Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hey, anybody seen a ghost?

The rough consensus yesterday to the question of why in the hell the Bush Administration was pushing the UAE port deal in the first place was that there was probably a quid pro quo and it must be a biggie. Both Digby and Atrios come to conclusion that blatant profiteering is only one piece of the puzzle but didn't make sense by and of itself, even for the current White House crowd. They both point to the UAE provides most of the docking rights for our warships in the region.

Digby writes---

It may be that we have gotten ourselves into a terrible position in which we cannot "offend" the UAE by blocking this deal because they may reciprocate by blocking access to their deep water ports. If that's the case, then we are being blackmailed by the UAE for big money and potentially putting our own ports in danger in the process.

So the situation is more complicated that it appears at first glance. The results of the UAE port deal will have broader strategic implications for the U.S. in the Middle East. Nor are they the only regional "ally" to stick it to the United States. Saudi Arabia joined Egypt in rejecting a call by the U.S. to cut off the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories.

Even our toadies are giving us the rhetorical finger. Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari recently responded to a U.S. warning to avoid sectarianism--

When someone asks us whether we want a sectarian government the answer is 'no we do not want a sectarian government' -- not because the U.S. ambassador says so or issues a warning..." (Reuters, 2/21/06)

Ouch. That's sort of like Jim Henson getting bitch-slapped by Kermit the frog.

I don't want to pretend that our relationships with our allies in the Middle-East are somehow different under the foreign policies of the Bush administration than they were under previous administrations. Governments from the UAE, to Saudi Arabia to the nascent Palestinian Authority have played both sides of the fence for years. At best they've been that buddy that borrows 50 bucks and then doesn't pay you back or return your calls. At worse they've been that buddy that runs off with your wife.

But I am feeling that same old frustration at lost opportunities that I get every time I think about events after they unfolded after the September the 11th attacks. With unprecedented international goodwill and calls for solidarity with the United States from countries as diverse as Iran and Russia we were in a position to effect international politics to an extent we won't see again in our lifetimes. We had practical carte blanche to change the world in a way that would ensure the security of our country. We had a huge store of political capital.

It seemed liked such a no-brainer that we would spend that capital on addressing the obvious roots of the problem that led to the attacks: oppressive, anti-democratic regimes in the Middle-East that were nominally classified as our "allies." Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE spring immediately to mind. If the United States was willing to play it's cards right and apply a tactful, thoughtful and global policy towards democratizing those regimes the U.S. could work itself into a much stronger strategic position. We were in the cat bird's seat towards making REAL change in the region for the first time in a generation.

Instead of all that we took tact, grabbed it by the shorties, threw it on the ground and kicked the living shit out of it. We burned up all that unprecedented international goodwill by going after Iraq. We took the bull-in-the-china-shop approach to foreign policy and it cost us.

It's costing us still.


Don Snabulus said...

Welcome to blogville, Dean.

Given that this outsourcing is going to a government-owned company, why not just create a USPS-like entity and do it ourselves? Keep the money here.

Plus, the potential government we are talking about has a few problems showing it doesn't align with terrorists.

To quote the article...

U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fort Pierce, is among a growing bipartisan group of lawmakers who criticize approval of the deal by the Treasury Department and Department of Homeland Security. He says the "potential threat to our country is not imagined, it is real," and also questions the Bush administration's vetting process. He notes that the UAE "still fails to recognize Israel as a sovereign state" and was one of just three countries to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

The article fails to mention that the other two Taliban recognizers were our good friends Saudi Arabia (15 hijackers) and Pakistan (1 hijacker).

The real security implications of this deal are covered very well by expert Bruce Schneier in this Wired magazine article.

Dean Wormer said...

Thanks Don!

I like the idea of a pseudo-Federal agency akin to the P.O.

It buggers imagination that we continue to fail to address the issues with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. I realize that dealing with those two governments isn't as flashy, and doesn't sell as well politically, as blowing up tanks and stuff fighting a proper army such as Iraq.

Besides terrorism these are governments with HUGE Human Rights issues to the extent that anyone crowing about removing Sadaam while ignoring the problems with our own allies is just plain nuts.

I liked the Wired article. Thanks for linking it!


Anonymous said...

Apparently the port deal was a surprise to Bush, like the rest of the congress, no big oil conspiracy here.

Dean Wormer said...

Thanks pa've.

So much "suprises" this administration. The 9/11 attacks of which they had ample warning. The collapse of the levees in New Orleans (also with ample warning.) The inevitable slide of Iraq into civil war predicted by Republicans and Democrats before hand.

It must be very exciting to work in this White House. Every day something wholly new and unexpected comes up. Every day a new beginning. Best of all? They never have to take responsibility for anything bad that happens that they didn't "expect." It's never their fault.

The most powerful man in the world who is responsible for the greatest military and intelligence resources on the face of the earth is, in the end, not responsible for anything.

It's a thing of beauty.

Oh, btw I don't care WHY Bush is so adamant about the port's deal going through. I just care that it's a bad idea when the security of the United States is considered.

Anonymous said...

The security of the United States was never an issue, the Coast Gaurd and Customs still control port security, just like they always have. And are you ignoring the fact that China has had control of US ports since BILL CLINTON enabled them back in the 90's?

Not to mention the Panama Cannal.

No, I find it very hard to critisize the present administration in any regard when I compare it to Bill's.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Clinton did do that. Right after China flew those planes into those buildings. Wait - that wasn't China. I forgot - China is the country that we are borrowing from in order to fund this stupid war in Iraq. But then borrowing billions of dollars from China couldn't hurt our national security.

Dean Wormer said...

Port security has been a continuing concern of Democratic legislators, particularly since 9/11. They have been unable to make ANY headway with the Republican Congress and the administration on the issue. In fact the administration has CUT funding for security at ports.

It just hasn't been that important to them until it bit them on the butt.

Personally I don't think our ports should be foreign owned. This goes for British, Chinese and UAE companies.

Oh, and I'm sure you're aware that by statute the coast guard has to share their security planning and strategy with the nearest governing ports.