Political posturing on Dubai port deal will hurt security efforts

by on February 18th, 2006

Democrats plan bill to block Dubai port deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. Democratic senators said on Friday they would introduce legislation aimed at blocking Dubai Ports World from buying a company that operates several U.S. shipping ports because of security concerns.

Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Hillary Clinton of New York said they would offer a measure to ban companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from acquiring U.S. port operations.

“We wouldn’t turn the border patrol or the customs service over to a foreign government, and we can’t afford to turn our ports over to one either,” Menendez said in a statement. The Senate Banking Committee also plans to hold a hearing on the issue later this month.

P&O, the company Dubai Ports World plans to buy for $6.8 billion, is already foreign-owned, by the British, but the concern is that the purchaser is backed by the United Arab Emirates government.

This is a bit more than normal political grandstanding – Hillary considers this an opportunity to look tough on terrorism in her seemingly ever-failing attempts to capture political middle she needs to ascend to the presidency. While seeing past her actions to her political aims might be easy for many, understanding the unintended consequences of a successful blockage of the port sale might require a second look.

Why do they hate us? Western culture, with an underscored respect for reason, capitalism, and individual rights for all members of society is diametrically opposed to the virus of Islamic extremism which is escalating a battle for greater control of the Arab world and beyond. Any progress in lifting the Arab world into modern western standards is not going to be achieved by bribing these regimes to not attack us or capitulating to the demands of the extremists. Our greatest weapon is appealing to the self-interest of Arab companies and workers with the mutual benefits thankfully available through cooperation in modern global markets. Shared interests and shared fortunes with the Arab world will create equal incentives for security both on our shores and theirs. An attack on America by Arabs becomes a self-inflicted wound and sets off internal forces overseas to eradicate the virus.

In the long run, free trade is a more effective diplomacy tool than any number of guns. We are open to working with the Arab world as equals, not as terrorists. Money knows no borders or race or religion.

If these Clintonian political postures are successful, we will send a clear message to the Arab world that America is xenophobic – Arabs need not apply to the modern world, leaving options such as Hamas the seemingly only viable alternative. Assuming the deal is accepted, we send the message that America responds positively to peaceful cooperation and our wrath is only reserved for attacks on the rights that make such free trade available at all.

After WWI, Europe closed the door on German participation in modern society. The unintended consequence was, of course, Hitler. We can invite Arab society into the modern world, but only so long as our interests are aligned.

Michael Hussey