Wednesday, March 1, 2006

"Portgate" - for crying out loud

So the United Arab Emirates, some dinky little Arab country, wants to run the terminals at six American ports. Hmm. Sounds like a bad idea, doesn’t it, what with all these Arab terrorists who hate America so much. What with all these hundreds and hundreds of gigantic cargo containers entering the country, and without even being inspected – just a look at the manifest, and who knows but that those "green coconuts" are not in reality filled with sarin gas or somesuch. And you’ve seen how harsh I am on Islam. And I’m all for "racial" profiling – by which is meant, of course, "cultural" profiling. Virtually all terrorist activity is carried out by Moslem males between 17 and 35 years of age. Please, sir, may we have a special line at the airport for them?

Turns out, though, that the UAE is actually kind of a nifty place - considering it's run by those backward Arabs, I mean. It’s like what Iran was in the days of the Shah. Kind of friendly to the West. A vacation spot for timid Europeans. A first world country, extremely efficiently run. A very close and useful and strategeranius ally – we use their ports and airfields, and, uh, it’s right near, um, Iran. Our spy planes and unmanned aircraft are based there.

Problems? Sure. An autocratic government, but I don’t have a problem with that – it’s not the form of government, but the results of government, that I care about. Limited freedom of speech and press? – yes. Like most of the rest of the world. Like many of our allies. They’re one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban government – when there was a Taliban government, I mean. We recognize Red China but not Taiwan. Hmm. Now they have troops working with ours in Afghanistan. Problems with Israel? – I expect so. Ties to Islamaniacs? – could be. Used as a financial center by the 9/11 ehholes. Well, the UAE does have an open banking system.

So. We have an ally – a good ally, actually – the only substantive objection to which is that they are Arabs. This is an inadequate reason to stop this deal. Do we need proper vetting? Of course. Extra careful? Sure. Is there a risk of a Philby/Ames traitor? Yeah. But among the millions and billions of Mexicans thronging by night over our southern boarder, I imagine there may be an Arab or two in the crowd. We have, effectively, open land boarders. This is, it seems to me, a far greater risk than having some port terminals run by an efficient company owned by an actual we- can- and- will- hold- you- accountable- if- you- screw- up- in- any- way- at- all government.

There is at least one Arab country that has its act pretty much together. And they’re better at running ports than we are. Have we so many friends, that we can afford to cast some away? Shall we spit in the face of a nation, because it is not non-Arab? Hardly a move calculated to encourage moderate Moslems to voice support for moderation. We do not need to placate or mollify - appease - the Arabs. We have done them no offence. Yet. This, it seems to me, is an offence. Not huge, but real. Blaspheme Islam? I have no problem with disliking ideas. But revile a race? Big problem.

Maybe this deal is a bad idea. But the automatic, the knee-jerk reaction is beneath us. That there is caution is a good thing. That there is now a delay, to do further checks, is very reasonable – history, after all, exists. But the tone has been ugly, and that’s not right. It is beneath us. We’re better than that. I will love America, even when it’s wrong. But let’s be right, in this. It isn’t a particular outcome that will make us right. It’s how we get there. Let’s be gracious, even in disagreement.



Vandy said...

I have not heard a single word about this since the hoopla, You?

Jack H said...

That terrifying beast has been tamed, it seems. We must rush after the latest bit of news -- oh! say! did you know there's a gay congressman?!?