Good New, Bad News, Part I

From James Fallows’s new article in the current issue of Atlantic Online (emphasis added):

No modern nation is immune to politically inspired violence, and even the best-executed antiterrorism strategy will not be airtight.

But the overall prospect looks better than many Americans believe, and better than nearly all political rhetoric asserts. The essence of the change is this: because of al-Qaeda’s own mistakes, and because of the things the United States and its allies have done right, al-Qaeda’s ability to inflict direct damage in America or on Americans has been sharply reduced. Its successor groups in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere will continue to pose dangers. But its hopes for fundamentally harming the United States now rest less on what it can do itself than on what it can trick, tempt, or goad us into doing. Its destiny is no longer in its own hands.

“Does al-Qaeda still constitute an ‘existential’ threat?” asks David Kilcullen, who has written several influential papers on the need for a new strategy against Islamic insurgents. Kilcullen, who as an Australian army officer commanded counter-insurgency units in East Timor, recently served as an adviser in the Pentagon and is now a senior adviser on counterterrorism at the State Department. He was referring to the argument about whether the terrorism of the twenty-first century endangers the very existence of the United States and its allies, as the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons did throughout the Cold War (and as the remnants of that arsenal still might).

“I think it does, but not for the obvious reasons,” Kilcullen told me. He said the most useful analogy was the menace posed by European anarchists in the nineteenth century. “If you add up everyone they personally killed, it came to maybe 2,000 people, which is not an existential threat.” But one of their number assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The act itself took the lives of two people. The unthinking response of European governments in effect started World War I. “So because of the reaction they provoked, they were able to kill millions of people and destroy a civilization.

“It is not the people al-Qaeda might kill that is the threat,” he concluded. “Our reaction is what can cause the damage. It’s al-Qaeda plus our response that creates the existential danger.”

That’s a point I attempted to make on C-SPAN last February. There’s aren’t enough jihadists in the world to invade and occupy the United States and destroy our government and our military. Only we can do that.

And I say we’re doing a heck of a job.

Fallows interviewed a number of experts — some from military intelligence, some from academia — to understand exactly where we are now, antiterrorism-wise. The essential point of Fallows article is that, although the threat of terrorist attacks in the U.S. remains, there is reason for optimism. In some ways America is safer, he says.

However, as I read the article it struck me that, in just about every area where problems remain, the Bush Administration is heading in the wrong direction.

The good news: The experts that Fallows interviewed say that the old al Qaeda, the one that existed on September 11, no longer has operational ability. Among jihadists Osama bin Laden is not much more than a “Che Guevara–like” symbol. What we have now is “a global proliferation of ‘self-starter’ terrorist groups.” These groups certainly can inflict damage — the London and Madrid bombings, for example — but they lack the resources and organizational ability to pull off another September 11. This, some speculate, is the primary reason there hasn’t been another terrorist attack in the U.S. since.

At the moment about the only way a terrorist group could equal or top September 11 is with a nuclear weapon. And “if nuclear weapons constitute the one true existential threat,” the experts say, “then countering the proliferation of those weapons themselves is what American policy should address, more than fighting terrorism in general.”

Naturally, the Bush Administration has taken a different approach.

The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, is, um, probably not the reason there hasn’t been another terrorist attack in the U.S. since. “Indeed, nearly all emphasized the haphazard, wasteful, and sometimes self-defeating nature of the DHS’s approach,” Fallows writes.

Muslim Americans are another reason we’ve been terrorist-attack free for almost five years.

“The patriotism of the American Muslim community has been grossly underreported,” says Marc Sageman, who has studied the process by which people decide to join or leave terrorist networks. According to Daniel Benjamin, a former official on the National Security Council and coauthor of The Next Attack, Muslims in America “have been our first line of defense.” Even though many have been “unnerved by a law-enforcement approach that might have been inevitable but was still disturbing,” the community has been “pretty much immune to the jihadist virus.”

Something about the Arab and Muslim immigrants who have come to America, or about their absorption here, has made them basically similar to other well-assimilated American ethnic groups—and basically different from the estranged Muslim underclass of much of Europe. … most measures of Muslim disaffection or upheaval in Europe—arrests, riots, violence based on religion—show it to be ten to fifty times worse than here.

Muslims in Europe are not always economically disadvantaged. They just don’t assimilate:

The difference between the European and American assimilation of Muslims becomes most apparent in the second generation, when American Muslims are culturally and economically Americanized and many European Muslims often develop a sharper sense of alienation. “If you ask a second-generation American Muslim,” says Robert Leiken, author of Bearers of Global Jihad: Immigration and National Security After 9/11, “he will say, ‘I’m an American and a Muslim.’ A second-generation Turk in Germany is a Turk, and a French Moroccan doesn’t know what he is.”

We have a lot more experience with assimilating people here, of course. Yet we cannot be complacent. Anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. is up (thanks loads, Ms. Malkin) and extreme views can be found among American Muslims. Seeing to it that the rightie hatemongers don’t screw up one of our few advantages ought to be a priority.

There’s another gain against terrorism that we’re in the process of losing. In most Muslim countries support for jihadist violence among “civilian” populations has eroded —

“Like Tourette’s syndrome, they keep killing Muslim civilians,” says Peter Bergen. “That is their Achilles’ heel. Every time the bombs go off and kill civilians, it works in our favor. It’s a double whammy when the civilians they kill are Muslims.” Last November, groups directed by al-Zarqawi set off bombs in three hotels in Amman, Jordan. Some sixty civilians were killed, including thirty-eight at a wedding. The result was to turn Jordanian public opinion against al-Qaeda and al-Zarqawi, and to make the Jordanian government more openly cooperative with the United States.

Israel’s attacks on Lebanon blew that one out of the water, I’m afraid. We had already blown it in Iraq —

There, insurgents have slaughtered civilians daily, before and after the death this spring of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. But since American troops are also assumed to be killing civilians, the anti-insurgent backlash is muddied.

In fact, according to Caleb Carr, the only thing that keeps al Qaeda alive at all is Iraq.

Back to the original point:

In the modern brand of terrorist warfare, what an enemy can do directly is limited. The most dangerous thing it can do is to provoke you into hurting yourself.

This is what David Kilcullen meant in saying that the response to terrorism was potentially far more destructive than the deed itself. And it is why most people I spoke with said that three kinds of American reaction—the war in Iraq, the economic consequences of willy-nilly spending on security, and the erosion of America’s moral authority—were responsible for such strength as al-Qaeda now maintained.

“You only have to look at the Iraq War to see how much damage you can do to yourself by your response,” Kilcullen told me. He is another of those who supported the war and consider it important to fight toward some kind of victory, but who recognize the ways in which this conflict has helped al-Qaeda. So far the war in Iraq has advanced the jihadist cause because it generates a steady supply of Islamic victims, or martyrs; because it seems to prove Osama bin Laden’s contention that America lusts to occupy Islam’s sacred sites, abuse Muslim people, and steal Muslim resources; and because it raises the tantalizing possibility that humble Muslim insurgents, with cheap, primitive weapons, can once more hobble and ultimately destroy a superpower, as they believe they did to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan twenty years ago. The United States also played a large role in thwarting the Soviets, but that doesn’t matter. For mythic purposes, mujahideen brought down one anti-Islamic army and can bring down another. …

… “Many believe that the United States, bloodied and exhausted by the insurgency, stripped of its allies, will eventually withdraw,” Brian Jenkins writes of the jihadist view. From that perspective, “this defeat alone could bring about the collapse of the United States, just as collapse followed the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.”

The rest of the article catalogues the many ways the war in Iraq is hurting the United States and helping jihadists. And time and time again, the Bush Administration follows Osama bin Laden’s original game plan. We fell into bin Laden’s trap, in other words. And even though bin Laden himself is not reaping the benefits, other jihadists certainly are. Staying in Iraq will continue to drain the United States and strengthen jihad. There are serious perils to leaving, also. There’s no happy remedy to the mess Bush made.

But the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. The Associated Press reports:

Hundreds of thousands of Shiites chanting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” marched through the streets of Baghdad’s biggest Shiite district today in a show of support for Hezbollah militants battling Israeli troops in Lebanon. …

…Al-Sadr followers painted U.S. and Israeli flags on the main road leading to the rally site, and demonstrators stepped on them — a gesture of contempt in Iraq. Alongside the painted flags was written: “These are the terrorists.”

Protesters set fire to American and Israeli flags, as well as effigies of President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, showing the men with Dracula teeth. “Saddam and Bush, Two Faces of One Coin” was scrawled on Bush’s effigy.

The Shiites were the people we “liberated,” remember.

I’ve got more to say about Iraq and the James Fallows article, but I’ll say it this afternoon.

The Snapping Point

I’ve been saying for some time that cognitive dissonance can only be stretched so far. Eventually it either snaps or surrenders to pure delusion.

This week I ‘spect a whole lot of Americans finally reached a snapping point.

The UAE-port deal is being attacked from both the Left and the Right, and lefties and righties are voicing many of the same objections. But on a more fundamental level, Left and Right are seeing two entirely different “Portgates.” Many on the Right are befuddled; like this fellow, Portgate is an inexplicable anomaly. Suddenly Muslims who boycott Danish goods and practice female genital mutilation are “moderate” Muslims who can be trusted, arch-foe Jimmy Carter is a Bush ally, and Presidential Brother Neil Bush is auditioning for the next Michael Moore film. The world has turned upside down.

But on the Left, we’re not surprised at all. This is the same old Bush we’ve disliked all along. And if righties still don’t get it, I suggest they rent “Fahrenheit 911” and watch it carefully for clues.

But our alarm at Bush is about more than selling out our security to Bush’s Arab business cronies. It’s true that the Bushies began to compromise our security as soon as they took office — for example, by interfering with FBI investigation of the U.S.S. Cole bombing because justice for the Cole was less important to the Bush White House than good relations with Yemen. But we lefties have been objecting to many other practices and characteristics of Bushism. We are alarmed because our national resources are being sold off at bargain-basement prices to big GOP donors; our children’s future is mortgaged to foreign bankers, the federal government cloaks itself in unprecedented secrecy even as it threatens citizens’ constitutional rights to keep their personal lives private. Among other things.

Yet these past five + years, every time we on the Left bring up these issues, the Right hoots us down and calls us “looney” and “unhinged.”

Well, my dears, who’s unhinged now?

If history is our guide, most righties will eventually find a way to rationalize the UAE deal and come back to the Bush cultie fold. But at least this episode reveals that years of carefully cultivated fear can’t be erased overnight. And make no mistake, the Bush Administration has spent nearly every waking moment since 9/11 carefully cultivating fear. And until now the fear-mongers have not been, shall we say, overly discriminating about who it is we’re supposed to be fearing.

Paul Krugman writes,

When terrorists attacked the United States, the Bush administration immediately looked for ways it could exploit the atrocity to pursue unrelated goals especially, but not exclusively, a war with Iraq.

But to exploit the atrocity, President Bush had to do two things. First, he had to create a climate of fear: Al Qaeda, a real but limited threat, metamorphosed into a vast, imaginary axis of evil threatening America. Second, he had to blur the distinctions between nasty people who actually attacked us and nasty people who didn’t.

The administration successfully linked Iraq and 9/11 in public perceptions through a campaign of constant insinuation and occasional outright lies. In the process, it also created a state of mind in which all Arabs were lumped together in the camp of evildoers. Osama, Saddam — what’s the difference?

To be fair, President Bush himself has not spoken about the “clash of civilizations,” I don’t believe. He has plenty of proxies to do it for him. But if you know anything at all about the hard-core Right, you know most of ’em are looking at the “war on terror” and seeing a war against Islam — just as their counterparts in the Muslim world see themselves engaged as a war against the West. And the White House hasn’t worked real hard at discouraging that point of view. As Krugman writes, “After years of systematically suggesting that Arabs who didn’t attack us are the same as Arabs who did, the administration can’t suddenly turn around and say, ‘But these are good Arabs.'”

At The Nation, William Greider gloats at bit at David Brooks, who called Portgate an instance of political hysteria.

A conservative blaming hysteria is hysterical, when you think about it, and a bit late. Hysteria launched Bush’s invasion of Iraq. It created that monstrosity called Homeland Security and pumped up defense spending by more than 40 percent. Hysteria has been used to realign US foreign policy for permanent imperial war-making, whenever and wherever we find something frightening afoot in the world. Hysteria will justify the “long war” now fondly embraced by Field Marshal Rumsfeld. It has also slaughtered a number of Democrats who were not sufficiently hysterical. It saved George Bush’s butt in 2004.

I do hope that someone digs up one of Bush’s 2004 campaign speeches in which he derides John Kerry for his “global test” remark. As Digby reminded us,

Bush has been playing politics with this complicated situation for years now, saying things like “you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.” He spent the entire presidential campaign taunting John Kerry for allegedly requiring a “global test” and using his applause lines like a bludgeon:

    I will never hand over America’s security decisions to foreign leaders and international bodies that do not have America’s interests at heart.

If you’ve forgotten the “global test” spin, you can find an explanation of what Kerry actually said and how the Bushies twisted it at Media Matters. Bush actually said that Kerry “would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions.” Oh, please, please, somebody find a video of that and plaster it about the Blogosphere, please. And email the link to Keith Olbermann.

But this is 2006. And now, bless us, the Bush Administration is telling us that turning six American ports over to the government of the United Arab Emirates is a perfectly normal and reasonable thing to do, and anyone who says otherwise is just a racist. Ellen Terich writes,

The Bush administration is aggressively fighting this objection to their cozy deal with the UAE on two fronts. First, it is insisting that the business deal has been thoroughly and legally vetted and thus should be of no concern. In other words, King George is saying “Trust me. I’ll tell you when to be afraid.” Secondly he is sending out the message, through surrogates, that the objection is racist. We shouldn’t object to this company running some of our ports, in other words, if we haven’t objected to companies from other countries running our ports, countries like Britain, Denmark and Singapore.

Is he serious? The monarch who called a “crusade” against Islamic terrorists, who made sure there was an Islamic terrorist alert every month before the 2004 election (and none since), who rounded up countless Muslims, imprisoned them without due process and tortured them, who lied to the people so he could go to war and expand American empire in the Islamic Middle East, and exploited the people’s fear of “Islamo-Fascists” to ensure his re-election, is now chastising the people for being concerned about an Islamic country running U.S. ports? What you reap, you will sow, your majesty! You succeeded beyond your wildest dreams in exploiting the fears, the prejudices, and lack of sophistication of many of your supporters, and now it is possible (although no sure thing considering how the Congress always ends up bowing to your commands) that this little tactic will backfire and cause you to lose what you and your cronies have really been all about: the acquisition of corporate wealth and power.

As Mahablog reader k commented earlier this week, “We are being dismantled brick by brick and sold on the international market. We will be enslaved one way or another because we have lost our economic independence.” Yes, this is how Bush handles national security; by selling us all out.

Are you paying attention, righties?

Follow the Money

The Associated Press reports that

Under a secretive agreement with the Bush administration, a company in the United Arab Emirates promised to cooperate with U.S. investigations as a condition of its takeover of operations at six major American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The VRWC echo chamber is dutifully putting out the word that security concerns about the United Arab Emirates managing major American ports was just so much scare-mongering.

As I noted at the end of this post, some smart people have been saying this deal wouldn’t really compromise port security. But even if we take security issues off the table, there are other reasons to be alarmed about the UAE ports deal.

For example, note the second and third grafs in the AP story:

The U.S. government chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

In approving the $6.8 billion purchase, the administration chose not to require state-owned Dubai Ports World to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government.

Josh Marshall writes,

But even if the fears are more nativist than real, it seems like the White House will still not leave critics hanging — if nothing else, on old-fashioned and true-to-form insider and cronyism grounds. …

… The failure to require the company to keep business records on US soil sounds like a pretty open invitation to flout US law as near as I can tell. Forget terrorism. This is the sort of innovative business arrangement I would think a number of Bush-affiliated American companies might want to get in on. Perhaps Halliburton could be domiciled in Houston, pay its taxes in Bermuda, do its business in Iraq and keep its business records in Jordan.

Digby writes,

What a tangled web. It certainly appears that the UAE has us wrapped around their little fingers, doesn’t it? And it’s not just that they are “both a valued counterterrorism ally of the United States and a persistent counterterrorism problem.” They are holding something else over our heads as well (again via Atrios):

    But he said he would withhold judgment on the deal’s national security implications until after today’s briefing. The United Arab Emirates provides docking rights for more U.S. Navy ships than any other nation in the region, Warner noted. He added: “If they say they have not been treated fairly in this, we run the risk of them pulling back some of that support at a critical time of the war.”

This is obviously a very complicated relationship, which explains why Bush was singing kumbaaya around the drum circle yesterday asking everyone to give peace a chance.

See also Jane Hamsher at firedoglake. And if you missed David Sirota on Countdown last night, you can find a link to the video on his blog. David discusses other quid-pro-quo business arrangements the White House has going on with the UAE. There should be a transcript of this program available later today at the MSNBC site.

Further, I’ve yet to see significant follow up to the fact that two administration officials, Treasury Secretary John Snow in particular, who helped put this deal together have a vested interest in the outcome. Nor have I seen a satisfactory answer to the charge that the deal was shoved through without observing a legally mandated review period. Once again, it seems the Bush White House thinks those pesky little legal details don’t apply to them.

It also seems to me this episode relates to what I wrote last night about a column by David Ignatius in the Washington Post. Trying to explain why so many in the Middle East are turning toward Islamic nationalism, Ignatius writes,

… as elites around the world become more connected with the global economy, they become more disconnected from their own cultures and political systems. The local elites “lose touch with what’s going on around them,” opening up a vacuum that is filled by religious parties and sectarian groups, Sidawi contends. The modernizers think they are plugging their nations into the global economy, but what’s also happening is that they are unplugging themselves politically at home.

Sidawi’s theory — that connectedness produces a political disconnect — helps explain some of what we see in the Middle East. Take the case of Iran: A visitor to Tehran in 1975 would have thought the country was rushing toward the First World. The Iranian elite looked and talked just like the Western bankers, business executives and political leaders who were embracing the shah’s modernizing regime. And yet a few years later, that image of connectedness had been shattered by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution, whose aftershocks still rumble across the region. The Iranian modernizers had lost touch with the masses. That process has been repeated in Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority — where the secular elites who talked the West’s line have proved to be politically weak.

I think there’s a variation of this same dynamic going on here. We have, on the one hand, the corporate rush toward globalization to maximize profits, enabled by Washington politicians from both parties. But we also have, on the other hand, politicians who play on our concerns about this process to get themselves elected. Democrats have to mollify the old hard-hat, Union base as their manufacturing jobs are outsourced. And many Republicans are walking a policy tightrope — exploiting nationalism and xenophobia to get themselves re-elected even as, behind closed doors, they work on behalf of global corporate power.

Digby brings up a good example of the latter:

Bush has been playing politics with this complicated situation for years now, saying things like “you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.” He spent the entire presidential campaign taunting John Kerry for allegedly requiring a “global test” and using his applause lines like a bludgeon:

    I will never hand over America’s security decisions to foreign leaders and international bodies that do not have America’s interests at heart.

    … the senator would have America bend over backwards to satisfy a handful of governments with agendas different from our own.

    This is my opponent’s alliance-building strategy: brush off your best friends, fawn over your critics. And that is no way to gain the respect of the world.

More examples where that came from.

Now, the question is, will the nationalistic, xenophobic Bush base be able to rewire themselves and think “War With Oceana — So Yesterday“? Or will other politicians, seeing an opportunity, attempt to attack Bush from the right to siphon off some of his supporters?

Unrelated: This is a hoot.

Update: See Claudia Long: ‘When assholes collide: Bush, Dubai, corporatists and the right-wing noise machine

And They Say It’s Not a Cult

Knee-slapper of the week — Mark Noonan of Blogs for Bush argues that the UAE port deal proves “President Bush over his time in office has earned the right to be trusted.”

You can’t make this shit up. I can’t, anyway. Apparently Mark Noonan can.

Also — I had tacked this onto the end of the last post, but I think I’ll move it up here — Dr. Atrios points to this news item from March 2004:

The Central Intelligence Agency did not target Al Qaeda chief Osama bin laden once as he had the royal family of the United Arab Emirates with him in Afghanistan, the agency’s director, George Tenet, told the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States on Thursday.

Had the CIA targeted bin Laden, half the royal family would have been wiped out as well, he said.

Was this one of the famous times that Bill Clinton could have “got” Osama that righties are always whining about? The article doesn’t say when this happened.

The Port Thing, Continued

Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged presents evidence that Treasury Secretary John Snow stands to make a great deal of money in the Dubai port deal (why am I not surprised?).

More on the port deal, from an editorial in today’s New York Times:

The Bush administration has followed a disturbing pattern in its approach to the war on terror. It has been perpetually willing to sacrifice individual rights in favor of security. But it has been loath to do the same thing when it comes to business interests. It has not imposed reasonable safety requirements on chemical plants, one of the nation’s greatest points of vulnerability, or on the transport of toxic materials. The ports deal is another decision that has made the corporations involved happy, and has made ordinary Americans worry about whether they are being adequately protected.

It is no secret that this administration has pursued an aggressive antiregulatory agenda, and it has elevated corporate leaders to its highest positions. Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose department convened the panel that approved the ports deal, came to government after serving as the chief executive of the CSX Corporation, which was a major port operator when he worked there. (After he left, CSX sold its port operations to Dubai Ports World.)

At the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson points out that allowing our ports to be run by a foreign government are just part of a pattern:

We’re selling our harbors to an Arab government. Our biggest Internet companies are complicit in the Chinese government’s censorship of information and suppression of dissidents. Welcome to American capitalism in the age of globalization.

Here the market rules. National security and freedom of speech are all well and good, but they are distinctly secondary concerns when they bump up against our highest national purpose, which is maximizing shareholder value.

Ooo, first-rate snark, Mr. Meyerson. You’d make a good blogger.

At Huffington Post, David Sirota writes,

The harsh reaction from the Bush administration to the proposal to rescind the deal should be a red flag. This administration is unquestionably the most corporate-controlled administration in recent history, meaning its reactions are usually tied directly to the reactions of Corporate America. And the fact that the White House is ignoring its own security experts and reacting so negatively to Congress’s opposition to the deal means this cuts to the much deeper issue of global trade policy – an issue that trumps all others for Big Money interests, even post-9/11 security.

In a previous post, I noted how the Bush administration is simultaneously negotiating a “free” trade agreement with the UAE – the country tied to the terrorists who attacked America on 9/11. The administration was negotiating this deal at the very same time it tried to quietly slip this port security deal under the radar. It’s not surprising few in the media or the political system have mentioned that simple fact – as I note in my upcoming book Hostile Takeover, the political/media Establishment’s devotion to “free” trade orthodoxy is well documented, and the Establishment’s desire in this current scandal to make sure a discussion of trade policy never happens is obvious.

Sirota quotes Michael Chertoff, among others: “We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system.” This is the bleeping Homeland Security Director saying this. Technically he may be right, but Chertoff is supposed to be focused on the security end of the equation. The fact that he’s defending the UAE deal and lecturing us about the global trading system shows us where the Bush Administration’s priorities lie. And they don’t lie with We, the People.

And so any attempt to stop the UAE port security deal fundamentally threatens the Tom-Friedman-style “free” trade orthodoxy that says we must eliminate all barriers to trade – even those that protect national security. When you realize that, President Bush’s threat to use the first veto of his presidency on the UAE port security issue suddenly becomes not so surprising. He is proudly defending what Jeff Faux calls “The Party of Davos” or John Perkins calls the “corporatocracy” – that is, the multinational interests who have bankrolled Bush’s entire political career, and who desperately rely on the American government preserving a “free” trade system that subverts all other concerns to the corporate profit motive.

Let’s go back to the Harold Meyerson column. Once upon a time, writes Meyerson, there really was such a thing as corporate responsibility. This existed back in the day when the (mostly unionized) labor force remained within U.S. borders. But no more. And other nations designate certain industries as being too sensitive or strategic to outsource to other countries or sell to foreign interests. But not the U.S.

And, increasingly, the “interests” of financial institutions and corporations have become the “nation’s” (i.e., government’s) interests. They’re the ones creating the nation’s wealth. But since more and more high-paying jobs are going overseas, that wealth is staying in the pockets of corporate top management and shareholders.

Further, since labor is being outsourced to countries with repressive governments, like China, it can be said that corporations are profiting from the suppression of rights.

After all, when American business goes to China to have a machine built or a shirt stitched or some research undertaken, it is in no small reason because the labor is dirt-cheap. This is partly the result of the nation’s history of poverty and partly the result of repressive state policy that views all efforts at worker organization — as it views all efforts at establishing autonomous centers of power — as criminal. Were the current labor strife in China to escalate, were the nation plunged into turmoil in an effort to create a more pluralistic society with actual rights for workers, what would the attitudes of the U.S. corporations in China be? Would Wal-Mart, which does more business with China than any other corporation, object if the Chinese government staged another Tiananmen-style crackdown? Would other American businesses? Would the current or a future administration levy any sanctions against China? Given the growing level of integration of the Chinese economy and ours, could it even afford to?

Put another way, we are all compromised by the way our corporations are making their profits. Meyerson continues,

To the extent that American business or our government even attempt to square this circle, the argument they most frequently adduce is that modernity — that is, the integration of a nation into the global economy — will transform that nation into a more pluralistic democracy. China, however, is determined to manage its integration on its own repressive terms. And, more broadly, modernity hasn’t always guaranteed the flourishing of democratic pluralism — a lesson you might think we’d learned after that nastiness with Germany in the middle of the past century.

Indeed, at the heart of the Bush administration’s theory of democratic transformation, we find two non sequiturs: that integration into the global marketplace leads to democratic pluralism, and that elections lead to democratic pluralism. Yet China and the Arab nations of the Middle East tend to refute, not confirm, these theories. Elections and economic integration are both good in themselves, of course, but absent a thriving civil society, they offer no guarantee of the kinds of transformation that these nations sorely need.

But outsourcing and other business practices may be compromising us. I have argued that much of our middle-class standard of living is being floated on the economy and policies of the past.

… a lot of us are still benefiting from The Way America Used to Be Before Reagan. Boomers like me are still benefiting from the fact that our fathers got free educations on the GI Bill and our newlywed parents got cheap housing and cut-rate mortgages from other government programs, for example. Our parents’ prosperity got us off to a good start and put us on the road to security, equity, and stock portfolios. In a very real sense, many of us today are living better lives because government in the 1940s and 1950s effectively responded to the needs of citizens.

But those days are long gone, and their effects are running out of steam. Many generations of Americans were more affluent than their parents. I think perhaps that pattern is about to be broken.

Well, I’ve wandered a bit afar from the UAE takeover of ports. I note there are some smart people here and there arguing that the deal wouldn’t really compromise port security. Maybe, maybe not. Even so, this episode is symptomatic of much that is wrong with our government today.

Why Am I Not Surprised?

The Dubai firm chosen to run six major U.S. ports has business ties to two high-ranking Bush Administration officials, reports the New York Daily News. Of course.

I’ve been too wrapped up in the “patrotism v. nationalism” series to give this issue the time it deserves. Fortunately other bloggers are all over it. See especially ReddHedd and jesselee.

Update: Digby blogs it, too.

If I were Dems, I’d be mentioning to congresspersons (and senators up for re-election this year) that we’re not going to support this thing, but if it goes through we’re, ah-HEM, sure it’ll make a great election issue when the campaigning heats up. (Smile, pat Repug on shoulder, walk away.)

Let’s See How the Righties Bury This One

Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story reports that the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson “caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad.”

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame’s work. Their accounts suggest that Plame’s outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.

I’d like to see this corroborated by other news sources before filing it away as “proven fact.” But we already know, even if righties won’t admit it, that the disclosure of Plame Wilson’s status as a CIA agent damaged American intelligence gathering efforts. Dafna Linzer reported in the Washington Post (October 29, 2005):

More than Valerie Plame’s identity was exposed when her name appeared in a syndicated column in the summer of 2003.

A small Boston company listed as her employer suddenly was shown to be a bogus CIA front, and her alma mater in Belgium discovered it was a favored haunt of an American spy. At Langley, officials in the clandestine service quickly began drawing up a list of contacts and friends, cultivated over more than a decade, to triage any immediate damage.


The CIA has not conducted a formal damage assessment, as is routinely done in cases of espionage and after any legal proceedings have been exhausted.

This is significant, because Bob Woodward claimed on Larry King Live that the CIA had done a damage assessment and found no significant damage. The Right, of course, accepted Woodward’s word as gospel and has also claimed all along that Plame Wilson’s status wasn’t really classified.

Of course, no evidence is solid enough to persuade righties that their Plame Wilson mythology is wrong. Righties will tell you that Plame Wilson’s CIA status was not classified, even though the CIA itself has been saying all along that it was. In the February 13 issue of Newsweek we read “The CIA Leak: Plame Was Still Covert“:

… special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald found that Plame had indeed done “covert work overseas” on counterproliferation matters in the past five years, and the CIA “was making specific efforts to conceal” her identity, according to newly released portions of a judge’s opinion.

Did that settle anything. Of course not. The rightie Byron York of NRO, for example, questions (in some nicely overpadded prose) if the judge actually knew what he was talking about. This gives the Righties a slim reed of an excuse to hang on to their belief in Plame Wilson’s non-classified status. But they will hang on to that reed with everything they’ve got.

If we get corroboration of Alexandrovna’s, watch to see what excuse the righties dig up to ignore it.

See alsoBetrayed by the White House.”