Sunday, February 26, 2006

Thoughts on Portgate

Since every other blogger in the world is commenting on PortGate, I thought I would throw in my 2 cents.

When I first heard about outsourcing the management of our ports to a UAE owned company, I was outraged as many others are. I do believe it was incredibly bad judgement on the part of the Bush administration to authorize this without preparing the nation through a debate on the topic. Upon further reflection, I don't necessarily believe it is a bad theory, although clearly it involves more risk than I and many others are comfortable with. I want to trust that the government has a pure and honest rationale, although their track record is not one the promotes trust with me.

Let me start be saying that I do not believe that military engagement, such as our action in Iraq, has or will do anything to decrease our risk of terrorism. I believe that terrorism rates are similar to crime rates in the US. The rates are not dependent upon how many police officers are working in a given area, but instead on the economic strength of the neighbothood. I believe the only true solution to international terrorism is to break down some of the large inequities in the world. The best way to do this is to promote economic stability in areas of the world that currently lack it. The primary problem with much of the middle east is the lack of a broad economic base to support a powerful nation.

If we do outsource the management of our ports to the UAE, it will provide a stronger economic connection to the UAE, and more importantly, a connection that is not based solely on oil. I think this is a step in the right direction and much more positive than military intervention.

With that said, I think we have chosen a particular area of very high risk to embark on this experiment. I would feel much more comfortable engaging less security oriented operations to countries with which we do not have a long standing trusted relationship. Some might claim that this is a racist response, I do not. Relationships usually begin by exposing small portions of risk, allowing trust to build up over time. The most security focused assets are usually reserved for long term partners who have proven time and again to be trust worthy. I, as a citizen of this country, have had little exposure to how the UAE has handled our less secure assets, to know if they have earned the ability to manage our critical ports. In addition, you usually pick partners who you are confident will be with you in the long run. What will our relationship be with the UAE when their oil runs out. I would like to think that we will still be their friend, but I am not so naive to truely believe that.

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