Monday, March 6, 2006

Dubai or Not to Buy, That is the Question

Whether 'tis nobler in the Houses of Congress and ye, upon the streets themselves, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous complaints, or to take arms against this sea of nonsense, and by enlightening end it.


Willie-the Shakes had it right. Sometimes you just have to say ‘nuff is ‘nuff and stop all that knee-jerking. The knee-jerks have had their day and their say. Up to our SUVs in a globalized economy, drowning in Muslim and Hindu and twenty other denominational producers of stuff we can’t get enough of at Wal-Mart, what sense does it make to howl over port supervision?


SheikhmohammaddubaiThe Dubai portion of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the particular hunk that belongs to Sheikh Mohammed, a vice-president of the UAE. This part of the Arab peninsula is so pro-West, it’s a better bet for security than those lovely old Brits they’re replacing. Get over the head-scarf and beard, this man is on our side.


P & O Ports North America has been operating across the country for many years under British ownership and, like so many routine international sales of companies, the same people will end up pushing the same paper across the same desks after the Dubai deal. Besides, P&O doesn’t have any direct impact on security, other than upholding standards dictated by the Coast Guard. It's not an option, it goes with the territory.


PandoportsCurrently, only two of the six largest container terminals in America are run by U.S. firms. The rest are operated by conglomerates from Hong Kong and Denmark. Denmark? Where they published the cartoons? Omigod! Hong Kong is run by those Red Chinese. Omigod!


If there’s a reason to get bent out of shape, it’s not transfer of operating ownership, but the happenstance mucking-about that passes for security on all container-ships and in all ports throughout the world. Among the thousands of ships, flying hundreds of flags, carrying hundreds of thousands of containers, which shell covers the pea?


ContainershipThere’s no way to know, other than doing the best we can do and that’s not saying much. Smuggling is as old a trade as shipping. It’s unrealistic to think a bomb couldn’t be smuggled into any port in the world, snuggled in among stacks of sealed containers that move from ship to truck without ever being looked over. A shell-game of immense proportion.


The only thing that can be counted upon is that selecting Dubai Ports World to run things is probably an improvement rather than a downgrade. They stand willing and, more importantly, able to make the necessary investments in whatever security upgrades are currently available.


President Bush is down at the moment in the public eye and the Congress is flat on its back with controversy and the swirl of corruption. In that atmosphere, take George Bush add his name to anything Arab, pour it over the ice of fear and controversy, stir, do not shake, and you have the perfect Calamity Cocktail.


And there’s always a crowd at the bar, thirsting for partisanship.


On the other hand, who is it that built this current atmosfear up and up and up into the bigger-than-life, 800 pound gorilla that it is? This administration runs on fear like an SUV guzzles gasoline. If it turns out that there’s not much mileage to be had from either one, the responsibility for that comes down to crying 'fire' once too often.   


Alas, poor Crier of Fire, I knew him well.
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More at my personal web site about what interests me in International Affairs.