As usual, eminently reasonable, thoughtful, and persuasive. This is very far outside my area of expertise, so I can only offer a layman's gut feel — but my gut (which is usually a generally pro-free-trade let-the-market-decide gut) says that letting the United Arab Emirates firm run U.S. ports is likely bad policy and extraordinarily dumb politics. I'd be happy to be persuaded otherwise, but Lileks makes a pretty good case for his position.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has a long and characteristically thoughtful post on why we shouldn't be troubled by this. I hope he's right; but I'm still worried about the things that Lileks is worried about. Thanks to commenter Sprice for the pointer.

Bob Bobstein (mail):
This firm is spending billions of dollars to buy out the British company. I just don't see why it would do so to water down security here. Also, won't they still be subject to some sort of gov't oversight?

I am pleased to be proven wrong on this; it's an important issue and we oughtta take it real seriously.

I agree that it's bad politics. But if Bush (or, trusted underlings) really has taken a hard look at this and reasonably thinks it's the Right Thing to Do, good for him for sticking to his guns.
2.22.2006 12:55pm
AppSocRes (mail):
I didn't see any problem until I found out Jimmy Carter supports this policy. Based on Jimmy's proven track record on policy decisions, I've now decided this is a very bad idea.
2.22.2006 12:56pm
sprice (mail):
Check out Daniel Drezner for a different point of view which makes the policy quite sensible.

The one thing that reading blogs, like The Volokh Conspiracy, has taught me is that my layman's gut feel is often misguided because the details of the situation, which, being a layman I have little grasp of, are much more important then the theme proposed by conventional wisdom. It is nice to know that respected law professors are susceptable to the same reponse.

2.22.2006 12:58pm
Prof. Volokh wrote:
"but my gut (which is usually a generally pro-free-trade let-the-market-decide gut)"

It's my understanding that the firm in question is owned by the GOVERNMENT of the UAE, not a private enterprise competing on equal footing in the free market. As such, I see no inconsistency from your gut.
2.22.2006 1:26pm
Of course, it thus follows that this makes the decision a further abandonment of the administration's claimed conservative values.
2.22.2006 1:28pm
Paddy O. (mail):
I go back and forth. There's the common sense bit that suggests an Arab firm owning our ports is a bad idea. Then, I remember that the biggest terrorist attacks in recent history were caused by planes owned by American companies, flown out of American controlled airports.

Having this firm in control might in fact spur for more security and more oversight, which would make for safer ports in the long run.
2.22.2006 1:29pm
I'm no defender of GWB, but I'm on board with this editorial from the Washington Post. The British firm now managing the ports right is being acquired by a UAE firm. So the port's already "in foreign hands." And the UAE is about as dependable an ally as the British. This sort of reminds me of the controversy when "the Japanese" (actually, the Mitsubishi Estate Company) acquired a controlling interest in Rockefeller Center.
2.22.2006 1:36pm
Cornellian (mail):
CNN is quoting Bush as saying, incredibly, "I don't see why it's ok for a British company to operate our ports, but not an Arab company." Well darn, Mr. President, I personally think there could hardly be a bigger difference and I'm betting the vast majority of the US population thinks that's a huge distinction too.

I'm just astounded that he could be so unbelievably, politically tone deaf on this issue (thanks to Sen. Lindsay Graham for that phrase). Seriously, was Karl Rove on vacation or something when Bush decided to threaten a veto and to make that stupid comment.
2.22.2006 1:36pm
The BBC makes clear that, in fact, the old company, P&O, will continue to be London-based and will continue to manage U.S. port traffic with the same people it did previously. It's just that the ownership of the company has changed. So even if you're suspicious of Arab companies, there doesn't seem to be a big change here.
2.22.2006 1:57pm
But wouldn't it be more logical, rather than relying on the gut feelings of even the most intelligent and educated, to have a tribunal that investigates such matters and makes decisions based on the evidence gathered during the investigation? And isn't that what CFIUS is and does?
2.22.2006 2:03pm
And as for the politics, I don't suppose that the idea of letting people from the Soviet Union train the next generation of American lawyers would poll that well.
2.22.2006 2:09pm
Erik H.:
The real question is this:

If you think the transfer is wrong, why would you let private firms handle port security at all? If it's so damn important (like some here claim) the government should be doing it. It's not as if the mere fact of being US-owned will make someone more trustworthy, or less likely to hire workers on the basis of pay rather than competence, or the like. Hell, look at the TSA screener problems they had for a while; they couldn't hire good ones to save their ass.

And if it's NOT so serious to require government takeover, why focus purely on nationality? Sure, the UAE has terrorists. So does Ireland. So does the UK. So does the U.S., both muslim and not (anyone remember Oklahoma? Two white Christians, if I recall correctly).

If the government wanted to improve security--which I fully support--they could screen all employees, add government monitors, or similar things. But treating a US company ownership like a magic pill is ridiculous.
2.22.2006 2:11pm
Just to clarify, port security is currently, and will continue to be, handled by the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs. The British (soon to be UAE) company would be administering the ports, but not providing security guards etc...
2.22.2006 2:18pm
Here is the money shot from Lileks' commentary, "...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."

It sounds like he's saying, the liberals will worry about actual terrorist attacks. Conservatives need to be concerned about how this thing looks politically.

Am I wrong about this interpretation?
2.22.2006 2:26pm
volokh watcher (mail):
Dan Drezner says:
P&O is one of eight terminal operators responsible for marketing the port, signing agreements with shipping lines, hiring labor, loading ships, and moving cargo.
(My emphasis.)

Sorry Eugene, we must part company. I just don't get how a UAE-owned company that controls hiring, loading ships, and moving cargo should make me feel okay because -- tahdah -- the US will provide security.

The US provided security pre-9/11, knowing full well Bin Laden wanted to fly jets into buildings and knowing that Bin Laden wanted to destroy the WTC towers because he'd tried once before. The US analyzed the intelligence for WMDs in Iraq. The US assessed intel on the ground in Iraq post-invasion. And the US knew before Katrina that the mother of hurricanes was headed to New Orleans.

I love my country. I support our military. I pray no more attacks come.

But our track record for security and intel isn't great.

I just don't see why we should agree to turning over the ports to an Arab-controlled company that decides who to hire and handle the cargo, given our track record on security and intel. (And why not an American company -- it's not like we couldn't use the jobs above stevedore.)

Sometimes our first instincts are right. I think yours were right.
2.22.2006 2:26pm
Steve in CA (mail):
So I've read some of the coverage of this, but I 've never seen the congressmen's actual objections spelld out. It is just that the company is owned by A-rabs, and they're the same race and religion as the 9/11 hijackers? That's can't be it, can it? Is the company that's buying the ports somehow connected to terrorism?
2.22.2006 2:26pm
I just read the Drezner post, and according to the Christian Science Monitor article he quotes, P&O (now owned by DPW) isn't even "managing the ports" -- they just lease some terminals at some ports, along with lots of other companies. If I'm reading that correctly, it means P&O's terminal-leasing is just like when Emirates Airways leases a terminal at an airport. Emirates Airways determines which planes can load and unload at that terminal and when; but not what security checks the plane and passengers have to go through, or clearance to enter U.S. airspace, or permission to land, etc. Perhaps someone familiar with how port facilities actually work can provide more detail.
2.22.2006 2:30pm
I second AppSocRes's remarks.
2.22.2006 2:41pm
margate (mail):
I don't know how serious the security issues would be if UAE takes over. Maybe the risks increase, maybe they stay flat, maybe they go down. [Not being a risk-taker in these times, I'd error on the side of avoiding anything that might increase the risk.]

But I believe this.

We've heard nothing but "terror, terror, terror" for the past 4 years. Anyone who's challenged the administration about anything "terror" is a pre-9/11 thinker, weak on Al Qaeda.

We've been hearing about how the NSA's spying program on would-be terrorists is critical. The administration's spokespeople have made it sound (purposely or not) as though we're surrounded by terrorists, here in the US and abroad, so we need to be agile in monitoring their every move.

Every night it seems on Fox, we hear how the Democrats want to coddle terrorists.

And we've heard for a long while now, after WMDs didn't turn up, that we need to stay in Iraq to fight those "Islamofascists" over there rather than over here.

It's not like "Islamofascists" refers to white-European-males (with a couple of notable exceptions, like John "Johnny Taliban" Lindh). The face of terror is Bin Laden, Atta, Moussaoui, Sheik Muhammad, and the 3 Ohioans from the middle east just indicted and whose faces have been all over the TV.

We've been "terror-ized" by this adminstration.

The American psyche has been so terror-ized that I just can't see how one squares the Iraq/NSA-spying/Patriot Act rhetoric, and the administration's missteps on Iraq and Katrina, with "Oh, the UAE is our friend, trust us".

Most Americans may not know where exactly the UAE is on a map. But they know that "the UAE" is made of lots of people who practice Islam -- like Bin Laden, Atta, Moussaoui, Sheik Muhammad, and the 3 Ohioans.

This Administration is reaping the seeds of having "terror-ized" America.
2.22.2006 3:03pm
Mikeyes (mail):
The problem is clearly political, so fairness does now compute as a factor. With Rumsfeld, the president and virtually everyone above the grade of janitor stating that they are blindsided by this move, with the president offering a veto in face of bipartisan anger, and the pure surreal theater this event offers, you would think that the administration is incompetent.

With just a little googling, most of the assertions made by the administration about ignorance of the event is countered (e.g. Rumsfeld sits on the CFIUS board) and with just a little common sense most people would realize in this time of fear of terrorists (abetted by the administration) that making such a move is a questionable political decision.

Apparently the transfer requires a vetting by CFIUS first and this was accomplished in very short order, not the full 45 days allowed. Most likely the company is as trustworthy as the Brits, but who cares? The political overtones are much more important in this decision.

Now what will happen is that the whole deal will be scrutinized and the inevitable links between Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and a host of others with this company or the British company will be made and even though there will be no causal link found, just the 6th degree of relationship will be enough to make the Republicans miserable.
2.22.2006 3:09pm
farmer56 (mail):
Relax people;

One company sold to another. Now. If I cant profile people in airports and on streets in the middle of the night (or can we?) than we cant profile companies either. simple. Huh? This has nothing to do with security. These are the companies that load and unload ships. Simple. Someone can go crazy? but? tell me how many U.S. Companies are in charge of our ports today? Save you some time ZERO.

AND YES I do repeat myself. If I get to profile companies. I get to profile anybody on our shores. That would include wire taps. (Hey they are Arab, at least look like Arabs!)
2.22.2006 3:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

I know you were being sarcastic, but really, is Jimmy Carter's record as bad as you say it is? Jimmy Carter's actions with respect to North Korea during the Clinton years, for instance, look a lot better than what Bush came up with since he's been in office. Jimmy Carter was opposed to the Iraq war-- that looks pretty smart now too. And Jimmy Carter has-- more than any other ex-president, been involved in the promotion of democracy, supervision of elections, reduction of domestic poverty, and all sorts of other worthy causes.

I know it is fashionable on the right to HATE Jimmy Carter. Certainly Ronald Reagan, the right wing's modern patron saint, ran against Carter in 1980 and I would therefore expect that many on the right would not feel he was a very good President. (That happens, as well, to be an accurate assessment.) But the vitriol towards Carter as an EX-President seems to be almost a willful denial of reality, a desire to discredit anything that could be said to be on the "left" rather than a serious evaluation of the man's beliefs.
2.22.2006 3:14pm
If I get to profile companies. I get to profile anybody on our shores.

No one is "profiling companies." We are deciding whether or not we want a foreign government to have responsibility for a segment of American commerce. We do, in fact, get to choose which nations we do business with - unless you think, for example, that if we trust England on something we are similarly obligated to trust Iran.

If the corporation in question was not state-run then you might have a sort of point.
2.22.2006 3:40pm
Anand H (mail):
Lileks - persuasive, yes. If you like his brand of sentimentalism. Eminently thoughtful? Reasonable? Perhaps you meant imminently, because he's not quite there yet...
2.22.2006 3:42pm
Irensaga (mail):
And where does Bush get the political capital to fight this battle?

If it's no big deal, why didn't he just drop it and let Congress do what they're constitutionally entitled to do: legislate?

It's like a football wide receiver pausing to help an offensive lineman make a block when he needs to be running the ball in.

Aren't we supposed to be talking about renewable energy and dependance on foreign oil right now?

I swear, it's like he has ADD or something.
2.22.2006 3:58pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Dilan Esper,

Jimmy Carter's endorsement was the kiss of death, but not for the reason you think. Consider what happened to the Congressmen and Senators who supported him on the Panama Canal treaty. Many were defeated for their next relection - Howard Baker's presidential ambitions died right there - and no one, but no one, received any positive benefits from supporting it. Michael Barone devotes a whole page to the political disaster the Panama Canal treaty was for its supporters in his book, Our Country.

Jimmy Carter's endorsement of this port sale is reason for elected officials to run away screaming.

I emailed a suggest to Barone that this be the subject of his next column. If he buys it, I predict that the Bush administration will defuse and then bury the controversy by ordering the mandatory 45-day review this sale escaped the first time (see Mikeye's post), and then deny the sale based on the review's recommendations. The commissioners will be quietly informed that their continued affiliation with taxpayer money will depend on denial of the application.
2.22.2006 4:14pm
Another thought on the Dailykos line near the end -- that they will start worrying about dirty bombs smuggled in through ports.

Actually, left-wing blogs have been harping about inadequate port security for years.
2.22.2006 4:16pm
Anomolous (mail) (www):
Well, I don't know if the port deal is a good idea or not, but it is interesting to note that members of the UAE royal family have lunched with Osama bin Laden before.
2.22.2006 4:37pm
farmer56 (mail):

so 11 people hijacked planes and murdured more that 3000 people. They were Arab. Can I profile these or not? still waiting for the people that own the companies that load and unload ships at U.S. Docks.

And your anology! Gee! I guess if most of our convicted crimminals are not white We can exclude them from our commerce also. Hell of a logical system you got there.
2.22.2006 4:37pm
I believe it was wrong to confine Japanese-Americans in internment camps after Pearl Harbor. However, I do not believe it was wrong to blame the government of Japan for Pearl Harbor. There is a difference between blaming a race and blaming a nation.
2.22.2006 4:43pm
Thief (mail) (www):
Points that I am not seeing addressed:

1. P&O (the London company), will be a subsidiary of DPW. In essence, this just adds one more managerial layer on top. Security will still rest with the USCG and Customs. Yes, DPW will be briefed on Port Security requirements, but a) the company has a lot of American senior executives as well (I had no idea their COO is an American, and an ex-Navy Officer to boot.)

2. The workers at these ports will still be American. Importantly, the non-management workers will all be union members (the longshoremen are members of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union, and the container truck and train drivers are represented by the Teamsters). Whatever other quibbles I may have with union members, I highly doubt the unions will consent to any company wanting to bring questionable foreign workers onto the payroll for unknown purposes, or respond favorably to any request to fudge records.

3. The UAE, as several commenters over on the Corner noted, have been a great help in the GWoT, specifically earning an endorsement from the Joint Chiefs. Also from the NRO symposium on the deal:

December 2004: Dubai was the first government in the region to sign on to the U.S. Container Security Initiative to screen all containers heading for the United States for security risks.

May 2005: Dubai signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to bar passage of nuclear material from passing through its ports, and install radiation-detecting equipment.

June 2005: The UAE joined the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

October 2005: The UAE Central Bank directed banks and financial institutions in the country to tighten their internal systems and controls in their fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. UAE banks routinely cooperate with U.N. and international law-enforcement agencies in supplying information about suspect accounts.

November 2005: In the wake of the terror bombings in Jordan, General Shaykh Muhammad Bin-Zayid Al Nuhayyan, heir apparent of Abu Dhabi and supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, stated that Muslim scholars who live among us must adopt a stand toward this terrorism If they do not declare [terrorists] to be infidels, they should at least consider them as non-Muslims. If there are no honest stands toward these non-religious and inhumane operations, these [attacks] will continue.

December 2005: The UAE National Consultative Council [their parliament] called for declaration of an all-out war against terrorism and depriving any person who pledges allegiance to foreign extremist groups the right of UAE citizenship. The council proclaimed that it regarded links to such groups as high treason.

The UAE has also assisted the Coalition effort in Iraq, in particular training Iraqi security forces and sending material assistance to the Iraqi people.

4. Don't you think the owners of DPW are aware that if there is ever any incident that smack of terrorist influence, they will lose a lot of business? (DPW also runs ports in Australia, India, Germany, Romania, the Dominican Republic and Djibouti, not to mention the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Hong Kong, and China.) It seems they have a vested financial interest and incentive in keeping those ports secure. If they do not, they will lose a lot of business.

5. Pardon my venting, but we now have Congressmen and Senators from both parties being paranoid, hypocritical bigots. Democrats who once demanded that we need allies and friends to regain our "respect" in the world are now demanding we screw one of these new allies out of a contract signed in good faith; similarly, Republicans who once said the wars we are fighting are not with Muslim people, now are basically saying "all that aside, we still don't trust them ay-rabs." It's hard to believe, but for the first time that I can remember, it's BUSH who comes off looking principled while everyone else goes into hysterical shrieking political panic mode. (And John McCain and Joe Lieberman, to give credit where credit is due.)

I agree that the administration could have handled the PR on this better. But the security objections have been considered and answered, and everyone involved in the deal understands the stakes. To be honest, I thought we were above this kind of stereotyping.

How can we expect the UAE and other countries in the Middle East to keep their promises to us when we refuse to do the same?
2.22.2006 5:01pm
A great way to address these issues and more would be to engage in the mandatory statutory review required by the Exon-Florio Amendment whenever a proposed transaction gives a foreign government control over an aspect of U.S. commerce.

Congressional leaders from both parties are merely asking that the deal be examined in greater detail, as the law happens to require. Unfortunately, this appears to be yet another law that the President does not feel obligated to follow. That said, I do not think our national security should be delegated to the editorial staff of National Review, particularly when one considers the line they would likely take were it President Kerry who was pushing this deal.
2.22.2006 5:22pm
Wintermute (www):
Kinda like having the Soprano family in charge of the docks.

Why accept British ownership of our port facilities as an OK thing to start with? After two wars against us, and us in two wars on their side, they've gotten us into several of their post-imperial problems.

This will spark discussion on corporate globalization vs. nationalism, and that will be OK and something to avoid brainlock during.
2.22.2006 5:27pm
volokh watcher (mail):
Steve2 said:
Another thought on the Dailykos line near the end -- that they will start worrying about dirty bombs smuggled in through ports.

Actually, left-wing blogs have been harping about inadequate port security for years.


Last night on Hannity &Colmes -- maybe you saw -- Bill Frist was on. After saying that he wanted the deal halted to ensure some level of comfort on the part of the American people, Hannity says, in substance:

"But Senator, don't you think that your suggestion just gives the Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and John Kerry -- the people who've been attacking the President for everything he's tried to do for 5-and-a-half years -- a opening to make this a political issue?"

Leave it to Hannity to say, "screw the American people, screw national security, what's paramount is making George Bush look good even when he looks like a complete ass."

I guess that was the best Rove could do in spinning talking points for Fox last night.

By the way, Frist didn't exactly take the bait. But nor did he disavow Hannity's suggestion that for Schumer/Clinton/Kerry it's only about politics.
2.22.2006 5:47pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
There's the common sense bit that suggests an Arab firm owning our ports is a bad idea.

"Common sense"? I would call that xenophobic and jingoistic. . . . Now, I am not going to get on my high horse and say that I am not guilty of thinking the same way quite often, but I admit to myself that that sort of thinking is hardly common sense.

2.22.2006 6:49pm
The Original TS (mail):
Well said, thief.

This paranoia about about DPW is, charitably, stupidity. Uncharitably, it's racist stupidity.

I have yet to see anyone, Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, identify anything they are specifically afraid of. All we get is vigorous hand-waiving.

DPW has bought a company and made an investment. The actual workers and on-site managers will all remain the same and security will still be the responsibility of the USG. They're going to be responsible for such potentially subversive activities as making investment recommendations and introducing more cost-efficient methods of freight handling.

So what's the actual fear? That DPW is going to introduce an ISO 9001 process for smuggling WMDs?
2.22.2006 7:09pm
One thing to point out here is that Dubai is one of the most progressive and Westernized cities in the Middle East. UAE rulers have staked their reputations and legitimacy upon transforming Dubai into a Middle Eastern Singapore. What this means for practical purposes is that the UAE probably has more to fear from Islamic extremism than even the U.S. We are not talking about Saudi Arabia here. The government has so far managed to keep a lid on Islamic extremism and for good reason: religious fanaticism would wreck the legacy that the UAE's rulers have been building for the past thirty-odd years.

That being said, it seems odd to harp on the port deal while not making a sound about the fact that Arab pilots hired by state-owned Middle-Eastern airlines are allowed to take off from JFK airport in fully-fueled jets relatively close to high-rise apartment buildings. If you're going to be xenophobic, shouldn't you be consistent as well?
2.22.2006 7:44pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Arab Airliners fly into D.C. and NYC every day. One crazy Egyptian crashed one in the Atlantic in 1999 chanting to Allah as he did so.
2.22.2006 7:45pm
James of England:
Lileks gives the game away when he says "wanting port control to remain in American hands is not a matter of Arabiaphobia". This might be true. Since the question is not an American to foreigner transaction, the question does not come up, though. Rather the question involves a transfer of ownership of a company that owns some leases from a British listed company to a board headed by one of the most honourable, decent, and pro-American leaders in the free world and containing numbers of Americans. The company will be more American after the shift than before.

Once you get rid of the "I don't hate Arabs, I just think that non-Americans in general cannot be trusted" lie, you have to find a reason for preferring the UK to the UAE. I cannot think of one. My countrymen have numbered more Al-Qaida terrorist martyrs. Back when I was a assistant compliance officer in an investment bank (summer job) I became very aware of the degree to which there was very little UAE money laundering that did not also involve the UK. Personally, I'd feel much more comfortable with the UAE handling people who handle people who pay Americans to lift cargo than my own countrymen doing so, since there has always seemed to me to be a greater anti-western feeling amongst the business elite of London than of Dubai.

Prof. Volokh, I think that the reason Drezner does not talk about Lilek's concerns is that Lileks is talking about the political fallout (you don't want to look like an Arab-lover) and Drezner is talking about the actual security threat presented. I suspect that both are right. The vile racists who populate Lou Dobbs Tonight and suchlike will have a powerful tool to attack politicians as not being sufficiently hostile to darkietough on security. There won't be an ounce of threat to security.

Indeed, quite the contrary. To my mind this plays alongside the Mittal scandal. In both cases a western government is saying that the rules that let them invest safely in Asia don't allow Asian companies to invest in them. Read almost any Friedman article from the last few weeks and you'll hear about how important it is to diversify Middle Eastern economies. We really don't want to try to persuade them not to diversify by banning their new vectors of investment. The UAE is at the forefront of doing so. Already there is a widespread (and fairly accurate) perception that arabs don't have the right complexion to keep money in the US. It's a small world out there and 6 degrees of KB quickly becomes 3 or 4 of Bin Laden, so even the most decent and upright of people can be tainted by vile smears and find their assets under threat of freezing. Sheik Mohammed and Sheik Khalifa have led the muslim world in their calls for and practical reforms leading to tolerance for other religions, proper free trade, liberal social values, and democracy.

Wintermute, are you really saying that they shouldn't have UK companies because of the war of 1812? I now almost want to be refused employment out here on that basis. Funniest reason for a refusal eva.

Greedy Clerk, "common sense" is almost always a term for the kind of black box reasoning that admits to prejudice. I presume that when Prof. Volokh uses the term he intentionally implies that he is using some irrational suppositions to get to his conclusion.
2.22.2006 7:48pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

You are right that the Panama Canal treaty was terribly unpopular, hurt Carter, and hurt those who supported it in Congress.

But I don't think it was because of Carter's association with it; it would have been just as unpopular had Ford or Reagan did it, because it raised huge national interest concerns during the midst of the Cold War.

That said, what you don't mention is that Carter turned out to be right (so far) on the merits of the Panama Canal treaty. Indeed, the Panama Canal, South African Apartheid, and the Clinton tax increase are probably the three biggest issues where the American right wing was proven to be totally alarmist over the past 50 years or so. In all three cases, conservatives predicted absolute doom if policies they did not favor (returning the canal to Panama, sanctioning South Africa and supporting Mandela, and raising taxes to cut the deficit) were enacted. In all three cases, the policies were enacted, and the predicted ruin never materialized.

Of course, with the port deal, there is bipartisan doomsaying, so maybe this is different. I do know this-- I wouldn't allow it if I were Bush simply because if there is an attack on a port after Dubai takes over, it doesn't matter if the contract has nothing to do with it, Bush is going to get blamed.
2.22.2006 7:57pm
Anomolous (mail) (www):
I found the State Department's The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for US Policy to be an interesting starting point for learning more about the issues surrounding the UAE...

Summary: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), under new leadership upon the November 2, 2004 death of its president, Shaykh Zayid bin Sultan al-Nuhayyan, has undergone a smooth transition, but it remains weak militarily and surrounded by several powerful and ambitious neighbors. Political reform has been minimal, but its relatively open economy and borders, particularly in the emirate of Dubai, have caused problems in proliferation, terrorism, and human trafficking.
2.22.2006 8:09pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):

The Panama Canal Treaty was a political disaster for its supporters, especially its Republican supporters, for reasons wholly unrelated to Jimmy Carter. But his endorsement of the port sale is a reminder of what happened to the Canal Treaty supporters.

I agree the Canal Treaty was a good thing. It was just fatal politically for many elected officials.

I'm not an elected official. Carter's endorsement of the port sale doesn't scare me.

McCain's endorsement of it scares me. His judgment in matters of state is incredibly bad.
2.22.2006 8:09pm
D. Fox (mail):
I admire Lileks myself, but I think describing today's effort as "eminently reasonable [and] thoughtful" is a little. . .effusive. Lileks is usually better than this:

"But the specifics don't matter; arguments about the specific nature of the Dubai Ports World organization's global reach and responsible track records don't matter. Because it feels immediately, instinctively wrong to nearly every American, and that isn't something that can be argued away with charts or glossy brochures. It just doesn't sit well. Period."

In other words: Never mind the facts. Only my feelings matter.

I'm sorry, but I don't see what's either "reasonable" or "thoughtful" about that.
2.22.2006 8:10pm
SimonD (www):
I'm just astounded that [Bush] could be so unbelievably, politically tone deaf on this issue
Really? Were you just not around last spring when he hit a brick wall on social security, and just kept on digging? Or last fall when he nominated Harriet Miers, hit a brick wall of near-total hostility from his own supporters and just kept digging?

Joe Gandelman is pointing out - accurately, I think - that the Bush administration is treating this exactly the same as it always does: pig-headed hard-charging drawbridge-raising self-belief. What's that word one uses to describe someone who does the same thing over and over again expecting success? When is Bush going to realize that Congress is less and less interested in him, and more and more interested in getting re-elected. Let's have a show of hands: how many people here at VC seriously think a Republican Congressman or Senator is so loyal to Bush that s/he's willing to lose his/her seat so that a middle-eastern company can run US ports? You think it's a higher or lower number than the number who were willing to go out on a limb for him on social security reform?
2.22.2006 8:43pm
KMAJ (mail):
This is much ado about nothing or political grandstanding, if you will. It has nothing to do with security, the company oversees the operation of the docks, loading and unloading, etc., but still has to comply with all the laws and security agreements. DPO is the third or fourth largest port management company in the world. Were you aware that a Chinese company manages the Port of Los Angeles ?

Those who want to say the administration bungled the handling of this, that they certainly did. In the hostile political and adversarial media environment, this was an example of ineptitude in public relations. The media and politicians on both sides, looking to make a good soundbite, have blown it out of proportion. The damage this furor may cause to relations with arab allies and moderate arab opinion is salavageable, but if this is port operation is denied, the damage will be irreversible. The anti-arab racism that bleeds as the undercurrent for this issue is frightening and dangerous.

The administration could have helped avoid this if they had shown some foresight, but someone dropped the ball in not informing the president, instead of accepting it as a delegated authority not worth bringing to the executive's attention and Congress should have been informed (I am not sure if this was presented to appropriate committees in the House and Senate during the investigation process which started in December).
2.23.2006 2:13pm
Mikeyes (mail):
D Fox sez (referring to the Lileks article):

"In other words: Never mind the facts. Only my feelings matter"

When have "facts" ever mattered in American politics, especially now (I know, you can bring up instances where it did make a difference but only after the facts were spun so thouroughly that everyone else's head spun too)whe crucial elections are closing in.

The concern is not whether there is racism or whether there are credible threats as a result of the buyout, or even whether overall security is compromised, the general concern arises from appearances and no matter how hard you try to be reasonable and no matter how much evidence you bring to bolster your arguments (and I happen to believe that this is not a security problem for all the reason mentioned above) voters are going to operate in the atmosphere of fear that has been promulgated since 9/11. Some may think of this as ironic petard hoisting, but most likely the same fears would be present if Kerry or Ross Perot were president. It is the nature of the beast, in this case terrorism and the vivid images of 9/11.

So facts don't matter, at least in the short run. This may be a case of "voter nullification" (voting the other way in spite of the facts) if it ever gets to be an issue in the November elections.
2.23.2006 2:51pm
D. Fox (mail):
Mikeyes: I think we're talking about different things. You're addressing the political fallout. You may well be right about that. I was addressing the merits, and especially Prof. Volokh's description of Lileks' post as "emininently reasonable [and] thoughtful."
2.24.2006 1:28am
James of England:
Regarding Lilek's underlying biases and level of understanding, I think it is informative that he feels that, given a choice between El Al and "UAE", by which one assumes he must mean "Emirates" 99% of people would choose to fly El Al. Given that El Al has a fleet of 34 planes, with 2 more on order, and Emirates has 88 planes, with 97 on order (it's growing pretty fast). FWIW: lists it as a 4* airline, El Al as a 3*, with Dubai as the 6th best airport and no Israeli airport in the top 20.

These figures are more powerful than they might at first appear, since many (most?) El Al passengers are going to or from Israel, whereas few Emirates passengers are interested in Dubai as anything other than a pitstop.

Another comparison might be that El Al is apparently being worth about a hundred million dollars today, down from its privatisation value of $120,000,000. Emirates received 7 times that in profit last year (their planes are bigger as well as more numerous).
2.24.2006 7:47am
Mikeyes (mail):
D Fox:

I agree, there are two different things here and my take on the facts of the matter is that there is no problem and a fair 45 day vetting will reveal that there are no more problems in this case than with any other port ownership.

My point is that none of that matters as this is an instant political issue which trumps any attempts at factfinding or honest debate. Between sniping the administration and covering various Republican asses in the light of upcoming elections, no on is going to want to deal with the facts. Karl Rove's best chance is to have the 45 day rule invoked and in the interim the public will have forgotten what happened and go on and argue over the next American Idol.
2.24.2006 11:55am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
No more problems? So you say this brouhaha about the Dubai ports sale is misplaced?

Tell that to the citizens of Tampa, in the area of the Central Command at McDill, and a MAJOR ports city now approving a contract for the Dubai ports management here -- where Federal District Court Judge James D. Whittemore and the Bush Administration FBI have allowed an admitted confessed perjurer who masqueraded as an Ocean Unlimited Master licensed in four different Countries who claimed to be a "Cruise Ship Captain" authorized to operate "any vessel on any seas" to pose a signficant threat to the National Security of America's ports and waterways.

This perjurer (named Theron Hutto) never possessed any such licenses and to this day is allowed to walk free of a criminal conviction for his perjury masquerade to enable his unfettered access to our ports.

This perjurer could readily have taken his Court papers to a foreign terrorist organization and, with Federal Court and FBI approval of his perjury, used them absent US Coast Guard licensing to aid an enemy organization to bring in nuclear materials by passing off the licenses he did not have (i.e, that are falsely stated in Court papers) to pass thru all security measures. He also claimed to have ties to the Middle East.

See, The Vessel Mistress, M.D. Fla. 05-cv-2534 on PACER.

And Americans should not be extremey concerned?

And when the perjury threatening America's ports and waterways was revealed, Judge Whittemore stated the perjury was of no consequence.

When will it be of consequence? After a terrorist attack on Tampa by masqueraders allowed to slip through Federal Government oversight with false maritime credentials?

Mary Katherine Day-Petrano
2.24.2006 1:12pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
It is also important to remember while America's ports are so insecure, appx. only 5% of all cargo can be inspected by the USCG. And, as suggested above, the FBI once again knows of a National security threat (false maritime licensing claims) just as it knew of 9-11 hijackers before 3000 Americans died.

And how many times does history have to repeat itself before these kinds of individuals posing National security breaches are prosecuted before a disaster happens?
2.24.2006 3:38pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"The Vessel Mistress, M.D. Fla. 05-cv-2534 on PACER"=The Vessel Mistress, M.D. Fla. 04-cv-2534 on PACER.
2.24.2006 3:56pm