Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Port Management for Xenophobes

Apparently, we have a bipartisan furor concerning who should manage logistics at ports. According to the LA Times, that’s the extent of it. Also, from the same editorial:

…foreign companies … already run the majority of key U.S. ports - including 80% of the terminals in Los Angeles…


Furthermore, it appears the company in question, Dubai Ports World, would NOT be in charge of security, that would fall back on the usual suspects (Coast Guard, port police, DHS, etc.). I have often enjoyed (and often disagreed with) Lee Harris over at TCS, but he sorely disappoints me with a breathless, hysterical take on the flap. He recalls the fox in charge of the henhouse trope. Then, after positing some future terrorist attack, he imagines Bush having to explain to America: “Oh, we put the Arabs in charge."

So an Arab’s an Arab, then? Or, more in the spirit of this criticism: “A raghead’s a raghead.” This makes it sound as if we’re handing Osama the keys and asking him to lock up for the night. If there are potential security risks with foreign (not just Arab) management of our ports, then we certainly need to talk about this. (A non-xenophobe friend of mine has this concern, and I plan to hear it out.) And it’s always possible we should be worried, in the larger question of trade and global competitiveness, that foreign companies are beating Americans out for these logistics jobs. But the fact that these people are Arabs should not, in general, enter into the equation. If we were talking about Syria, Iran, North Korea, or even Saudi Arabia, that would be more alarming. UAE is a different country. Hence the spelling.

I can’t say I’m completely familiar with all the relevant facts, but tentatively, I may put this on a very short list of things that the Bush administration has gotten right. I’ve wanted to make such a list, as an exercise in intellectual honesty, seems like as good a place as any to start. (So I pick NOW to defend Bush? What great timing, eh? Maybe I’m just a contrarian crank…)

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