26 February, 2006

Strategic hate initiative

Hi all! No, I wasn't crushed to death in a trash compactor! I've just been trying to finish this paper, which means I'm not blogging at work, which is where I get my best stuff done. Anyway, this post comes to you courtesy of procrastination.

There's been a lot of noise made about a decision to allow a UAE-based company to manage U.S. ports. A lot of this noise comes from liberal quarters, where it's apparently okay to tar Arabs with the broad brush of terrorism if it looks bad for Bush. Atrios is pretty reliable for saying the wrong thing in such instances, and doesn't disappoint this time:
Normally I'm made a little bit uncomfortable by issues which have a crypto-racist tinge to them - they're Arabs so they're bad! - but this seems to be a genuine issue. Why the hell would we let a UAE owned company handle domestic port operations?
Note the obvious subtext. "Normally I'm a little bit uncomfortable - but I can't pass up some Bush-baiting. Fuck those dirty Arabs anyway!" Or Kos, who has a whole section devoted to this flap, including this especially telling diary:
The "opponents of the port deal are racists and xenophobes" argument has both puzzled and enraged me for the past 48 hours. People much smarter than me have pointed out that if you spend three years drumming into Americans' heads that "Arabs = scary" they might believe you.

So, I was looking at the Dubai tourism website from a link on a previous diary, and found this under the "General Information" section of the "Visa Regulations" tab:

Nationals of "Israel" may not enter the U.A.E.

Now, there are those who want us to believe that this is a matter of simply "free trade" or "international business as usual" and "confidence building among trade partners." But ask yourselves if this were any other situation in which our "trading partner" imposed such a restriction, whether outrage would be warranted.

And STFU about the "xenophobia" stuff.
(Irony, you will recall, died sometime during the Nixon administration of "asphyxiation", and thus does not apply to this particular post, no matter how ironic you might find it.)

I don't have much to add. It's obviously racist to assume that a given party is not trustworthy merely because they're Arab. It makes me highly inclined to doubt the trustworthiness of the bloviating parties on such subjects as the USA PATRIOT act and anti-Arab racism in general. Political opportunism is no substitute for, you know, um, principles.


Glad you're alive! I always spend more time on the bloggitude when I'm procrastinating, but that's just me.

Anyway, winna has a good read  on this issue. 

Posted by someone else

I second someone else. :-)

Besides not being a substitute for principles, it's also not even a substitute for carefully assembled realpolitik. I'd be willing to listen to any of these people at least for a few minutes if I thought they might have some solid policy analysis to present. This is, after all, an issue that boils down to operations. But no, it's not likely to come any time soon.

Oh and my friend Colin is also griping about this over at my place . :-) 

Posted by Saheli

my favorite part of all this is the bush administration signing off on giving such a contract to a state-owned company of a non-democratic country without blinking or even really waking up, or feeling like they need to explain how these things are consistent with either their privatization or "democracy" crusades. their domestic political supporters must be smoking things. 

Posted by david

Sure, the Hillary Clintons and the Atrios' of the world look the worst in this whole thing with their brutally racist language. But the supporters of the deal are pretty awful themselves, saying that UAE are "good Arabs" because they cooperate with the terror war. Is it just so obvious that it isn't worth talking about? How crass can you get when you hinge commercial deals on "agreement" in foreign policy decisions? It looks like the world "democracy initiative" is taking its model democracy from Duke Cunningham. 

Posted by Dan

yes - it's made me realize how elastic the "with us or against us" statement was - it sizes to fit both political idealism and bald extortion - and many other translucent-to-opaque goals to boot. who "us" means is apparently also negotiable. 

Posted by david

I have to disagree, Dan. This is clearly an issue worth talking about because of the continued and ignored nonracist criticisms of port security, as well documented by Krugman and others. The disgusting or unfortunate thing (depending on your opinion of the American media, public, and officials) is that timing and the zeitgeist seem to allow this issue only to be talked about when something like racism or xenophobia is a frame for it.

And as for the intersection of the interests of commerce and foreign policy--well, isn't that the sort of thing that the nation state is all about? 

Posted by someone else

Glad to know you survived that trash compactor, Saurabh. I wasn't so lucky. I lost my frontal lobe. All posts will henceforth be dispassionate to the point of banality. I suggest we fire me.

Apropos of this event: I was at a gym where CNBC was blaring from a TV in the dressing room (it was that kind of gym -- more bankers than boxers) and Steve Forbes was saying that companies is companies, Arab or British or whatever. I said aloud what I thought: "Never thought I'd agree with Steve Forbes."

My mother was moved to fury by the MoveOn e-mails. She rightly demanded what the Administration is thinking to go ahead with this deal while forcing old ladies to take off their Hush Puppies at the airport. Still, I couldn't join her righteous indignation, and this was before the lobotomy. I wrote:

"The Dubai situation is less grave than the congresscritters are making it out to be. I have a hard time worrying more about a foreign government than about a multinational corporation. If the port managers were really able to get away with mischief, most likely the managers we already have would be doing so."

The Teamsters you can see raising their fists on the cover of Tuesday's New York Times don't seem to care about loading union-busting, pro-dictatorship goods from China. But they're mad now. It looks to me like what really bugs them is that they will have to, in the words of Mark Twain, "humble myself to a nigger."

Just for that, let me remind this little comment thread of the full paragraph . "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel that way." 

Posted by hodgepodge

i cite the headline and article  "Neo-Con Superhawk Earns His Wings on Port Flap" as evidence that we are still under the influence of xenophobic white-hat-black-hat peddlers who are making it (a) hard to think straight and (b) much  easier to rob everybody blind. 

Posted by david

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