CNN’s Lou Dobbs often worries that Detroit is dying because of trade with Japan and other car-producing countries. But on his November 28 program, Dobbs turned his ire to one of Detroit’s Big Three, declaring a fatwa on Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) for supposedly “bankrolling terrorism.”
“American companies doing business in countries that sponsor terrorism. The federal government is now investigating some of those deals, but the deals may not, believe it or not, be against the law,” Dobbs introduced a report by correspondent Lisa Sylvester as an graphic appeared over his left shoulder with the label “Investing in Terror?”
Sylvester reported that in Sudan and Syria, Ford subsidiaries run car dealerships while the Mazda Corporation, which Ford owns a minority stake in, “has set up shop in Iran.”
Sylvester found controversy in the business dealings because all three countries are listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism. Yet rather than give a balanced look at the controversy, Sylvester relied only on national security experts critical of the business deals. In Ford’s defense, Sylvester briefly quoted from a Ford press statement.
Following her story, Dobbs went into lecture mode, scolding the automaker for being a disloyal corporate citizen, complaining that “perhaps that's too much to think of in these days.”
Yet lost in Dobbs’ attack on Ford was the other side, that trade and foreign investment could help create a favorable environment for reform in foreign countries. In other words, trade of civilian goods and services can help promote American interests.
“There’s a legitimate question here about the role of foreign investment in countries like those,” the libertarian Cato Institute’s Dan Griswold conceded in an interview with the Business & Media Institute. He offered that there were an “off-setting set of facts worth considering.”
“These companies bring at least a taste of private sector free enterprise, they give citizens of those countries real jobs independent of the government, they come in contact with people and managers from free societies and in a small way it does boost U.S. exports to that part of the world,” added Griswold, director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Washington-based think tank.
What’s more, “Forcing U.S. companies to withdraw from those countries would not make one whit of difference in the resources available to those governments and the intentions of those governments,” Griswold argued.
In fact, isolating countries like Sudan, Syria and Iran would only further entrench the regimes the U.S. finds objectionable, another expert told BMI.
“If you prohibit trade or investment” with a foreign regime, its “government uses it and gets the people to rally around the flag; it merely strengthens the regime,” former Congressional Budget Office defense analyst Dr. Ivan Eland told BMI.
Eland, a senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute, recently laid out his arguments on the matter in a November 27 article on the Independent Institute Web site.
“When attacked, either militarily or economically, by a foreign power, the populace of a country usually rallies around the existing leader – no matter how odious he or she may be,” Eland wrote.