I try to stick to writing about the absurdities that high finance offers, but sometimes something so tragic-comic outside that realm occurs that I can't ignore it. The Dubai debacle is one such occurence. Actually, the issue is not really outside the purview of The Wall Street Urinal, since so many petro-dollars from places like Dubai have been flowing into the US, supporting our economy. Every time I read about this story, I hear that song, "Send In The Clowns."
Start with W. Look, I don't think there is anything wrong with the Emir of Dubai buying the company that manages six US ports. But somebody somewhere along the line of decision making within the Bush administration should have heard some extra loud beeps as this regulatory action made its way across the political radar screen. Afterall, this is George the Vanquisher of Terrorists, who has been telling the nation for five years how vigilant we have to be against another homeland attack. On the surface, this deal looks like we are allowing the enemy entry into our very ports; and nowadays, within the present political climate, the surface is all that matters. Higher level Bushies should have known about this before it hit the fan. Of course, nobody higher up than pay grade three claims to have known about it. Yeah, right. Once they knew about it, they could have prepped Congress about it and gauged just how much resistance there might be. If Bush had quietly vetted this through Congress, then there probably would not have been such a public hue and cry. And if the administration had sensed that opposition would be as intense as it turned out being, it could have sub rosa talked the Emir into changing the deal in exactly the way he ended up changing it, minus all the controversy.
And what about Congress? Has there ever been an issue more demogogued than this one (excepting Social Security)? Dubai has been a staunch and strategic ally of the US. It offers the US one of the largest ports in the world for the US Navy. (Why are none of the people so worked up about our ports not also worked up about Arabs servicing our navy?) Dubai signed an agreement with the US that offers strict oversight of shipping in and out the country, an agreement that most countries would regard as an affront to their national sovereignty. Dubai offers a model to the rest of the Arab world of a relatively open, progressive, capitalist society, one of the few economic success stories in the Muslim world.
And how do we offer our thanks and appreciation to the Emir for his support? We metaphorically spit in his face, make him a laughing stock to the rest of the Arab world. So what exactly is the train of thought running through the minds of people opposed to this deal? The Emir is making a multi-billion dollar investment in the British company that manages ports around the world, including six in the US. Nothing about the company, its operations or its personnel, is changing except the ownership. Does Chuck Schumer think the Emir, a true friend of the US, is going to allow Al Queda the ability to infiltrate this company that he bought for X billions of dollars so that it can harm his ally, the US? Why would the Senator and all the others who voted with him to nix this deal think such a preposterous scenario would happen?
Schumer, Clinton and most of the others aren't as stupid as Senator Barbara Boxer, who after launching a public tirade against this deal because it allows a foreign country to run our ports, was informed that most of the ports in this country are run by foreign companies, including several in California that are managed by the Peoples Republic of China. What an airhead.
I doubt that Schumer et al really believe this deal was such a threat, that the Emir would allow terrorists to take over his company. They know that security is not in the hands of those who manage the flow in and out of ports but is entrusted to the Coast Guard and the Customs Office. Democrats like Chuck and Hillary just wanted to score political points, wanted for once to be on the side of strong national defense. And Republicans' motivation for attacking this transaction was not so ulterior; they simply behaved as all cowards do. They saw the polls on this issue as well as the poll numbers on Bush and ran scared.
What's particularly ironic about the whole affair is that people who normally are so meticulously politically correct and ethnic sensitive, i.e., liberal Democrats, have in this case engaged in blatant bigotry and racism. Let's face it, the "multicultural/people of color" crowd think some groups deserve protection, such as blacks and homosexuals, while it's always open season on other groups. One has to tread on tiptoes whenever speaking about say, blacks or latinos, but one can get away with saying anything--and I mean anything-- about other less favored groups, such as evangelical Christians, Southerners, Catholics, and most of all, Arabs. Look how Hollywood typically treats Arabs in the few movies in which Arabs or Muslims ever play a significant role. Suffice it to say that they are rarely the good guys. And so Hillary Clinton has no problem with the British running our ports but an Arab, even if a true friend of the US? Forget about it...for no other reason than the Emir is an Arab. The hypocrisy is almost breath-taking.
And what about the media? The media abandoned all responsibility to educate the populace about this issue. They jumped on the story as just another chance to bash Bush, whom most of the media despises. Only after the deal was called off, did the media discuss the negative reprecussions, such as how foreign investors might not be so eager to put money in the US, how moderate Arabs and Muslims around the world will view this as an insult and be more cautious about supporting the US. Why didn't the talking heads discuss these possibilites while the debate raged? They had their cake and ate it too, they got to report the negative fireworks for Bush while the debate was on and the negative ramifications after the debate was over. Wherever there is a fire, you can count on the media showing up. But don't count on it for a balanced analysis of an issue such as this.
Last and certainly not least, blame has to be laid on moderate Arabs such as the Emir. Sure many Americans are uneasy about handing port management to Arabs. Yes, the Emir is a friend, but has he ever spoken out publicly against Al Queda? Has he ever decried the carnage taking place in neighboring Iraq? No, he hasn't. And it doesn't help that his country has boycotted trade with Israel. Why hasn't some prominent Iman somewhere in the Muslim world issued a fatwa against killing innocent civilians in the name of Islam. Maybe such a fatwa has been issued, but it certainly hasn't been very well promulgated. So the cowardly silence of the so-called moderate Arabs in the face of terrorism creates the impression among Americans that all Arabs think the same. This contretemp presented the perfect opportunity for the Emir to make crystal clear his position on Al Queda, on Iraq, on the killing of innocent Christians, Jews, Hindus, and yes Muslims by Muslim fanatics the world over. But the Emir remained silent within his palace. Until Arabs speak out, they will continue to have an image problems in the rest of the world.
And so blame goes all around. Do we laugh at the clowns or cry when the economic ramifications of all this folly become clear? The Emir of Dubai needs our protection. But the sad fact is that maybe the US needs him more than he needs us.