The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Friday, February 24, 2006

Gut Reactions... and Thoughtful Reactions 

My gut reaction to the news that the Bush Administration (because apparently George wasn't in on the decision til after it was made) approved a UAE owned company's bid to run six major ports was to say... What on Earth are you thinking? An Arab company? From the Middle East? Where terrorists are everywhere? Running six of our ports? From the perspective of American politics, it makes absolutely zero sense. None. There is no argument you can make to me which would move it to the arena political logic.

Here's why it makes absolutely no political sense:
  1. The majority of people don't understand the political nuances of different countries in the Middle East. They don't understand what some countries there are doing to fight terrorism compared to others, and they don't understand the differences in political structure and freedoms that some countries have compared to others. People understand that terrorists came from this area of the world called "The Middle East", and that the UAE is located in "The Middle East".
  2. Most people don't want to take the time to learn the nuances presented above. Go ahead and explain how the UAE is an ally in the War on Terror all you want. That will be about as effective as my Aunt telling her Cocker Spaniel why it's not nice to bark at the man delivering the salt for their water softener.
  3. Jimmy Carter is on board with the idea. That rules out support from any person who labels themselves as a Republican.
So George has put himself in a position where Democrats will attack him in order take advantage of 1 and 2, while Republicans will attack him not only because of 1 and 2, but also because they can't stand the idea of 3.

Of course, all of those are the reasons why it's a bad idea politically to do this. But is it a bad idea in reality? After all, as we all know, politics and reality are usually miles apart.
  1. Let's face facts. Only about 5% of cargo coming into U.S. ports is inspected. If terrorists wanted to get supplies in through a port, they don't need sympathetic UAE employees to do it. In fact, you can make the argument that because scrutiny at these six ports will be higher because of the association with the Middle East, terrorists would be more likely to avoid them.
  2. We already allow foreign controlled companies to manage ports. If we let British companies manage ports, especially in light of problem they're having with Muslim immigration, why not the UAE? For all those liberals who decry profiling at an airport security checkpoint, how can you support profiling here?
  3. The UAE has probably been our best ally in the Middle East fighting terrorism, and they're the most democratic. This isn't just lip service either, like it is for Pakistan. Shouldn't we reward countries like this in an effort to show that we're not at war with the entire Middle East? In light of the current situation in Iran, I'd think that letting countries in that region know this would be more important than ever.
For more thoughts on the reality of this deal, check out this article on TCS Daily.

I'm not trying to say that we should rubber stamp any deal. I also think that allowing our gut reactions to dictate that this deal receive extra scrutiny compared to other companies is just fine. Our guts are often times right, and we should follow them. But after all the extra scrutiny, if we find nothing, we shouldn't let our gut overrule our logic.


I haven't decided if I want to blog on this or not.

I get the gut feeling thing.

But I think you can make a pretty good argument that the reaction is mostly unreasonable xenophobia.

  Posted at February 24, 2006 1:50 PM by Anonymous elliot  
I haven't blogged about it either but think it's much ado about nothing.

1. The municipalities own the ports, the UAE only oversees operations.

2. They are run with US employees (union longshoremen) not Arabs. The only connect the employees have with the UAE is their paycheck.

3. The US runs the security not the UAE.

4. The charge that 9/11 terrorist money went through the UAE makes my eyes roll because all mid-east money goes throught there as it is the financial capitol of the mid-east.

5. The charge that 2 of the 9/11 terrorist were from there means what? If you think about it, we have had at least one from the US, remember Oklahoma?

Not that I am happy with a foreign country in charge of operations of any of our ports, I am not. However as long as we are in charge of security I can live with it.

  Posted at February 24, 2006 10:48 PM by Anonymous Sandi  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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