A Port in the Dubai Storm

Posted: Mar 10, 2006 5:52 PM

  • When this Dubai ports thing started I said that the likely outcome would be that DP World (the Dubai-based company at the center of this cyclone) would open a US subsidiary which would have complete control and autonomy over the terminals in question and would only be connected to Dubai via a checking account into which the profits would be put.

  • I still think that will happen even though the general feeling is that DP World will sell the US operation (which is only one portion of the assets it bought from the British firm which had been running these terminals).

  • Yesterday the company issued a press release in which it said (according to an AP piece by Dave Espo and Andrew Taylor):

      “DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations … to a United States entity.”

  • Let us assume that the folks in Dubai didn’t sit around drafting this language during morning coffee, waiting for the latest price of oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

  • Let us assume, rather, that hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of dollars worth of lawyers, lobbyists, former Senators and their former staffers, PR types, and the head guys from Dubai thought very, very carefully about this language.

  • Do you see the word “sell” in there?

  • Why use the term “transfer” instead of “sell,” unless the drafters were being paid by the letter?

  • And two whom will they “sell” these assets? If there were an American firm interested in operating these terminals why didn’t they join Dubai and Singapore in the bidding contest which had been going on since late September 2005?

  • The Emir of Dubai did President Bush a huge favor by agreeing not to operate these terminals.

  • An overwhelming vote in the House and Senate to stop the deal, followed by a Presidential veto, followed by an almost certain veto override would have provided great political theater for the next month or so, but would have done lasting damage to relations at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • Republicans in the House and Senate running for re-election win because they now have an excellent counter-argument when their Democratic challengers accuse them (as they most certainly will) of being Bush clones: “I have two words for my opponent: Dubai Ports.”

  • Assuming Dubai finds a US buyer, they will have flipped the asset, generating more than a few extra Dirhams (the unit of UAE currency) in the process, so they will be happy.

  • The only losers in this whole thing are our friends the Democrats who are now left to sift through the wreckage of their glee to see if even a minor political point remains to be scored.

  • There is a larger question which is yet to be settled: Have Americans now decided that it is acceptable to exhibit bigotry against all Arabs from any country?

  • In World War II we seemed to be able to distinguish between Asians of Japanese ancestry and those who were Chinese, or Thai, or Filipino. Nor did we have a problem understanding that some Europeans were Danish and others – who looked very much like them – were German.

  • If we are to officially hate Arabs, do we only hate Islamic Arabs or should we also hate Arabs who are Christians?

  • If it is Islam, then are we to also hate Muslims in Africa? Or in Indonesia? How about Muslims who are American citizens? And, if so, should we hate White and Black Muslim Americans equally, or do African-American Muslims get a bye based upon how their forebears were treated?

  • We may have found a political port in this Dubai storm, but if, for the price of it, we have agreed that state-sponsored racism is acceptable public policy, then we will be sailing into a great deal of troubled water in the years ahead.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the AP’s coverage of the Dubai deal, an uncaptioned Mullfoto, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.