recent column, Antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo laments the breathtaking insanity
of the nation’s political factions, now united in an alleged battle to wrest
"national security" back from the clutches of friendly foreign investors:
"…the revolting display now taking place before our eyes – of pro-war Republicans and phony ‘antiwar’ Democrats uniting in hatred and fear of a tiny emirate on the Persian Gulf that has been abjectly loyal to the U.S. – is almost enough to make one retire to the sidelines and forget about the follies of humankind: because if this is a taste of what the future has in store for us, then we are doomed anyway, and the few sane people who still care about such things would just as soon retire to a beach somewhere and live out their days contemplating the sunset of reason."
This is a somber meditation indeed. Yet what more appropriate conclusion can be drawn from the Dubai Ports World debate, something that has so feverishly infected America’s political elite, invigorating them with a renewed sense of purpose in this hallowed year of congressional elections?
For what is being affirmed here is not some great victory for America’s security over those scheming Ay-rabs, but the bogus truism that if an agreement can be depicted as "bipartisan," it must necessarily convey the truth. And this is what is so depressing about the whole debacle. Not only are the congressional naysayers wrong, they are wrong for all the wrong reasons. In their cynical and calculated bids to prove that they have more national security street credibility than the president over what is truly a non-issue, they are ironically using Mr. Bush’s own strategy against him. But in the big picture, everyone loses, as we are unfortunately already starting to see.
Bush Vindicated, But Too Late
For once, George
W. Bush was right. At a time when America is living on borrowed foreign
credit and endangered by offshore competition and outsourcing, most foreign
investments can and should be seen as a Good Thing. Despite all the devious
hysteria, Dubai Ports World hardly represented a threat to American ports. And
especially in light of the omnipresent threat of terrorism, as Justin
Raimondo pointed out in
an earlier article, any Arab-controlled company wishing to do business in
the United States would by necessity have to make security their top
After all, economic self-interest and image management would decree that the Dubai firm run the tightest ship possible; were a terrorist attack to go down on their shift, it might mean the end of the company’s operations, at least in America. Alas, our political geniuses and a misinformed public have now made sure of that. Don’t you feel safer already?
What is most disturbing about this whole farce is that it will likely set a precedent for politicians looking to score points with their constituents by blocking or revoking other Arab business interests in their own states or districts. This frightening prospect will only increase American isolationism – to be clear, not the kind of isolationism that the neocons disingenuously accuse those who oppose the invasions of foreign countries of suffering from, but rather the kind of isolationism that seeks to hermetically seal the country from all economic and cultural interaction with the outside world. Yet in an age of globalization, this sort of attitude causes the most harm to those who wall themselves off from outside contact. Think of Albania under Enver Hoxha, Afghanistan under the Taliban, or North Korea now – is this really how Americans want to live?
Of course, things will never come to such an extreme, but when contemplating the full ramifications of the new isolationists’ argument, it becomes clear that their vision is not only self-defeating, but also impractical. The Washington Post explains:
"…foreign firms remain deeply embedded in nearly every major port in the country. And transferring ownership of those operations to U.S. companies could cause serious problems in an industry in which nearly all of the shipping is controlled by foreign interests. An immense amount of capital from those foreigners will be required to expand the nation's port system in coming years as global commerce continues to burgeon."
The Ascendancy of Dualism – A Pyrrhic Victory for the Government
However, this debacle was ironically one of the
president’s own making. For it was Mr. Bush who, in the wake of 9/11, forcibly
established the operative conditions for the current polarizing and irrational
debate, when he described his vision of the world in black-and-white, "with
us or against us" terms.
Such false logic has always been stubbornly persistent in American politics. It’s easy for politicians to campaign on and the media, driven by 30-second soundbytes and a poor reader attention span, thrives on reducing all events and phenomena to easily digestible and easily distinguishable black-and-white stories, where a complex and subtle reality is ignominiously reduced to a story of two "sides."
However, it was not until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and the administration’s reaction to them, that such thinking became the predominant one in the American political discourse. A crude logic elevated to what in religion is known as dualism, the "us vs. them" philosophy took firm command – for worse and for worse yet.
Indeed, in the age of terror this logic became
a sort of religion for the politicians, the media and the public in general.
However, while the War Party was successfully able to manipulate this alleged
reality of a dire dualistic struggle between Good and Evil, between America
and (Islamic) Terrorism to launch invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, they could
not keep the genie in the bottle. When Bush, Cheney and their advisors laid
out the ground rules of the new
reality, they could not keep their sundry opponents from getting in on the
game too. Before, it was the "blame Saudi Arabia!" battle cry issuing
forth from leftists like Michael
Moore and outlandish
indefinables like Steven Schwartz that took precedence. Now, it is the Dubai
ports spectacle, "uniting" Democrats and Republicans on an allegedly
key issue for national security.
The fact that such enormous and uninformed generalizations are currently flourishing just goes to show the degree to which impassioned hysterics has replaced sober reasoning in American politics and the media. Yet it was President Bush who painted the world in black and white oppositions, and it was also he who put the theme of protecting America above all, while manifesting it in all the worst possible ways, by persecuting whistleblowers bearing urgent data, by ordering illegal domestic spying, and by launching unnecessary and wasteful foreign wars that have only replenished the ranks of those conspiring to inflict harm on America, jihadis who continue to pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain.
That said, it would seem the one good thing the government has done in its quest to retain good relations with the Muslim world is to continue doing business with it. However, through its five-year program of demonizing Muslims, the government has obfuscated important differences, done away with subtle distinctions, and deliberately nurtured xenophobia among the American people – some of whom still believe Saddam was involved with 9/11, and who remain ignorant of the fact that Muslim cities like Dubai are light years ahead of many Western cities in every respect.
This ignorance is shameful. And it is very harmful to American interests. But the government, which has tacitly and consistently implied since 9/11 that the Muslim world in general is not to be trusted, and that securing the realm from their terrorists is of utmost importance, had it coming long before the Dubai ports deal became a hot issue.
Now, with America increasingly hated throughout the Muslim world, and an attack on Iran even being contemplated, the country can ill afford to alienate potential investors whose economic self-interests harmonize with American economic and security needs. Indeed, far more important than winning the "hearts and minds" of the "Arab street" is retaining the dollars and good relations of the Arab decision-makers and businessmen.
A Bleak Future
With this latest "bipartisan" effort
to protect America’s shores, the future has opened onto a worrying new dimension.
As congressional and eventually presidential elections draw closer, what other
Muslim ally will be targeted next? Will Saudi companies wind up on the block?
Will Jordanian businessmen get the boot? Will Turkish investors be dissuaded?
How about those Egyptians?
We got a preview of what is to come on Thursday, with the following grand revelation from the San Francisco Chronicle:
"…resistance to foreign ownership of U.S. port operations spilled over into the aviation arena when a congressional committee told the Bush administration to postpone a plan to allow more foreign control of domestic airlines.
"The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed a resolution directing
the Transportation Department to hold off for 120 days on its proposal to give
foreign investors in U.S. airlines more latitude to influence management decisions."
And what, pray tell, were these pressing security concerns all about?
Apparently, lawmakers were alarmed by "…a proposed regulation that would give foreign airline investors more control over marketing, flight routes and what kinds of planes to fly." Shocking stuff indeed!
The situation is clear. Unless their logic is exposed to the harsh light of reason, America’s puerile politicians will continue trying to alienate America’s Muslim allies, and so unleash a poisonous cloud of mistrust, hasten the phony "clash of civilizations," and increase their people’s own economic impoverishment – while telling them all of this is good for them.
The debate over the ports deal was one based on wrong-headed reasoning. And its unfortunate result is isolationism of the wrong kind. It goes to show that the wisdom of America’s founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson’s maxim of "peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations" has been forgotten. So while President Bush is to be commended for staunchly defending the Dubai ports deal on its merits, the sad truth of the matter is that it was his own political opportunism after 9/11 that made this latest defeat possible.
Now, the eternally reckless War Party is salivating over the prospect of seeing its own prophecies fulfilled through the triumph of specious reasoning and constant fear-mongering, as this can only be good for their own "growth industry" – that is, a constant state of war between America and the Muslim world. The fact that they are getting their work done for them by representatives of both sides of the political aisle is just icing on the cake.
Yet the great "victory" of having apparently driven a multi-billion
dollar Arab foreign investor out of America could have serious ramifications
in the long run for American economic interests, as foreign investors seek out
their fortune on the world’s other six continents. The process might be slow
and gradual, but it will occur, unless the country’s leaders start thinking
with more common sense. Foreign relations, and perhaps American security, are
bound to suffer as well. Indeed, it may be time to start thinking about cashing
in those Yankee dollars while you still can, and looking for that second home
on an island beach in the sun.