“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation” -James Madison

Friday, March 10, 2006

Thieving opportunistic cowards

Take a look at this:

Persian Gulf - UAE

See where the northern coast curves upward as it goes east? In this area are 2 major port cities: Abu Dhabi and Dubai. These cities are not only economically important, but also strategically critical to the interests of the United States.

You see, these ports are important shipyard facilities for repair and docking of our various naval units stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Look at the map again. What else is important about the location of these previously-FRIENDLY port cities?

The difficulty in writing about this is not necessarily the volume of info found elsewhere (usually more lucidly-written); it is trying to figure out exactly which facet of this truly Gordian knot one thinks will unravel the whole mess.

Basic Facts I: UAE has been a mostly-reliable ally in the WoT, even if it is a capable practicioner of the arab tendency to double-deal. They have been a friendly port for our navy, a strong business partner in both commercial and military commerce, and are as westernized as the Middle East gets. The capital, Abu Dhabi, is being engineered and re-energized as a 21st-century wonder built in the style (if not the spirit) of Las Vegas. In addition to oil, tourism and commercial business venture capitalism are the names of the games there. They understand, better than many Americans, that cozying up to the dollar is the quickest way out of the 8th century.

Basic Facts II: As well-described elsewhere, they are not "buying the ports", nor will they be responsible for the security. Communist China has many state-owned businesses that own multiple terminals of the ports of Los Angeles. The simple fact is that no US company has been willing to make bids on any of these ventures. The true security for these terminals is NOT at the destination, but at the point of origin. Dubai Ports is a multi-national organization that is already responsible for the checking the manifests and providing security for cargo ships bound for US ports. The terminals in question were already owned and run by a British firm. This whole deal was a transaction already done by the two companies in question and was vetted by appropriate mid-level security agencies within the US government like any other deal involving foreign companies and US entryways.

Basic Facts III: Bush screwed up by first not prepping the field, and second by sticking his finger in the eyes of Congress with the veto threat. This served only to excite the passions of the various blowhards in the House and Senate to demand the gratification of their own egos. It was bad enough that the Dems were going to make trouble for this all along, but it was made worse when the cowardly Republicans caved in to electoral-year polling fear. When the uproar came, Bush could easily have said,

"You know, I understand the concern over this matter. The administration has satisfied itself that this deal is not only good, but it is also in the best interests of the United States. However, I have asked Dubai Ports to submit to a secondary screening process by the US Congress. This should take between 30 and 60 days, and will have the benefit of resolving the concerns of the Congress and the American people while limiting the delay to the business concerns of Dubai Ports. It is important and vital to the United States commercially and strategically to resist the temptation to demagogue this issue and blow it out of proportion. I emphasize that this deal in no way threatens the security of our port system, and we look forward to showing the American people and congressional leaders exactly why it is both safe and beneficial.

Instead, there was a provocation and a true example of political tone-deafedness that afflicts all 2nd-termers. The King is used to getting his way and has come to a place where he expects that if he says "National Security" it will squeak through somehow with little or no effort on his part.

Congress raised up, the 45-day wait went into effect, and then Dems and Repubs fell all over themselves in order to be the first to kill it. It took less than a week for the House committee to give it the thumbs-down, tying it to an appropriations bill for troop funding in Iraq. Cute. So Bush can veto it, choosing the ports over his troops, or go with the troops and turn his back on our best Mideast ally.

Of course, Dubai pulled out entirely, and they intend to divest themselves of other American holdings. In addition, this will cost Boeing dearly, as Dubai will almost certainly go over to Airbus now for their aviation needs. We can also expect a cold shoulder regarding any future economic or commercial needs from Dubai. They could even conceivably limit or curtail our presence in their own ports, leaving our Navy few options in the Gulf. The royal family that runs UAE are understandably furious and feel betrayed. Economically, an important trading partner has been estranged.

The US has a capitalistic system. This means that the more people trade money, goods, and services, the better off we all are. The globalization initiatives of the last decade are working to insure that this concept is spread around the world. If the investors do not put their money in the US, they will most certainly put it somewhere else. We have given economic power away over irrational fear and unjustified knee-jerk overreaction.

Worse, just when things are heating up with Iran, when we will need access to the UAE ports and accessways, we are likely to be frozen out or severely limited. A good friend is about to become a casual acquaintance or maybe even a hostile one.

This deal might have been the disaster people were saying it was. It might have been the great blessing other people said it was. The point is, we will never know, because an irrational Congress, acting on ego, electoral fear, opportunism, and a false sense of urgency, has insured that the deal died long before an indepent audit could be performed. It can be argued that congress was doing the Will of the People, but the People were ignorant, misinformed, and irrational in this process. There are times when Representative Democracy requires that the leaders ignore the shouting mob and do what is right, rather that what the People want.

As stated in a previous post, it is rare that I am ashamed of my country. This entire issue has made me more angry and upset at my fellow citizens and our leaders than any issue ever has. James Madison and company gave us the framework for a deliberative body of leaders that would not be susceptible to the parliament-style antagonisms and populist results. This congress, on both sides of the aisle, have proven themselves absolutely unworthy of the great powers and trust bestowed upon them. The thieving opportunistic cowards "won" in this fight.

I believe this issue is going to be a cornerstone for future grief for our nation. At a time when we desperately need friends in the Mideast, we are showing the Ugly American face of bigotry, reactionaryism, and shortsightedness. Economically, militarily, and geopolitically this sequence of events is a baby step to the oblivion of our ability to project power in certain spheres of influence.

Thanks, congressional Repubs. Go back to diddling interns and feeding at your trough now. You're a bad bunch all right, and the sooner we're shut of your kind the better off we all will be. You've weakened your president, divided your base, given the Dems an "in" on national security, and have proven once again that you don't deserve the power you have. Might as well let the Dems run the show.....