Monday, March 13, 2006

The ports kerfuffle

I haven't had much to say about the whole ports contract mess, primarily due to a strong sense of ignorance on the whole subject. I've never managed a port myself, or even known someone who has. (Living in a port city I know that ports are important and a source of sailors on shore leave. If they are Russian sailors, they do not understand the concept of "you are too drunk, we won't serve you any more booze". Hilarity does not ensue.)

Now I see the blogosphere suffering from a bad case of twisted knickers (in both directions -- a neat trick), Congress displaying to the world a grand episode of nincompoopicity, and here is Snarkatron asking plaintively, "Do we have ANY facts to examine?"

This is how it looks to me. One camp mentions (correctly) that we have plenty of furriners running port contracts already (including the ChiComs) for years without disaster, that the UAE seems to be one of the good guys in the Mideast, that running the ports is not the same as OWNING the ports, and anyway the Coast Guard runs security. Further, any objection to UAE taking over the contract is based in isolationism, racism, and a blind disregard for the feelings of a trusted ally.

The other side points out that whoever is running the port will have access to an awful lot of information that could be put to Bad Use by Bad People, that for such a good ally UAE seems to be a nexus of a significant amount of dubious activity by Bad People, they refuse to do business with Israel, and they fund Hamas, among other disturbing extracurricular activities.

Me, I think the UAE seem very adept at telling people what they want to hear -- a useful survival skill when you are a little country with no power to speak of surrounded by highly irritable neighbors. Letting our Navy use their ports would fit in with that general behavior without necessarily telling us much about their true loyalties. Maybe both sides of the debate are right. Maybe there isn't a good, clear-cut option. But it sure would be nice to have, you know, actual verifiable facts instead of heated assertions to evaluate.


Blogger Barb said...

Woah - getting mellow are we??

I think that the extended investigation originally called for would have been fine. But the scientific theory that too many (on both sides) were using was "All Arabs are bad, so our security is threatened" - that's what worries me. How good of an investigation can you do under those circumstances?

I am also frustrated by the rhetoric that starts off with "I don't want foreign management", when tons of our ports are managed by furriners now, including the ones in the DP World deal. Oh - but they are British now, not Arab.

And by blocking the deal, congress critters get to preen and say they did something - when in fact they (at Best) did nothing to help, and (at Worst) may have damaged our security. The whole fuss has most certainly causes us to lose face in any negotiations in the future.

7:27 AM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger Snarkatron said...

I'm not getting mellow! I'm not I'm not I'm not!

Yeah, it would be nice to have some other options than "All Arabs are bad" and "All Arabs are good". That's what I'm advocating. And maybe we shouldn't have any foreign management of our ports, even by the British. Right now, though, I *still* don't have enough information and this has been going on for weeks. It would be REALLY scary if nobody knows what the risks are.

7:37 AM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger John of Argghhh! said...

I want Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers to form a company to take over and put John Walker and Roger Hanssen in charge of security!

Americanz Rule!

7:32 PM, March 14, 2006  

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