March 15, 2006

"Arab progressives are stunned by our behavior."

Thomas Friedman writes about the Dubai ports issue:
As an Arab businessman friend said to me of the Dubai saga: "This deal has left a real bad taste in many mouths. I mean this was Dubai, for God's sake! You could not have a better friend and more of a symbol of globalization and openness. If they are a security danger to the U.S., then who is not?"

So whatever happens with the Iraq experiment — but especially if it fails — we need Dubai to succeed. Dubai is where we should want the Arab world to go. Unfortunately, we just told Dubai to go to hell.
(TimesSelect link.)


Dave said...

Say what you will about Friedman but he makes a good argument here.

(He is no relation to me, BTW...)

Goesh said...

Why wouldn't Dubai 'succeed'? I didn't realize the future of such a wealthy nation depended on a single business deal with America. I bet if they are ever seriously threatened, like Saudi Arabia was when Iraq invaded Kuwait, they won't call on us for protection - I'm sure they are that miffed over a lost business deal. How dumb of American citizens and elected leaders to think that somebody else could manage some of our critical ports as well as Dubai, if not better. How have we endured for 200+ years being so dumb? Oh the gall of Americans to not trust a nation that sends some of its royalty on hunting trips with the taliban in Afghanistan. What blatant Islomophobia to hold it against Arabs for doing some banking with terrorists! We probably should let them be in charge of all our airport security as a show of trust and good faith.

David Blue said...

I was in favour of the ports deal going ahead.

But if people in Dubai and throughout the Arab world take this as a slap and react against America for it, even a litle, that's because they're not really friends and they shouldn't be trusted.

If Australia had contributed two hijackers to the 11 September, 2001 atrocities, and the American legislature suddenly had a fit and decided to ban Australians from running American ports or airports, or decided that Rupert Murdock (ex-Australian) was suspect and so were his media outlets, we'd be disappointed of course - but we'd also realise that America took a hell of a hit, and emotional aftershocks are to be expected.

These guys - including progressives - seem to think the only issues are their pride, how they've been insulted, how you should prove to them that you really trust them, and so on. Bluntly, I think it's because they've retained the concept of "the infidel" - and the possible misfortunes of infidels are not taken to heart, they are not of deep concern.

Mates don't think like that.

Balfegor said...

Bluntly, I think it's because they've retained the concept of "the infidel" - and the possible misfortunes of infidels are not taken to heart, they are not of deep concern.

I think you might be surprised how other nations, particularly smaller or weaker nations, obsess over perceived insults to their national honour. Like the French, for example (haha). I don't think it has to do with "infidel" or anything. It's just a vice of the weak, particularly the weak who think they ought to be the strong, to regard the powerful with suspicion. In Korea, for example, it seems like the papers and the populace blow up over every little perceived slight from Japan or from the US, but most of those don't even make the news here.

Maybe it's because they're not our "mates" -- and they probably aren't, as I suspect a lot of them (as in most of the older nations) regard us and our culture with mild contempt, which is not exactly matey. But it's not because they all think we're "infidels." Should we not trust them for that? Well, frankly I don't think we should trust anyone -- this is international politics, after all. But I don't think an offended reaction calls for extra suspicion on our part.

bearbee said...

Shouldn't Congress and the Administration have identified all security concerns and designate those in which ownership and operations should not be let into any foreign hands.....ports, airports, borders.......?

I read of the London based deal through the NY Post article just days before it was to be voted on by shareholder and a week before it seemed to earn Congress' attention.

The Administration said the deal had been thoroughly vetted, then it said the President became aware of the deal at the last minute. After several years of questions being raised about port security, surely the Administration recognized that this was a potential hot button deal. Did it apprised the Congress and if not why not?

After all the media focus on how the Muslim world hates the US how is the average person to discern friend from foe? And after September 11, the London bombings, riots in France and the recent 'cartoon wars' with embassy burnings and death threats emanating from various imams isn't it a wee bit ironic for Dubai businessmen to talk about things leaving bad tastes in peoples mouths?

jeff nolan said...

I was really on the fence about the ports deal. As it was structured it clearly created no meaningful security threat and if you understand how ports operate you known the difference between port operators, port owners and regulators (Coast Guard, DHS, Customs).

Having said all that, this deal left a bad taste in my mouth because we can talk all we want about how UAE is an ally but the fact remains that nobody in that part of the world is aggressively speaking out about the their own people about the evils of Islamic extremism.

Maybe this failed deal will underscore the point that the middle east as a whole has an enormous image problem that is not going to go away by talking quietly in small groups or behind the scenes cooperation with the U.S. (who along with the British appear to be the only groups in the region actually doing something significant about extremism).

If the failure of this deal drives home the point to the leaders in the middle east that the *people* of the U.S. are going to put boundaries around them, then that might not be a bad thing if it causes the UAE, in this case, to demonstrate more regional leadership. It's a stretch, I know.

The Drill SGT said...

I don't understand why folks are so phobic about Dubai and the ports. For example:

1. A Chinese government firm runs the Port of Long Beach.

2. It's the outgoing shippping port that's more of a threat than the incoming one. If you had a nuke in a container, put in place in Algiers for instance, You could detonate it off lower Manhattan without ever pulling into a DPW pier.

3. Arab flag airline carriers fly into Washington and New York every hour, landing at terminals and serviced by companies owned by overseas firm.s

Goesh said...

-maybe we could trust UAE to properly vet volunteers from the Pakistani frontier, now known as talibanistan, to work in our ports and handle shipping manifests. What the hell, these fellows prefer using box cutters anyway and probably would be incapable of doing mischief in harbors.

Troy said...

Sometimes Friedman just hits the nail on the head.

The Repubs screwed this up. I expect Dems to demagogue any issue because of their slathering Bush-hatred. The Repubs are worse -- they are craven and weaselly.

Jonathan said...

I think it would have been OK if the Dubai deal had gone through. However, I also think people in Dubai are probably sophisticated enough to understand how such a deal could fail on political grounds even as many Americans and our government supported it. To say that it's like telling Dubai to go to hell is like saying that France told us to go to hell because French beet farmers blocked an agricultural trade agreement.