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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Timmer's FLIP-FLOP On U.A.E. Port Operations Deal

John Kerry's Got NOTHIN' On This Guy!

Okay, maybe not a total flip-flop (like Senator Kerry), but my attitude has been somewhat mitigated on this issue.

Like most of you, when I first heard about this impending deal, the first thought in my mind was "WTF!?" The second was "An ARAB Company is taking over major U.S. ports!?" I then wrote this article without first researching all of the facts that were available. Although the Bush administration has done a terrible PR job on this transaction, mine was more a gut reaction than one of measured analysis. My only excuse (other than the botched PR) is that this falls on the heals of the world-wide Islamic chaos that resulted from a few cartoons (and AMAZING PR from radical Islamic fundamentalists), and I am basically pissed off at Muslims. I have discovered myself sliding down this slippery slope of bias against Muslims AND Arabs in general (they are not always the same thing - Iranians, for instance, are Indo-Europeans) and have now willed my sweeping condemnation to an abrupt halt.

So where do I now stand on this issue? That, my friends, is the 20,000 Dinar question. The short answer is simply this - I want to see this explained better by the White House, but not scuttled for politics alone. I am not the only conservative blogger to have stepped in it, then stepped back. Sistah Toldjah writes:

"The more this UAE port management story is being reported, examined, and discussed in the MSM, as well as on opinion pages and in the blogosphere, the more I find myself believing that the issue has bas (sic) been overhyped unecessarily. Even with saying that, I know that the concerns put forth by many of our fellow conservatives are genuine and heartfelt...What persuaded me to change my mind? A number of pieces I printed out today to look over later this evening when I had some time to read and digest them..."
And my friend Amy Proctor has been steadfast in her cautious support:

"The UAE has been accused of "ties" to two 9/11 terrorists, but the connotation is not necessarily valid. The U.S., after all, is where the 9/11 terrorists learned to fly, lived in hotels and used the US as an interface to pull off their plots. It could be argued that the US has ties to the 9/11 terrorists as well..."
I have discovered over the last few days that this is NOT about Arabs "taking over" these ports. DP World of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has made a successful bid to buy the management rights of port operations from another foreign company - NOT ownership of any ports, nor the actual security. In fact, this company is considered by some to be the most efficient in the world at this sort of work, and they have franchises like this all over the world (including China and Australia).

I should have also remembered that the U.A.E., despite some questionable history, has been an immensely effective partner to the U.S. in the war on terror. If you look at a map, you will see that the U.A.E. is just across the Persian Gulf from Iran - and they have allowed us to place a sprawling U.S. Air Force Base on their soil. They tend to U.S. Naval Ships. They have been instrumental in capturing terrorists. And, as I have discovered myself when visiting there, they are the most western-friendly and cosmopolitan of any Arab country. Even the Golf is good. They are much like we would like to envision a future Iraq.

The U.A.E., and the Arab World in general, will surely be insulted if we show sudden bias toward them at this important juncture in our relationship with them - and who could blame them? If our rationale for excluding them from this enterprise is simply that they are Arabs, then all of our efforts to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East is preposterous and duplicitous. If we base this exclusion on terrorist activity that has happened on their soil and in their institutions, then we have to include the United States in that dubious list of exclusion - as we trained the 9-11 pilots, who were funded through channels into the U.S.

As many Democrats and some Republicans (up for election) know, this situation is almost the perfect storm against Bush. On the one hand, you have a political climate in America where the Democrats could not gain a foothold on the issue of National Defense. On the other, you have the President between a rock and a hard place - that is, insulting a major partner in the GWOT, or paying the political price of fighting a losing battle. As this situation is more complicated than the average constituent's attention span, it is fair to say that the President has been cornered - and his explanation is late and now falling on mostly deaf ears. I think it's safe to say that, politically, this is a nightmare for Bush - and it builds on the chink in his armor that is Border Security.

But a word of caution - this is a CONFUSING ISSUE, so beware of politicians intentionally stretching the facts! This is NOT a "takeover" and it is NOT "outsourcing" (as it was already "outsourced" to the British). Fans of Hillary Clinton might want to remember that as she continues this barrage of insults to our collective intelligence.


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Retired Navy and Cold War/Gulf War Veteran. Senior Analyst for a large defense contractor, Bachelor of Science, Father, moonlighting Graphic Designer (T-shirts etc) and Blogger.

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