How Washington thinks and why it doesn’t work

In trying to figure out why Washington takes such a different view towards the security of business class and the security of cargo containers it occurred to me that most policy makers don’t travel by container ship.

The possible application of this seminal observation covers considerable territory. For example, after the TWA 800 crash, it was unclear what had caused it. Logical explanations included a missile attack, A misaimed US test missile, mechanical failure, or a bomb on board. Without waiting for the answer, the Clinton administration swiftly installed a number of security procedures that implicitly assumed the final possibility. To this day, there is little interest in the considerable danger of missile attacks on domestic planes and absolute denial on the part of the government in the case of TWA 800. Further, virtually no attention has been given to the failure of the aircraft in question to be refitted in accordance with official recommendations. It is assumed by journalists and policy makers alike that the overwhelmingly logical source of danger is one of those funny looking passengers standing in line with them.

A similar indifference to the variety of ways that danger might enter the country is found at ground level. There was virtually no media attention given the fact the Chinese had taken over several ports of the Panama Canal. Or that a company owned by the Chinese Army runs the key port of Long Beach, California. After all, the Chinese are trading partners, not terrorists.

It wasn’t until it was revealed that a corporation of the United Arab Emirates was about to take over some of our largest and oldest ports that the indifference towards the dispensation of American maritime manna was interrupted. It is still not clear whether if the Chinese Army, rather than the terrorist-hugging UAE, had taken over New York’s waterfront there would have been any problem, but there certainly is now.

In the end, several factors probably drove the Bush regime towards this nutty decision. The first was the absence of American bidders for the port deal. This in itself is a telling reminder of how far downhill the country has gone. Second, the Bushists were probably trapped in their mode of ‘globalization is good’ rather than ‘terrorism is bad.’ After all, spin spins the spinners as well as the spun. Finally, however, people who run things and write things in Washington these days just don’t know much about mundane, declasse matters such as ports and longshoremen. They proved this already with New Orleans. You can’t expect people who think up things like the Long War to also know how to recover from a hurricane, build a skyscraper that won’t collapse, or unload a vessel safely.

Older imperialists were a bit different. As the BBC notes of the British empire: “Overseas commerce was conducted within the mercantilist framework of the Navigation Acts, which stipulated that all commodity trade should take place in British ships, manned by British seamen, trading between British ports and those within the empire.”

Perhaps Dubai will want to buy Ronald Reagan airport and the Chinese Army will take over JFK. Then, finally, the business class that runs this land will understand what the fuss is all about.

4 thoughts on “How Washington thinks and why it doesn’t work

  1. The only comments we remove are those that are libelous or gratuitiously insulting to those other than the editor without any supporting argument. On this item, however, it appears there were several comments that got removed. Don't how because they are listed as being there but you can't see them. Will look into this.

  2. The business class that runs this land has a lot in common with the business class that runs China-the armies are merely for doing cheap labor and carrying out activities that decent humans wouldn't undertake (as correctly mentioned in your piece about WWI). Just what would the Chinese army do to the US, invade it and lose most of the China's investment killing her biggest export market?As for the message being sent to the Arabs, it seems to be loud and clear: "Look here you dogs, we take your oil, but can't allow any 'ragheads', or 'sandniggers' (or their money) in here."

  3. Anybody working for an airline knows that business class is for complimentary alcohol and wide seats.But the rest of us clustered in steerage aren't able to discern with clarity just why these seats are necessarily so restrictive and that our destination at the back of the plane is perhaps different from those at the front of the plane.That petro-dollars find their way back into the U.S. economy should come as no surprise. The whole game is repartriation of currency. You are part of that elite travelling class regardless of origin if you manage to prop up a phantasm of gregarious one upmanship and an easy, wide, inebriated class fulfillment.I'm just glad that steerage got queasy enough and managed to create enough of an outrage to 'retake the plane.' We certainly cannot allow a lapse in security which may yet challenge our notion that the curtain that seperates us is actually the skirt that separates a cloudy heaven from a subway.We are, after all, the people that pay for their own booze at ten times cost.

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