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To scorn an ally

Ian Ronderos | Tuesday, March 7, 2006

The pro-American, westernized, economically modernizing United Arab Emirates’ state-run Dubai Ports World, owned by a dashing sheik as renowned in poetry as in horse racing, acquires a British company responsible for the operation of American ports. Sounds like a great idea, no? It is a chance to bring a key American ally in the region even closer. Few things bind states’ hearts more firmly than jointly shared economic interest. The congressional opposition to the Dubai Ports World deal is a shocking travesty that runs the risk of alienating an essential American ally in a region where true allies are as scarce as the sand is abundant.

Congressional opposition either comes from a general desire to oppose the president or a sincere, though deeply misplaced, opposition. Many Democrats have become accustomed to opposing the president in most everything he does, whether right or wrong. This is a political tactic designed to distance them as much as possible from the declining popularity of the current regime so that they may benefit in the upcoming election. These politicians have chosen to make this stand through cowardice. They are playing upon the hysteria of a terrified population by shrieking at the false construction of the Arab bogeyman. It is an emotional appeal designed to work upon the worst qualities of human nature. Shamed and debased are the times we live in. The aim of politics is to produce a healthy, prosperous and strong state. Many woes will attend the state where personal ambition replaces the general good as the aim of politics.

If the opposition does not come from the aforementioned general opposition to the president, the state of affairs is indeed more troubling. This form of opposition implies that the United Arab Emirates is either not a trusted ally or that if the U.A.E. is such an ally, there is another reason why DP World should not run the ports. The first alternative is patently false; the U.A.E. has allowed the United States to use her land, bases, ports and airspace during our military operations in that theatre. She has also functioned as a loyal ally during the “War on Terror.” Congressional opposition must stem from another cause that trumps the reality of the U.A.E.’s faithful alliance.

The vast concern that overrides Dubai’s friendship is that an Arab company will be running an important and sensitive industry. There was no commotion or uproar when a British firm was operating our ports. Chaos and indignation erupts the very second that an Arab company is about to take over. “How could we compromise our security in such a way?” There is no compromise occurring, as we are merely transferring the operation from one trusted ally to another trusted ally. Britain and the United Arab Emirates have both rendered crucial support and service to America. If our government should trust the former more than the latter, it implies that there is some inherent quality present in the Arab Muslim world that makes even our best allies from the region suspect at best.

The racism howling through the hollow concerns of Congressmen will only serve to exacerbate the tension and resentment flowing through the Arab world. The administration has gone to great lengths to elucidate the fact that the “Global War on Terror” is not a “Global War on Arabs or Muslims,” nor a case of East versus West. President George W. Bush deserves credit for supporting the port deal. He is staying true to his rhetoric. The congressional opposition is delivering the opposite message. They are in effect telling the Arab Muslim world that Britain is trustworthy, being a Christian western ally, but that the East needs to be viewed with distrust and kept at a safe distance.

The need to cultivate friendships within the Middle Eastern world is all too apparent. Hostility in the Arab world comes largely from the perception that America favors Israel over the Arabs and that she tries to impose her values upon their world. America needs to take steps to break down the perception that she is always opposed to Arab interests. The delay over the port deal is another slap in the face for the Arab world and a great insult. Arrogance of this sort produces terrorism and makes America less safe. The desire to gain safety by insulating America will not work. Peace and security shall be born from global cooperation and mutual interest. The more the United States binds her interests with the rest of the world, the less incentive there will be for conflict and violence – on both sides of the relationship.

Ian Ronderos is a senior majoring in the classics with a supplementary major in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Having retired from the College Republicans and adopted independent politics, he has entered the private life of peaceful contemplation. Ian can be contacted at irondero@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.