Editor's note: The Heritage Foundation's James Jay Carafano is in Hong Kong this week interviewing government officials and studying how they screen cargo and travelers for terrorist dangers. He will be filing reports for WWS.
Lest we obsess over our presidential primaries, remember that keeping America safe, free and prosperous depends on far more than who occupies the Oval Office. How well we succeed as a nation will, in fact, be determined to a large degree by what happens overseas.
Homeland security does not begin at home. It is a global mission. From securÂ¬ing the border to protecting global supply chains that run from factories overseas to Wal-Mart shelves, virtuÂ¬ally every aspect of preventing terrorist attacks has an international dimension that requires the United States to work effectively abroad. We can't make ourselves safe by sitting behind "Fortress America."
Ours is a "trading nation" and a "seafaring nation." Global trade accounts for a full third of our economy. Virtually all of this trade--a whopping 99 percent--is conducted via the sea, where we move about 2.5 billion tons of goods, a year, worth about $10 trillion every year.
Ask most any American to name the one port in the world where a terrorist attack would have the most devastating impact on the U.S. economy and they will name one of the big three U.S. ports: New York, Los Angeles or Long Beach. And they'd be wrong. The answer is Hong Kong. It is the world's leading international hub of global maritime shipping (and international passenger travel, as well). Should terrorists strike Hong Kong, the whole global conveyor belt of commerce would jerk.
And that would be horrible news for us. For American commerce is not only dependent on the sea, it is glued to the clock. Virtually every international business in the world today relies on "just-in-time" delivery. Rather than stockpile stuff in the storeroom, American business calculates what it needs and orders it from the factory just in time to put it in the assembly line or on the showroom floor or retail shelves. Mess with that system and you mess with every American.
Ports are also vital to defense. When the U.S. military goes overseas, 95 percent of the equipment and supplies go through ports.
Hong Kong sets the standard for port management, safety, and security for just about everybody--even the United States. As Hong Kong goes, so goes the world.
And that's why I'm here, and not in Michigan.