Monday, February 27, 2006

U.S. to cede full administrative control of its southern border to Mexico

(Updated at 1:54 a.m.)

In the news:
At a press conference Sunday afternoon, President Bush announced that he and Mexican President Vicente Fox have reached an agreement that will completely cede administrative control of the southern U.S. border to Mexican authorities.

In a pre-emptive counter to Democrats' expected criticism, Bush made specific assurances that the deal would save the U.S. money while having no detrimental effect on border security. "This is win-win for both the United States and Mexico. The same American border agents will continue to report to work every day. Only administrative functions will be taken over by Mexican citizens, and they'll be subject to the same scrutiny by the Department of Homeland Security."

Bush's former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Gregory Mankiw, attended to cite the benefits of free trade. Mankiw was heavily criticized during the 2004 presidential election campaign for defending the outsourcing of American jobs to foreign nations as beneficial. Mankiw explained today, "Mexican officials on our side will be paid the same as their counterparts on the other side. Those will be new and well-paying jobs for the Mexicans, and that's actually good for us. NAFTA and other Free Trade Agreements have empirically demonstrated that we lose some jobs at first, but because our trading partners suddenly have higher incomes, they can buy more goods and services from us. Overall, we actually get more jobs that pay even more."

As expected, Democrats launched an all-out attack on what Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, claimed "is a self-created danger to U.S. national security." After the introduction to his regular Sunday press conference, he yielded to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, to make the main criticism for the Democratic Party. She accused President Bush of forging a deal that, if anything, would open up the border to increased illegal immigration. Via video teleconferencing, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson appeared angry, shaking his fist as he blasted the agreement. "This will only encourage more drug trafficking across our southern border, and more Mexican gang violence against our border towns. And this President claims to stand for national security?"
No such press conferences took place, actually. This is only a satire I wrote tonight to illustrate a few points about the Bush Administration's deal to permit Dubai Ports World, a company directly owned by the United Arab Emirates, to assume administrative control over U.S. ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans.

I first read about it on Michelle Malkin's blog on the 16th, when she referenced a New York Sun article. Mainstream media was quiet for the first days or two after the deal's approval. As Michelle noted, most news outlets were too busy talking about Dick Cheney's accidentally shooting his friend while hunting. Meanwhile, a very real threat to national security began brewing.

Maybe I'm still more conservative than I thought. Last June, because of socialists among conservative ranks, I stopped calling myself "a conservative with libertarian leanings" or "a libertarian conservative," and I began drifting toward actual libertarianism. Yet I still believe "national security" is a very real concept we must preserve. Borders matter, not because of trade, but because, to put it simply, there are a lot of bad guys out there who'd love nothing better than to sneak in and blow ourselves up.

We can accept that our lives are ultimately in God's hands. That still doesn't mean I won't lock my door at night, or take measures to protect myself from assailants. My faith is strong, but I'm not going to tempt God by asking for a legion of angels when I ought to be able to care for myself. I find it a very bad, very frightening idea to let Dubai Ports World possess any responsibilities for our ports, even if "only" in an administrative capacity. So I differ from the libertarians with whom I otherwise side much of the time, and some conservatives too. Real conservatives, I should say, not the prevalent conservatives who believe in a combination of Big Government and Big Brother Government.

Our friend Josh Hendrickson supports the deal. I greatly respect Josh and his opinion but must disagree with his "reasons not to worry." I do agree completely with the Wall Street Journal op-ed that Josh linked to, which accuses Democrats of opposing the port deal for political reasons, not because they actually care about national security. Too true. For the same reason, Hillary now acts like a conservative when it comes to illegal immigration, and Democrats have been trying to reinvent themselves as "fiscally responsible" while saying we must wean ourselves from foreign oil. I can't find it offhand, but I think it was Power Line who recently pointed out that Democrats have opposed any sort of racial profiling -- until now. It's nothing but their typical hypocrisy, in other words, that they're suddenly worrying about an Arab country gaining some control over our ports, when since 9/11 they've been the main opponents of closer screening of Arabs and Muslims.

Also via Josh, I read this New York Times article that points out, "The gaping holes in security at American ports have little to do with the nationality of who is running them." That may be so, but if the ports are under American citizens' control, the authorities responsible have an automatically greater incentive to correct those inadequate security measures, and to scrutinize personnel more closely. Why? Because the spirit of nationalism recognizes that American citizens' safety is a very real, albeit non-monetary benefit. Nationalism may have negative connotations today, but it shouldn't be: there's nothing wrong with loyalty to one's country. And if American citizens make a mistake, very well, we made a mistake. At least we'll know who did it, and we can take responsibility for it ourselves. It's better to kick ourselves in the behind because we screwed up directly, not because we entrusted the wrong people.

Now, regarding the free trade aspect. I'm a major opponent of protectionist economics, not just a Bush-type "free-trader" who demands "fair trade," which is not real free trade. "Free Trade Agreements" are freer trade, i.e. more liberalized trade, but the very existence of any regulations means that the trade isn't truly "free." I'm a Walter Williams-type free-trader who agrees that we shouldn't engage in protectionism even in retaliation for other nations' trade practices. The very thing that encourages trade is that one side has a comparative advantage over the other, allowing it to provide certain goods and services more efficiently.

Whether it's between countries or individuals, we trade because not doing things ourselves, not having control over the production and resulting supply, is worth the money saved. However, we must not consider trade strictly in terms of money. In my undergraduate study of economics, I was most influenced by Dr. Sanford Ikeda. As I've said before, he's an Austrian economist's Austrian economist. I do not see my Austrian training as contradictory with my "nationalist" desire for security at American ports that is overseen strictly by Americans, because it is first and foremost for the safety of Americans. Austrian economics is a major proponent of the idea that benefits and costs are not always monetary, is it not? Well, money is the only issue, not just the main one, if the ports are run purely as a business, particularly by foreigners who may not fundamentally give a damn about American citizens' well-being.

If we do not consider potential costs of who is supplying a particular good or service, we might as well outsource our military to India. Certainly we can hire a few million Indians who are intelligent and physically fit, who will serve in our armed forces for a fraction of what Americans presently earn...right? Why don't we just hire 500,000 Indians to fight for us in Iraq? Could it be because, considering full costs and benefits, beyond just money, our own people are better? Conversely, I was telling a friend the other day that admittedly we trade with China knowing that part of the money goes to expanding its military, but at present the benefit to the U.S. is worth the small potential of actual war. I think China doesn't want actual war with the U.S., only a stalemate like the USSR achieved for a while. Let's also not forget that China needs Sino-U.S. trade just as much, perhaps more, because it needs U.S. Treasury bonds as collateral for its insolvent banking system.

Returning to Dubai World Ports and our ports' security, I say that the potential detriment of a single terrorist slipping through a tiny crack, no matter how remote the possibility, far outweighs any monetary savings. Are the operations efficient for us, or for terrorists who might gain an opportunity somewhere? All it might take is one Human Resources "error," purposeful or otherwise, in hiring one person who can commit severe sabotage, let alone sneak in a so-called "dirty bomb." The same people may still be showing up to work, at least for now. Can we guarantee they'll never be replaced by terrorists? Can U.S. Customs and the Coast Guard guarantee that a DPW executive might not pull strings, all the while pretending he's our friend? It's been said before, and very well, that terrorists need only be successful once out of many times. We, though, cannot afford to miss.

That the Department of Homeland Security will still retain ultimate oversight does not comfort me. DHS is fundamentally a joke, to put it bluntly. This is the same Department whose mandated random screening that frisks elderly grandmothers at airports, whose airport screeners are caught every so often stealing from passengers' luggage, whose agents crack down on the wrong immigrants (the peaceful ones who only want to come here to work versus the welfare state moochers, not to mention the drug dealers who are sent to revolving-door prisons).

James Glassman brushed off the fact that two of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE, citing Richard Reid, Jose Padilla and Timothy McVeigh. That's fine, but the probability of a potential terrorist/saboteur getting into U.S. port operations he shouldn't be in becomes greater when a Muslim nation-owned company is in control, even if just administratively or in ownership. Haven't we learned over the last three decades that Muslim terrorists tend to lie very low until they strike, or worse, talk nicely while they work against us? When will we learn that, statistically speaking, terrorists are more likely to come from certain countries than others?

When someone can demonstrate that just one Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu or other non-Muslim was involved in the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes, the 1983 attack on U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1985 hijacking of Achille Lauro (and murder of Leon Klinghoffer), the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and the 2001 terrorist attacks, I'll reconsider my stance on the deal. Yes, I'm aware of several decades of Catholic-Protestant violence in Ireland, and what Timothy McVeigh did, but Islamic terrorism is far more prevalent. Statistically speaking, a terrorist incident is far more likely to be perpetrated by a Muslim, so it's sensible when a fundamentally Muslim-owned company suddenly acquires administrative control of our ports. It's only prudent when we've been attacked repeatedly by Muslim terrorists, and when they've promised further attacks.

But my objection isn't even a matter of what some call "anti-Muslism sentiment" or even "racism." I had no idea that the "Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co." (which is being bought out by Dubai Ports World) that currently oversees the administration of those U.S. ports is Brit-owned. That shouldn't be permitted either. There's a reason we require U.S. citizenship to hold federal office, and natural-born U.S. citizenship as a very specific, Constitutionally mandated requirement for the presidency: loyalty is a very desirable quality.

We might lose out by not having the very best minds as representatives in our various levels of government, and merely for the fact that they're foreigners, but that detriment is better than even the slightest risk of someone whose loyalty may not be 100% to the United States and its Constitution. Granted, we have a lot of candidates who do not respect nor follow the Constitution, but if these supposedly intelligent and well-meaning American citizens do not, how much worse could non-Americans be? They have no incentive.

Call me xenophobic, but I'll say bluntly that only an American-owned company, and one put through only the highest scrutiny, should be allowed any degree of authority over our ports. While that cannot guarantee a love for this country, statistically it has a far greater probability with American-controlled operations.

One thing I read in the news but haven't seen other bloggers pick up on. My apologies if anyone has. The United Arab Emirates donated $100 million to Katrina relief efforts, four times as much as everyone else combined, yet the Bush Administration denies that had anything to do with securing the ports deal. As Captain Kirk said ever so dryly in Star Trek VI: "Right." The more I read about the background of this deal, the more I see the dealings as just dirty.



Blogger Josh said...

I understand your concerns about the ports being under control of a foreign country. However, I must point out that port security consists of more than the efforts in our home country, but also in foreign countries where the freight is being shipped. The UAE was one of the first countries to allow the U.S. to inspect freight leaving their ports.

I fear that many are using this issue in the guise of a security concern, when in actuality it has little to do with security. For example, Sean Hannity has claimed that it is necessary to prevent this company from operating the ports because we only check 2% of the incoming freight and thus we are further at risk. However, I would argue that these are two separate issues. If the problem is that we do not inspect enough of the freight, then the solution is to increase inspections.

Nevertheless I understand your concerns and respect your opinion.

Monday, February 27, 2006 9:38:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

The UAE may have allowed us to inspect freight from their ports, but I consider that a smokescreen. That does not deter UAE-based terrorists from shipping things from elsewhere.

We do have much room for improvement in our port security, but it can only become more problematic when we don't have full control. I might hire a security guard to guard my office building, and he himself may be very trustworthy, but what of his friends? What if they tend to come around and visit him at work, and in the past they've physically assaulted my employees?

When security is a greater need than efficiency, there's no substitute for doing it yourself.

Monday, February 27, 2006 9:47:00 AM  

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