Rethinking The Port Deal (Sort Of) Or Reality On The Ground Vs. Political Reality On The Port Deal

A couple of days ago, when I wrote about the port deal, I essentially said that I wasn’t sure whether it could be dangerous to our security or not, but that political considerations would eventually kill the deal.

Well, after reading numerous articles (here’s a good one) that went into more detail about what Dubai Ports World will actually be doing and after talking to someone who’s familiar with how port security works, my opinion about the deal has shifted.

Although I still think the deal is doomed for political reasons, I’m no longer concerned about having Dubai Ports World take over the stevedoring duties at those ports.

Keep in mind that Dubai Ports World isn’t handling security, so there’s no worry about having some Jihadi on their staff wave through a package for some Al-Qaeda sleeper cell. Moreover, although working at those ports might give some UAE terrorist sympathizer an opportunity to look at our port security up close and personal, who’s to say that isn’t already happening? Britain certainly has more than a few radical Islamist wackos living there, too. Remember Richard Reid?

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Also, you can’t forget that we have ships full of foreigners coming into our ports all day long, every day. If Al-Qaeda wanted to look at our security operations or sneak someone or something into the country, they’d be more likely to try to do it through one of those ships than to try to use a Dubai Ports World employee — especially since the same union laborers who are working there today would still be there after Dubai Ports World takes over.

What it all comes down to, at least as far as I can see, is that the security for these ports just wouldn’t be affected by whether Dubai Ports World or some other company is unloading the cargo.

Now that may be the reality on the ground, but the political reality is far different.

This deal faces strong bipartisan opposition in Congress, Americans on both sides of the aisle are VERY UPSET about it, and since this is an election year and this issue is easily demagogued, it seems quite unlikely that you’re going to see a lot of lawmakers, especially ones that have to face the voters in November, support this deal.

For example, here’s a quote that was emailed to me by the National Republican Senatorial Committee from Jon Kyl, a conservative-as-the-day-is-long Arizona Senator who’s up for reelection this year:

“I share in the concerns that many of my constituents have voiced about the transfer of our major U.S. seaports operations to a company that is controlled by the United Arab Emirates. I believe that it raises serious questions about national security. I support efforts by Congress to look into the proposed deal and will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to stop it.”

If Bush can’t even count on the support of a guy like Jon Kyl on this issue, there’s just no way it’s going to happen. That’s why Bush would be better off just going ahead and killing the deal outright or convincing Dubai Ports World to pull out behind the scenes. The worst thing Bush can do politically is exactly what he’s currently doing: playing a game of chicken with what will probably turn out to be a bipartisan, veto-proof mob of House and Senate members. Right or wrong, it’s really bad politics and it won’t change how this is ultimately going to play out.

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