Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fox guarding the chicken coop?

It's hard to take the Bush administration's pledge that everything possible is being done to prevent another terrorist attack in the US:
A company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.
The UAE is considered an American ally, but so is Saudia Arabia, the epicenter of Wahhabism. Most Middle Eastern governments are friendly with the West because we're oil consumers and to some extent their bodyguards as well. The House of Sa'ud is always trying to strike that tenuous balance between global business interests and the demands of religious leaders at home.
It's sensible to think that Dubai Ports World (the UAE company) is a modern and profit-seeking enterprise like much of the Middle Eastern business world. But what confidence should we have that DPW will be able to screen out all potential jihadists? A Pew Research survey report found support for Osama bin Laden at 65% in Pakistan, 55% in Jordan, 45% in Morocco, and even 31% in the West's most amiable Muslim nation, Turkey. Presumably data like this is too difficult to get in more hostile countries in the Islamic world, but I would guess support in places like the UAE is at least as high as it is in Jordan.

The chance that a cell gets some people employed at DPW seems quite real. Of course all people in the UAE are not hostile to the US, yada yada. We know. And most Muslims do not want to blow up babies in buses or behead cartoonists. But the minority that does is much larger in the Middle East than it is anywhere in the West, and the outcry against such tendencies is much more muted than it is in our own civilization. Why take the risk?

I'm glad to see Democrats taking up this fight:
Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Hillary Clinton of New York, both Democrats, said they would offer legislation to ban companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from acquiring U.S. port operations, targeting the $6.8 billion purchase of P&O by Dubai Ports World.
I'm also glad to hear beltway media types raising the same question. On Meet the Press,
Tim Russert raised the issue with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff:
Since the September 11 attacks, the FBI has said that money for the September 11 strikes was transferred to the hijackers primarily through the United Arab Emirate’s banking system, and much of the operational planning for the attacks took place inside the United Arab Emirates.

Many of the hijackers traveled to the U.S. through the United Arab Emirates. Also, the hijacker who steered a United Airlines flight into the World Trade Center’s south
tower: born in the United Arab Emirates.

After the attacks, U.S. Treasury Department officials complained about a lack of cooperation by the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries trying to track Osama bin Laden’s bank accounts.” Why would we allow a company based in United Arab Emirates be in charge of security for our ports?
After Chertoff gave the typical platitudes about ensuring American safety, Russert shot back:
But why take a risk?
Exactly. I do not understand why this logic does not extend to Islamic immigration to the West in general. Why should we take in people from a culture that is not compatible with Occidental values? We don't need them. Most will not cause big problems, but there are plenty of other places where we can find quality immigrants without the risk and added cultural tensions.

However, Arab Americans are similar to Asian Americans in their levels of prosperity and success. On average they are more educated and have higher incomes than natives. Rather than ending immigration from the Middle East, perhaps the West should just restrict it. It's a more esoteric question for the US than for Europe, since the Arab-American population only comes to 1.2 million, although it is still pertinent to the West as a whole.

We should employ and enforce a merit immigration system that scores potential immigrants based on desirable attributes: Education, means, occupation, age, language fluency, IQ, as well as cultural knowledge like how bills work through the House to the President's desk. We don't want to pass over net benefits out of an errant fear of what they might do, but we don't want to take frivolous risks either. A merit immigration system wouldn't be a perfect filter, but it would definitely be an improvement over open borders and the risible Visa Lottery system.

The Democratic Senators and Tim Russert will not raise this question, of course, because it is so politically incorrect. And I hate to be so cynical, but if Republicans were not in charge of this port decision and instead it was in the hands of Bill Clinton, charges of xenophobia and racism against those questioning the deal would be flying through the air. Going after their political opponents often pulls politicians out of their pc-think rut. Too bad they can't be in the free-thinking mode all the time.



nohateknowpeace said...

p&o was a british company

faq said...

Bush has threatened to veto any legislation restricted the DPW deal. This would be quite a thing to use it on for the first time!

I just don't know. The administration is probably behind DPW because of the UAE's cooperation in our Middle Eastern activities. There's no way we know what's going on behind the scenes. Shunning one of the UAE's companies for being Arab isn't going to make our work in the deserts easier.

crush41 said...


Foreign ownership is not my problem, especially as it is of the Northwest European variety. It is Arab ownership from the belly of the beast that makes me uneasy.


Good point indeed. The UAE is not a democratic country in the least--it's run by rulers of the emirates on the local level and the heads of Abu Dhabi and Dubai (the oil and commercial emirates, respectively) on the federal level. The human rights abuses signal to me that the leadership keeps threats to its power in check and nothing would be worse for them than something untward to happen with DPW. And presumably they'll be under the CIA's microscope while providing port services. So the threat is probably minimal. It may well not be worth insulting a country with a pro-business government.

I think the conflict between the West and the Islamic world is only going to accrete over time as the Muslim world becomes poorer and more numerous, however. The earlier this conflict emerges from the shadows the better the West's chances are. Demographic trends do not favor us at all--most of the Islamic world averages over three children per woman while no country in the developed world is even reproducing enough to replenish its current population. Fancifully I'd like to see money ill-spent on Iraq poured into viable alternative energy research in tandem with a restriction on immigration from the Middle East. We need to get away from that area of the world as fast as possible.