Skip to comments.A Few Words on the Dubai Ports World Imbroglio (Lileks, As Always, NAILS It...!)
Posted on 02/21/2006 11:41:27 PM PST by KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle
A few words on the Dubai Ports World imbroglio, written without pause or editing, which is probably just as well. Short version: the administration may have thought it was helping a Valuable Ally and probably a pal, end of story. But it plays like Bush defending eminent domain to condemn a neighborhood to build a mosque.
I dont make predictions, because well, who cares? You either repeat the conventional wisdom and hide with the herd when youre wrong, or buck the prevailing opinions and get a reputation as a maverick when youre wrong, again. Works for some. But if I had to make a prediction, Id say this: the Dubai-ports fracas will become a flap, quickly swell into a firestorm, then become a debacle before settling into the history books as a historic miscalculation providing the Republicans only lose the Congress. If they lose a city, it will be a critical turning point.
Do I expect the managers of the ports to start installing Al Qaeda operatives in key positions, so they can wave through all the containers with small nukes for national distribution? No. But such a scenario does not exact tax the imagination, which is why its such a stupendously bad idea.
Its remarkably tone deaf. Its possible that the Administration did some quiet polling, and asked the question How much Arab control over American ports are you comfortable with, and misinterpreted stunned silence as assent. Its possible the Administration believed that this would be seen as outreach, an act of faith to solidify a Key Ally, and didnt think thered be much hubbub but if thats the case, its the best example of the Bubble Theory Ive heard, and Ive not heard much convincing evidence. Until now. The average Americans reaction to handing port control over to the UAE is instinctively negative, and for good reason. There are two basic reactions: We cant do this ourselves? and We should trust them, why?
As for the first, the assertion that American firms were the lower bidder is unpersuasive, rather like saying that we should have outsourced the flight crew for the Enola Gay to Japanese nationals because they knew the terrain better. As for the trust issue, well, wanting port control to remain in American hands is not a matter of Arabiaphobia, any more than selling Boeing to China means you harbor deep hatred of Asians. Some things ought to be left in local hands. It seems absurd to have to make that argument in the first place. The UAE is not exactly stuffed stem to stern with pro-American individuals; the idea that the emirs will stand foursquare against infiltration by those who have ulterior motives is the sort of wishful thinking that makes buildings fall and cities empty. Im not worried that some evil emir is putting a pinky to his monocled eye, and saying Mwah! at last I have them where I want them! Im worried about the guy whos three steps down the management branch handing off a job to a brother who trusts some guys who have some sympathies with some guys who hang around some rather energetic fellows who attend that one mosque where the guy talks about jihad 24/7, and somehow someone gets a job somewhere that makes it easier for something to happen.
Thats a lot of ifs and maybes. But I dont want any ifs and maybes. You can't eliminate them all, of course, but I would rather we had a system devoted to worrying about ifs and maybes instead of adopting an official policy of Whatever.
Were told were at war, and we reach back for the wartime memories we all saw in the movies and read in the novels: Yanks walking along fences with a dog, rifle on the shoulder, searchlight playing on the ground, stealthy foes ever at the perimeter. It was never that tight, of course; it was never that dramatic. But there were the constant imprecations to be vigilant, because peril lurked. That would have been undercut, perhaps, if the Roosevelt Administration had given port control to Franco.
Well, not the best analogy, perhaps. But the specifics dont matter; arguments about the specific nature of the Dubai Ports World organizations global reach and responsible track records dont matter. Because it feels immediately, instinctively wrong to nearly every American, and that isnt something that can be argued away with charts or glossy brochures. It just doesnt sit well. Period. Its one thing for an Administration to misjudge how a particular decision will be received; its another entirely to misjudge an issue that cuts to the core of the Administrations core strength. Thats where you slap yourself on the forehead in the style of those lamenting the failure to request a V-8 in a timely fashion. Doesnt matter whether it was a deal struck between the previous administrators and the UAE; thats not how the issue will be seen. And it certainly doesnt matter once the President gets all stern on the topic and insists hell veto any attempt to keep the deal from going through. At that point, millions of previously resolute supporters stand there with their mouths open, uttering a soft confused moan of disbelief.
On the good side: were probably done with Shotgungate, and the DailyKos people will start getting worried about dirty nukes smuggled in through the ports. On the dark side, for conservatives: woot, there it is the politically inept, base-confounding, intuitively indefensible decision. Oh, it may be the right thing to do, in the end. Maybe youre overreacting. Wait, study, read, reflect. But hope you dont have to go on a cable show and defend it, because youd feel greasy.
Advice to the administration: If youre going to shoot yourself in the foot, dont use a bazooka. You may aim for the pinky toe but theres nothing left below the hip. The recoil should not be your first clue you grabbed the wrong gun.
Good stuff from James Lileks. I agree.
Bazookas don't recoil.
I also predict that this we're about to see this thing turn into a firestorm.......
Hey Doofer take your time and give your post a once over before hitting that post icon........[grin]
I like Lileks but he's already behind the cycle on this.
I bet he modifies this position within a week.
Change your password, you should - Yoda your account has hacked.
If it's purely financial, why shouldn't an American based firm be reaping the benefits?
I've read on these threads that only Haliburton would be capable of fulfilling the contract. I'm guessing the reason for that is capital. But wouldn't that be preferable to foreign interests and alleviate all the concern?
Please do. This is simply extremely interesting, and Bush's reaction more interesting still. A presidential veto over a matter such as this? Doesn't that strike anyone else as curious?
Bush veto something??
Suuuuurrre he will...
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
It would have been nice if he'd had a clue about his subject matter.
On the other hand, it might be instructive to read picrell's thread of 9:45 pm on the 21st. I'm not claiming that that's what is going on here, but it should be considered. (Sorry, I don't know how else to reference that thread.)
Because the contracts are OWNED by a British firm and no American company wanted the contracts at their sale price?
Something which does not exist should not be the first clue?
Sounds to me like Lileks doesn't know a recoiless rifle from a rocket launcher.
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