Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ports and National Security

A Dubai (U.A.E.) company is bidding to succeed a British company as the manager of several U.S. ports. The initial public reaction has been negative. Democrats especially have criticized the Bush administration for approving such an arrangement for an Arab company. The company itself has requested a longer investigation period in order to answer all security concerns.

Remember that the port manager does not patrol the surrounding waters; the Coast Guard does. Also, the port manager does not clear goods and people into the U.S.; Customs does. Those are the major security concerns, I think. That does not mean the port manager can not do any mischief or engage in deception of the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs. It does mean the U.S. government retains those security responsibilities.

The fact that the company is from Dubai may cause us a slightly greater concern, but not appreciably. Since 9/11, the U.A.E. has been a U.S. ally. It is to our advantage to treat the moderate Arabs as allies and not as enemies. We will need their support in the long war against terror that is underway. If the moderate Arabs and Muslims take the side of the radical Islamists in Al Qaeda, the war on terror will become more difficult. As Sen. Hillary Clinton said but now seems to have forgotten, this is a war for hearts and minds. We will not win hearts and minds by prohibiting an Arab company from doing what we allow even a Chinese company to do. (Frankly, I have greater security concerns regarding the Chinese company.)

At this point, we do not have enough information about the Dubai company to make a final determination. Further investigation is warranted. However, the final determination should be based on serious security grounds, and not on anti-Arab fears. (It is rather ironic that Democrats, the foes of all racial profiling, are the ones who most want to deny the Dubai company any role in port management due to the company's Arab-ness.)

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