Tom Plate’s article on Dubai’s port-deal

Linked with our presentation of Tom Plate – USA.

Also linked with our presentation on Two women and two symbols of great defiance.

Prof. Tom Plate is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy and founder of the Asia Pacific Media Network.

Written on March 1, 2006 in Khaleej Times Online (a daily of the United Arab Emirates), this article shows EXACTLY what is the point:

IF YOU are looking around for a “moderate Arab Muslim state,” I have a very good candidate for you. And, no — it is certainly not Iraq! It’s the United Arab Emirates, it’s located in the Gulf region of the globe, and it has been evolving in the direction of a more moderate Islam.

The UAE — a seriously Islamic culture, generally of the conservative kind — sports an ultra modern city, Dubai, that hosts big-time sporting events (like the recent Dubai Women’s Open Tennis championship). It has been described by the US State Department as a staunch ally in our self-proclaimed “war on terror,” and is increasingly viewed by others as a nation that “punches above its weight” (sort of as if a Gulf-State Singapore).

But now Dubai is suddenly in the thick of an unfortunate overheated political storm because a state-owned company of the UAE was slated to take over the running of half a dozen US ports from a British company — but then our Congress of the United States got into the act.

Please understand that our present legislature has the fine political precision of a sledgehammer and in the ethics department it bobs somewhere around the muddy level of our scandal-stained pop music industry. Loud voices in this body are now raising questions about the suitability of Dubai Ports World to handle some US port operations in this post-9/11 epoch. The issues, roughly put, are that the port company is (a) owned by the government, (b) that government is Arab, and (c) all Arabs are….well, you get the idea!

Other issues raised include the fact that a pair of the 9/11 conspirators hailed from the UAE, and some of their money was funnelled though Dubai banks.

This is true, but by this logic alone, Congress also ought to consider banning trade with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the latter Islamic country being one of the main US staging posts in the US counter-attack on Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda, and the former the great holy land of liquid fossil fuel. This is the same Congress that some months back challenged and then scotched the proposed purchased of an American oil company by a mainland Chinese firm. This was foolish, too. For this sort of logic is murderously stupid and self-wounding.

Deals of this nature are of the essence of globalisation. Few of the nations we deal with as allies or friends are squeaky clean (Israel, for example, has been known to spy on us, as have the French, who of course almost never agree with us on anything; and on and on).

The United States, since the first Bush administration has been campaigning for open markets and free trade with all the fervor of a Baptist preacher. It is the foremost proponent of the globalisation movement. Now, it seems, Congress wants to make the US position on globalisation selectively less global.

Here we go again! When other countries express fears about this American takeover or that push of Western influence, they are told to shut up and stop acting like feudal-era babies. But when Congress raises national security issues, the world is supposed to stop in its tracks, the foreign party or company is to quietly withdraw, and then everyone is supposed to go about their business as if the playing field were still level.

One almost has to feel shock and awe for the poor Bush administration. For once, repeat, for once! — it has an issue relating to the Arab world 100 per cent right. And, once again, Congress is wrong. But it is a sign of this government’s perhaps terminal weakness that it now has to beat back those hotheads, demagogues and just plain anti-Arab racists who want to foul up the deal in our otherwise Republican Party-controlled national legislature.

One hopes that our friends in Dubai will stay cool through our winter madness and forgive us for our anti-globalisation sins. For at the end of this affair — if all goes well, if the actual facts are carefully weighed, if Congress somehow manages to figure out that not all Arabs are terrorists, this port deal should find a safe harbour.

But if the deal does come apart, the impact could be enormous. Responsible moderate Arab and Islamic governments will take from this a very obvious and very ugly lesson, and even without moving from his cave, Osama bin Laden will have gained another international publicity coup. It is one thing to draw a cartoon about Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that is offensive to the Islamic world, but it’s even worse when members of Congress start to behave like cartoon characters themselves.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.