Home National Economy Port Deal Backlash

Port Deal Backlash

by Joe Mariani

Killing the Dubai Ports World port deal has sent a variety of messages to the world, none of them good. It has weakened our credibility with other countries, a dangerous thing to do during a war. Forcing DPW to pull out of the deal because of poll numbers generated by media disinformation says that America is, indeed, a “fair-weather” friend. We have sent the Middle East a clear (though hopefully incorrect) signal that America will never trust Arabs and Muslims, even friendly ones who help us.

As hard as I tried, I could not find a single reasonable objection to the port deal that would hold water. Terrorists and their money have moved through the UAE, but it’s the transportation and banking center of the Middle East – everything that moves, moves through the UAE. DPW would not, in fact, have been buying ports, controlling ports, gaining access to port security or learning shipping schedules other than their own. P&O, the British firm that was bought by the Dubai company, merely leased terminals in the six ports in question. A sizeable portion of our incoming port traffic already passes through the hands of DPW, as DPW manages ports all over the world. As, in fact, do foreign firms in most American ports – including state-owned firms based in Singapore, Norway, China and Saudi Arabia.

Some objected to DPW because the UAE boycotts Israel. but the chairman of Israel’s largest shipping firm strongly endorsed the deal. “During our long association with DP World, we have not experienced a single security issue in these ports or in any of the terminals operated by DP World,” Zim Integrated Shipping Services CEO Idon Ofer said in a letter to Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) written February 22. “We are proud to be associated with DP World and look forward to working with them into the future.” It’s a pity Hillary never saw fit to make this letter public before it was too late to save face all around.

The consequences to our outburst of fear-based protectionism have already begun. The UAE has postponed trade talks with the US that were set to take place before the DPW deal was killed. As AFP reported, “Last year US companies exported goods worth 8.5 billion dollars to the UAE, making the small country of 2.5 million people a bigger export market for the United States than India or Spain.” Robert Springborg, director of the London Middle East Institute of the School of Oriental and African Studies, said, “It doesn’t matter whether it is a private investor or a public investor. This will affect investment.” The Chicago Tribune reports the reaction in progress. “People are making decisions to invest elsewhere than in the U.S.,” said Rachel Bronson, a Mideast expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Gulf money is being invested in Europe and Asia. This furthers that trend.”

We don’t yet know how our slap in Dubai’s face will affect our relationship with the UAE as regards the War on Terror, but the odds are the reaction won’t be positive. Until now, they’ve been a fairly good ally. Dubai hosts US military troops, planes and ships – in fact, more US ships are serviced in Dubai than in any port outside the US. The UAE has trained Iraqi troops, given us valuable intelligence, and turned over captured terrorists to us. Will we be able to count on their aid after telling them in such a public way that we just don’t trust them? Will other countries decide that the satisfaction of helping the US isn’t worth the public humiliation of being treated with distrust? An essential part of the War on Terror is forming relationships with moderate Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, using our influence in a positive way. Public repudiation is no way to do that.

All of this, for votes. Most Democrats misrepresented the issue from the start, trying to portray themselves as tougher on national security than Republicans. Most media outlets distorted the facts, ramped up paranoia based on lies, then published the results of polls based on the manipulated “public opinion.” A majority of Republicans, nervous about coming up short on national security in an election year, joined the Democrats.

Now, foreign investors are considering whether to pull capital out of America before they get thrown out. Potential investors are considering whether China or the European Union might make a better trading partner than the fickle, xenophobic-seeming United States. Middle Eastern countries that have helped or might have helped us in the War on Terror are wondering whether being treated like they’re our enemies would be worth the risk of angering the real enemies.

Fearmongering Democrats and weak-kneed Republicans in Congress have handed bin Laden a huge propaganda victory, while dealing the US a double blow, both in the economy and in the War on Terror. Congratulations all around.

There is, as usual, at least one positive aspect. We finally have the Democrats on record expressing a firm belief in the danger of terrorism and the need for national security. Any Democrat who backs away from that stance now is in for a rough ride in the polls by which politicians live and die.

Joe Mariani is a computer consultant born and raised in New Jersey. He now lives in Pennsylvania, where the gun laws are less restrictive and taxes are lower. Joe always thought of himself as politically neutral until he saw how far left the left had really gone after 9/11. His essays and links to articles are available at http://guardianwatchblog.com/

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