By Richard Reeves
DALLAS -- Forget for the moment the flap over doing business with Peninsula & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the port-management company sold by the British to the United Arab Emirates. Did you see that Intel is moving ahead with plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a computer-chip plant in Ho Chi Minh City?
It is cheaper to build chips, the engines of our computers, in a communist country than in the rich precincts of Silicon Valley. If I felt like it, I could make a persuasive false argument that it is dangerous beyond measure to have commies planting their evil little fingers in the machines that make capitalism and American national security work in these troubled times.
So whats the big deal about having friendly Arabs take on some of the mechanics of running our ports -- especially when there are only a couple of small American companies capable of doing the work? We long ago stopped doing such chores ourselves because many foreign ports and the companies running them are far more modern, efficient and cheaper than their few outdated American competitors.
We have spent the last decade and more selling the world on capitalism, on globalization, on democracy, on freedom. Then when foreign countries actually practice the American way, and we dont like the results, we move to destroy them. If we dont like the results of Palestinian voting, we condone cutting off aid and every other kind of help to the winners. If we dont like the winners of global bidding wars, we move to change the rules.
Thats hypocrisy. And that is what the world has come to expect of us. If things dont go our way, we attack.
The crisis in our ports is not that a government-controlled Arab country is willing to venture to make a few bucks doing work we dont want to do ourselves; it is that we are unwilling to spend the bigger bucks to modernize our port facilities to deal with the new realities of the post-Sept. 11 world. We would rather spend our borrowed dollars in a vain and stupid effort to take over our own Arab country, Iraq.
Forget that; its over, part of the weird overreaction to the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001. Bushs answer to that terror has been to try to take over the world. No chance.
But the president is right on the port-management deal, even though he has characteristically blundered into a domestic crisis by trying to keep the deal secret. But then no one is accusing him of being competent. This time, he either didnt know about the port deal, or he did know about it and is lying. Either way, he tried one more time to circumvent the checks and balances of our system by pushing through the deal and keeping it secret from Congress, press and people.
Thats the usual modus operandi of this White House. This is the first administration to lose a city, New Orleans, since our own civil war. Perhaps that is why he and the few people he talks with were so drawn into civil war in Iraq.
It goes on in ways small and large. One of the small ways beginning to come to light is refusing to allow scholars and students into the United States, particularly from countries with any Muslim population, most notably India.
That is not globalization. In fact, Muslims have some justification in claiming that we have declared war on Islam. We would have to be nuts to do that, but we are sure exhibiting signs of doing it. Iraqis preparing for civil war are not blaming each other for outrages such as the destruction of the Shiite Askariya mosque in Samarra. They are blaming us.
We are tipping toward disaster. I, for one, was shocked to see that even The Wall Street Journal has noticed enough that it began Fridays editorial page by preparing to question what the White House has done and is doing, writing: Critics of President Bushs Iraq policy have been predicting -- and, in some cases, hoping -- that without Saddams iron rule the country was destined for sectarian civil war. Following Wednesdays devastating attack on the Shiite Golden Mosque in Samarra, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility.
That, like Walter Cronkites 1968 attack on the Johnson administrations management of the war in Vietnam, could be the beginning of the end of the American brand of imperialism and the beginning of more enlightened policy that brought together Intel and the ghost of Ho Chi Minh in Saigon.
2006 Universal Press Syndicate