Why isn't President Bush pressuring the United Arab Emirates to become the United Arab Democracies? Doesn't our security depend on it?
If you could know for certain that Emirates officials no longer consort with Osama bin Laden (as The 9/11 Commission Report -- see pages 137-139 -- says they did before Sept. 11, 2001), and if you weren't inalterably opposed on free-market grounds to government ownership of industry, then Bush's support for permitting an Emirates-government-owned entity to manage some U.S. port facilities might be a defensible exercise in realpolitik. It cannot be squared, however, with the president's argument that our security depends on pushing democracy around the world and especially in the Middle East.
The ports deal enriches the United Arab Emirates' authoritarian rulers.
Bush's realistic action here rebuts his ideological rhetoric. Forget democracy. These emirs, he has apparently decided, are our kind of emirs.
Last Tuesday, Bush lauded the Emirates as our "ally in the war on terror" and said it "would send a terrible signal to friends and allies" if we prevented them from managing some of our port operations. Three days later, he gave a major speech discussing "how our efforts to spread liberty and democracy throughout the broader Middle East are progressing." But he said not a word about spreading liberty and democracy to the Emirates. What kind of signal did that send?
Bush's rhetoric was sweeping. "Our freedom agenda is based on a clear premise: The security of our nation depends on the advance of liberty in other nations," he said. "To secure the peace of the world, we seek the end of tyranny in the world."
His benchmarks for measuring Middle Eastern regimes were specific. "Our efforts in the broader Middle East have been guided by a clear principle," Bush said. "Democracy takes different forms in different cultures. Yet all cultures, in order to be successful, have certain common truths: rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, a free economy, freedom of women and the freedom to worship."
So, how do the emirs measure up? Judging by the State Department's most recent Country Report on Human Rights (published in 2005), they fall far short. Do the Emirates have "democracy"? "There are no democratic elections or institutions, and citizens do not have the right to form political parties," says State.
Do the Emirates have "rule of law"? "The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary," says State, "however, its decisions were subject to review by the political leadership."