My initial knee-jerk reaction to Bush’s port deal was much like every other conservative blogger – “What is the President thinking?!?” Having settled down and actually looked at the issue, I think much of the group-think on this issue is wrong or at least overly paranoid.
I totally understand all of the arguments against making the deal:
1) How can we trust a Middle Eastern company to run our ports safely.
2) Politically this is an stupid thing to do.
3) Jimmy Carter supports it.
All those things make me want to run as far away from this deal as possible (especially the last one), but after evaluating the issue more closely I think this will make us safer in the long run and here’s why.
If you support Bush’s War on Terrorism and specifically the war in Iraq, then you must believe that Arabic Muslims are capable of establishing and maintaining a democratic government and society. Why else would we seek to put one an Iraqi one in place if we thought they could not maintain it?
Supporters of the war effort have to feel that Muslims want the same freedoms we do and there are some who do not support terrorism. Again if you don’t believe that, we have no business invading Iraq and Afghanistan.
The logic of the war follows that once Iraq shows the Middle East what freedom is like, other Muslim nations will want the same.
Nations like UAE and Saudia Arabia are not Great Britian or Australia. They are not our strongest supports in the war effort. The leaders of the nations are not making speeches praising our foreign policy, but they are allies in the global War on Terror. They are helping us, possibly as much as they can.
Just as this port deal is not a politically popular move in the US, openly supporting America is currently not a wise thing to do for Middle Eastern nations with high Muslim populations.
The question becomes how to we help Muslim government leaders be able to support us more vocally – things like this port deal. We show trust to the UAE with very little risk (I’ll get to that in a moment). People in those nations begin to see America in a different light through our work in Iraq, once it becomes a stable government, and our positive dealings with other Arabic nations.
It is the carrot and stick method. You cannot simply punish wrong actions. You must also reward good actions. Nations that help us, however small it may seem, should be welcomed into our “axis” and economy.
If we turn down the UAE company simply because they are based in Dubai and not London, we will give Muslims another reason to assume that America hates them – they don’t need many. Dubai happens to be one of the most western, capitalistic places in the Middle East.
But the question that is on everyone’s mind is – how can we be safe with a Muslim company controlling our ports? The answer – the same way we were safe with an English company controlling our ports.
The ports are a weak spot in our national security, but do you honestly think those patrolling the ports would be less diligent with a Muslim nation operating them? The company will not control security, merely managing the commercial aspects, and will have to go through all the same channels as the other companies owning sea ports.
It is not as if UAE can appoint Osama Bin Laden as a dock operator and no one can stop them. They will be operating within the US and will have to work with Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, US Customs and everyone else involved with securing the ports. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that this move will spur increased security in our ports.
No one has yet to give any evidence that this move will make America any less safe, expect to say, “They’re Muslims.” If that is our only reasoning, they we have already lost the War on Terror and may as well pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is an extremely wise move internationally that could cost Bush immensely at home and that is a shame.