The defenders of this deal make an argument that comes down to this: anyone who thinks this is a bad deal is racist. Arabs can run our ports as well as, say, the Chinese. We're living in a global economy--a flat world as TF is won to say. This is how it works. Stop being such a provincial, nativist rube.
So OK. I'm not saying that some people don't think that way, and I suspect this kind of nativism might be one of the influences motivating so many Republicans to oppose this deal, but that's not my reason or the reason of anybody with any common sense to oppose it. This is not about American attitudes toward Arabs; it's about Arab attitudes toward the U.S.
This argument is another example of the elephant-in-the-room scenario that I posted about yesterday. We have this way of not being able to talk about the obvious because we're concerned about how it might make us look. It's the fear that most people have of feeling foolish for declaring that the Emperor has no clothes. So, Gee, if people think I'm against abortion, they'll think I'm a right-wing wacko looking for an opportunity to firebomb a clinic. Or, gee, if I think that the biggest political issue of the day is the aggregation of power in the hands of the wealthy, I must be a communist who wants to foment class warfare. So for fear of being branded, lots of people refrain from pointing out the obvious. You don't want people to think you're a Bush hater or an Arab hater, so let this Dubai Deal pass.
After all, it's only my bias that prevents me from recognizing the bigger truths: the UAE is a staunch American ally, and officials there mean us no harm. They have a stellar reputation. They are as competent a company in performing these tasks as any you'll find in the world. You're just a liberal hypocrite who's looking to pile on when Bush does something that looks stupid.
First of all, I'm not a liberal. I'm a radical centrist, so don't brand me as a liberal because on some issues I happen to agree with them. Second, Is anybody saying that the management of Dubai Ports is in collusion with Osama and is working secretly with him to smuggle a nuke into New York harbor? Of course not. But the company's official position is not the position of most Arabs regarding their feelings toward the United States. Do we really think that Arab sentiment in Dubai is significantly different than it is elsewhere. It's one thing what the Arab elites think and feel, and it's another what they think and feel in the streets.
So let's call an elephant an elephant: Most Arabs are not taking a dispassionate business-like attitude toward the U.S., and so it would seem prudent that no matter what the official policy of the company or its government, it is not necessarily the attitude of its employees. And it would be a matter of prudence that we would want to minimize the risk of putting employees, even if they bear no ill will toward the United States, in positions where they would be vulnerable to terrorist influence because of family or other connections.
That's just common sense. We're vulnerable enough as it is, but we're increasing our vulnerability by a factor of ten with this kind of a deal. Again, this is not about American attitudes toward Arabs; it's about Arab attitudes toward the U.S. At this time when Arab hatred of the U.S. and its policies is so intense, you don't give an Arab company a contract like this. We should be into minimizing our exposure to risk, and infiltration is one of the biggest risks, and this deal increases exposure instead. There's got to be a better alternative.
I'm not always an Arianna fan, but I think she nails it in a post today:
You don't need to be a member of the Council on Foreign Relations to grasp that a country that embraced the Taliban, was a financial hub for the 9/11 attackers, and whose own ports were used by notorious Pakistani scientist A.Q. Kahn to smuggle nuclear components to Iran, Libya, and North Korea, probably shouldn't be handed the keys to shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Orleans . . .
This deal is a nonstarter and a no-brainer. A Harriet Miers debacle to the hundredth- power. Next thing you know, the president will be assuring us that he knows what's in the heart of Dubai Ports World, Inc.
But instead of pulling back from the deal and hurriedly looking for the port operations equivalent of Sam Alito, the president stomped his feet, held his breath, and stuck out his veto.
Bush hasn't vetoed a single bill in five years. Turns out his line in the sand can be found in the deserts of the UAE.
Here are just some of the questions that need to be answered: Why was it approved in little more than half the 45-days mandated by Congress? Why didn't the president find out about the deal until it was already done? Why wasn't Congress briefed about the transaction before it was approved? What role did the corporate connections of Treasury Secretary Snow and newly appointed Maritime Administration head David Sanborn play in winning the White House's backing? Was the deal tied to the pending trade agreement the administration is negotiating with the UAE?
It also needs to be said, that this administration has given us no reason to trust it. They have proven themselves colossally incompetent, especially in matters as they relate to the Middle East. It has lost all right to the benefit of the doubt. You cannot consider this deal in isolation; it has to be understood as having occurred within the larger pattern of Bush administration thinking and behavior. My assumption is that they are doing things for the wrong reasons until they prove otherwise. You don't have to be a Bush hater to think that. It's just a matter of common sense.