Send Me Your Tired, Your Poor, But Not Your United Arab Emirate, Please

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United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World, the world’s 7th largest terminal operator will be selling off the American operations it is acquiring from Peninsular and Oriental (a British company by the way.)

Is it because in this post 9/11 world, the nation’s ports are too important to be left in the hands of foreigners? Can’t be. The largest terminal operator in the United States is Denmark’s A.P. Moeller-Maersk, and Americans are barely bit players in the operating of ports of their own country.

Is it because the United Arab Emirates is a party to the Arab economic boycott of Israel, an effort by Arab states to economically isolate the Jewish state? Hardly. The boycott is hardly enforced by the UAE, and it has already lifted its secondary and tertiary boycotts, targeting companies that dealt with Israel.

Is it because Dubai Ports World can’t be trusted? Shouldn’t be. DP runs 22 marine terminals in 15 countries including India, Germany, and Australia. Heck, even Idan Ofer, chairman of Zim, Israel’s largest shipper wrote in a letter to Senator Hillary Clinton “we are very comfortable calling at DP World’s Dubai ports…We have not experienced a single security issue in these ports.” Besides DP will still be running terminals in other countries, loading ships destined for the United States, so keeping DP out of North America doesn’t solve the problem anyway.

Is it because the United Arab Emirates is a dictatorship? I suppose, but The United States would be hard pressed to find a better Arab friend than the UAE, which allows the U.S. to use its soil to transport troops to Iraq, and has provided real help to get at terrorist networks. And are the same people who opposed the port deal proposing to cut off every dictatorship in the world now? Yeah right!

Is it because the takeover of “strategic American infrastructure” to a foreign company was moving too fast and without sufficient review? Well, OK, at least this is a reasonable point, but the demagoguery spewed against the deal was well out of proportion to any reasonable argument, and it became obvious that the deal was going down regardless of how long the review took.

The Dubai Ports World deal was called off because the (self)-interests of protectionists on the left and right who fear foreign ownership of, well, anything and Democrats who smell President Bush’s blood in the water have been able to hijack the argument and convince many that allowing DP to run a few marine terminals is tantamount to letting Al-Qaeda manage America’s airports.

The United States is trying to be a shining example to the world of openness and economic power. Forcing Dubai Ports World to abandon its American acquisitions for no good reason can only make the Arab world question American commitment to the principles of fair play it claims to uphold. And won’t we feel smug and superior when the UAE takes other, less “strategic” investments to Europe and buys from Airbus, instead of Boeing.

Let’s cut through the crap – Are we saying that foreign investment is fine, unless you’re Arab? If so, then we’re playing into the hands of those in the Middle East who say the United States is racist and doesn’t really care about the Arab World, so why then should they help the United States?

Bruce H. G. Calder is a writer, Computer Programmer and Business Analyst who also writes at The Student Operated Press.