Wanna Buy a Port?

Harold Meyerson (“Wanna Buy a Port?” Washington Post February 22, 2006) wants to go back home. He wants the US as he knew it: machine tool industry still in Cleveland, high-tech manufacturing still in the Eastern seaboard and corporations with a notion of citizenship. As we all learn when moving back in with mother after college, you can never go back home.

The world has changed. Nations are now linked in ways beyond tourism and communications: labor now builds parts that are then shipped abroad to be assembled and then shipped again to be sold in another nation. Corporations are unable to compete without making changes to meet the new global economy. Globalization does not surprise anyone anymore, except when there is supposedly a security interest involved, then some think it is all fire and brimstone in America’s future. The concern this time is about selling port management, note it is not the port or who comes into port, just the management company, to an Arab country. I like how he deploys the word ‘Arab,’ as if it is a dirty word. It is an ambiguous word. The United Arab Emirates share one thing in common with Iran, Pakistan and others: the main religion of its population is Islam. But, that does not excuse ignoring the stark differences between UAE and other Arab nations. UAE is an ally of the US. While there may be some citizens that are disgruntled with US policy in the Middle East, note Miami or any of the other ports are not near these people, it would be a disastrous mistake to conflate UAE as anti-American, similar to saying everyone from Michigan is a threat to FBI buildings everywhere, not just Oklahoma City.

Meyerson then claims security is all-important except when economics is involved. Now I have to ask who is selling whom short here? The Bush Administration, of which I am no fan, has consistently acted against shareholders when security is a concern; a look at our sanctions against China is enough proof of this. There are many export controls on dual use technologies Chinese firms would love to purchase. There are space technologies China is actively looking to purchase that American firms would love to sell. Iran recently opened up bids to American firms to build power plants and to invest in oil fields, yet Bush denies American firms the opportunity to bid for these contracts. All in the name of security.

Meyerson throws up two assumptions that are supposedly so powerful in their charge that evidence and arguments are unnecessary: Arabs bad and security good. I remember the schoolyard recess when we would not let girls play kickball with us: girls bad and athletes good. Let us grow up.

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