The greater and more immediate danger is that as soon as the Dubai company takes over operations, it will necessarily become privy to information about security provisions at crucial U.S. ports. That would mean a transfer of information about our security operations -- and perhaps even worse, about the holes in our security operations -- to a company in an Arab state in which there might be employees who, for reasons of corruption or ideology, would pass this invaluable knowledge on to al Qaeda-types.
That is the danger and it is a risk, probably an unnecessary one. It's not quite the end of the world that Democratic and Republican critics have portrayed it to be. After all, the UAE, which is run by a friendly regime, manages ports in other countries without any such incidents. Employees in other countries could leak or betray us just as easily. The issue, however, is that they are statistically more likely to be found in the UAE than, for example, in Britain.
It's a fairly close call. I can sympathize with the president's stubbornness in sticking to the deal. He is responsible for our foreign relations, and believes, not unreasonably, that it would harm our broader national interest to reject and humiliate a moderate Middle Eastern ally by pulling the contract just because a company is run by Arabs.
This contract should have been stopped at an earlier stage, but at this point doing so would cause too much damage to our relations with moderate Arab states. There are no very good options. The best exit strategy is this: (1) Allow the contract to go through; (2) give it heightened scrutiny by assigning a team of U.S. government agents to work inside the company at least for the first few years to make sure security is tight and information closely held; (3) have the team report every six months to both the executive and a select congressional committee.
Not nearly as clean as the Harriet Miers exit. But as I said, there are no very good options. There have not been very many since Britannia stopped ruling the waves, and it all fell to us.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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