Saturday, February 25, 2006

Get A Rope

As a former and rather repentant Marxist, one of my favorite quotes by Lenin always was “After the revolution, the capitalists will bargain with us for the price of the rope we buy from them to hang them.”

As these two articles, one from the Washington Post , and the other from the New York Times, demonstrate, the greedy mindset of the business class hasn’t changed much since 1917. The international business community, including the clueless free trade supporters at the Washington Post, are trying to write the narrative of the opposition of both Republican and Democratic congressmen and the U.S. public to the Dubai port deal as nativist and tinged with racism rather than a rational or legitimate debate about American security interests.

I don’t want to join a chorus of those who criticize Dubai, which has been an ally of ours. And I have to confess that I am an agnostic about the actual deal. There are some compelling reasons why it is not a security disaster in the making. As has been pointed out, Dubai is a U.S. ally and has cooperated and gone the extra mile in aiding our intelligence efforts. This is less about Dubai than it is about any foreign government-owned company coming in to operate U.S. ports. It’s also part of a larger examination of the problems and perils of outsourcing as well as its many benefits. And there are both perils and benefits involved. That’s why the debate is legitimate.

But one thing that must be challenged is the characterization by some of the eager rope- bargaining free traders that the opposition to this deal is racist. No it’s not!

If it were a company owned by an American citizen of Arab descent that was being blocked from operating an American port, yes that would be blatant racism. And it would be wrong.

However, that’s not what’s at issue here. There is a very real question as to whether it is in America’s security interest to outsource the operation of vulnerable ports to any foreign country. Yes, the fact that it is an Arab country from which two of the 9-11 hijackers came raises extra concern. But the heart of the matter is whether it is appropriate for any foreign governmental entity to own and operate U.S. ports.

The New York Times piece tries to make the case that Europeans, presumably with a more international mentality, are puzzled by the American outpouring of opposition. They consider it simply global capitalism.

But that’s not even an accurate assessment. In fact, when a foreign government owns the company, it’s actually socialism not capitalism. I think I remember that much from Marxism 101 back in college.

Whatever you call it, though; sometimes free trade and better oil prices need to take a backseat to security concerns. There is a point at which reality has to trump ideology and this may be it.

It is faint comfort to many Americans that various U.S. intelligence agencies at Treasury at Homeland Security are vouching for the safety of this deal. Most people are all too aware of this administration’s propensity for cherry picking intelligence it wants to support positions that it already holds. These same intelligence agencies, after all, assured us that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that ordinary Iraqi citizens would welcome American invaders with flowers. They failed to see that religious extremists in Iraq would rush in to remake a largely secular society into a theocracy. So, how much credence should Americans give to the assurances of intelligence agencies that have been so wrong in their reports in the past? And even more, how much should we believe a proven incompetent, ideologically driven and fact challenged administration that just doesn’t know truth when it sees it.

The opposition to this deal is less about distrusting Dubai and more about distrusting our own government to put America’s best interests first.

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