acquiesce to U.S. requests and sign the U.S. Container Security Initiative. The agreement places U.S. customs agents in overseas ports of origin to begin screening cargo. Does the simple fact that the United Arab Emirates happens to be in the Middle East warrant more scrutiny than a country located in a different part of the world? I think that’s a slippery slope to start down.

To place blame on the United Arab Emirates for 9/11 is also disingenuous. Their counter-terrorism efforts of the past few years aside, as far as we know, one or two of the 9/11 hijackers may have been born in the U.A.E. A few others traveled through the country at some point or conducted some business there. Does that constitute “ties” to 9/11? If so, perhaps we should consider Germany, where several of the hijackers were based for a time, as also “tied” to 9/11. Would such a ruckus be raised if a German entity was interested in buying U.S. ports? I doubt it.

One more issue I would raise: how will the situation on the ground change at these ports? Currently, dock workers are members of the longshoremen’s unions; the same will be true after any handover. Furthermore, port security has always been the charge of the U.S. government; that, too, will remain the same. Please, tell me, what exactly is changing again? Before and after any sale, the shipping ports are worked by American laborers, secured by the American government. And did I mention that some of Dubai’s top executives are American expatriates? Oh yes, this company reeks of Al-Qaeda.

Yes, I believe it prudent to demonstrate heightened scrutiny when a business deal of this magnitude involves foreign interests, absolutely, and perhaps especially when a foreign interest is state-controlled; but I think we should be careful with our tone. Does the call to place a hold on the sale stem from a sense of general caution, or is it the result of the buying party being Middle Eastern? An ally of the United States is an ally of the United States, regardless of what region of the world it is located. Treating a Middle Eastern country differently only serves to highlight the American hypocrisy that has gained such global notoriety in recent decades.