Like a lot of Americans and politicians in Washington, when I heard that a company from the Middle East was getting permission to operate one of the largest cargo terminals in New York Harbor and terminals in Philadelphia, Baltimore and other big US ports I went ballistic. You’ve got to be kidding, I thought? Are we going to let the inmates run the asylum? Then I settled down and reviewed the facts. The more I looked, the more I liked the idea.
Dubai Ports World, an international company started in Dubai, UAE, has paid $6.8 billion to acquire a British firm, Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
P & O Ports North America, a subsidiary of the British firm, currently operates the US ports. If the deal is completed the ports would essentially be operated by Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the Dubai Ports Authority, part of the Government of Dubai.
For me Dubai isn’t just a spot on the world map. I’ve traveled there twice and have close friends there, both Arabic and Indian. Dubai is one of seven kingdoms (Emirates) that compose the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is by far the most secular Muslim country in the Middle East and Dubai is unquestionably the most progressive of the seven Emirates.
Dubai’s Historical Support of Freedom
To build my case for Dubai Ports World let me first discuss the history of kingdom of Dubai. Decades ago the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid, against the advice of his family and advisors, opened Dubai for foreign investment. Because Dubai has virtually no oil, Rashid realized that Dubai needed to stake it’s long-term future on international investment and commerce. He transformed Dubai into a free-market economy and created a friendly tax environment that attracted investors from Europe, America, and all over the world. In Dubai only 10% of the population are native Arabic people, known in Dubai as “locals”. The other 90% have come from all over the world to develop and sustain the rapidly growing economy of Dubai.
Over the past thirty years these expatriates have built huge skyscrapers and established Dubai as a world-class city of commerce. Visiting Dubai is like touring in any progressive western city. Shopping means Abercrombie, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, IKEA; you name it, they’ve got it! You can walk the streets of Dubai day and night without worry of crime. It is a thoroughly modern and wonderful city. Most of the “locals” in Dubai dislike traveling to places like Saudi Arabia and Iran, judging them to be restricted and dull. They would much rather spend their vacations in Europe or the United States. On the other hand, freedom-loving Muslims from all over the Middle East flock to Dubai to enjoy the nightlife!
When Sheikh Rashid first started opening Dubai’s borders to international investment, one of his family elders expressed concern, saying, “The westerners will plunder our economy and steal our money”. The Sheikh, in his ultimate wisdom, told his elder to go down to the Dubai airport. “When you see the British carrying one of the buildings they have built here in Dubai back to England on an airplane, call me at once!” he said. Unlike most Middle Eastern countries that have tried to distance themselves from Western ideas and culture, Dubai has embraced Western attitudes and freedom. This is why Dubai stands out like a shining jewel in contrast to her backward, unprogressive, fundamentalist neighbors. If there is any Middle Eastern kingdom that is worthy of our business, it is Dubai.
Dubai’s Business Acumen
One of the best-known businesses of Dubai is Emirates, the state-owned airline. This is the finest airline I have ever flown. Their equipment is new and they spare no expense on their customers. Even the coach section of the aircraft has a television for each person, located on the back of the seat in front. They serve alcohol on their flights and you might be surprised to see how many Muslims take advantage of that fact. Their flight crews are 100% British. No other nationality need apply! Emirates Airlines flies to many destinations in Europe and Asia and even has a non-stop flight to New York. Funny how we haven’t seen any protests over that! I know of no terrorist incident that has ever occurred on an Emirates flight.
Two months ago the government of Dubai signed a contract to replace their Airbus fleet with $19,000,000,000 (that’s 19 billion dollars, folks) of new Boeing aircraft. I wonder how many American jobs that will create over the next ten years. Isn’t it unusual that these alleged terrorists from Dubai would spend that amount of money supporting the US economy? It’s even more curious that they would spend $6.8 billion to acquire the rights to operate ports here. If their purpose were to destroy us wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to just put a dirty bomb in a suitcase?
Dubai Ports World is one of the most efficient cargo loading companies in the world. US ports are not well run. Many American companies got out of the cargo handling business years ago, burdened by union contracts and unwilling to make the needed capital investments to efficiently unload containers. The British and others entered our market and have been running our ports ever since. The result has been more efficient cargo handling, saving American consumers billions of dollars. If you want to learn more about Dubai Ports World, you can go their website at: http://www.dpiterminals.com.
Port Security vs. Port Operations
One of the reasons to oppose engaging a Dubai-owned company to handle port operations is that this will create a national security risk. There’s one big problem with that argument. Dubai Ports World is purchasing the rights to operate the port, which means that they will load and unload cargo. It is the responsibility of the US government, not the port operators, to provide port security. Right now our government inspects only 5% of the cargo entering the United States. If Americans really want port security they should ante up the money to allow the US government to inspect each and every item entering the ports. If the US government isn’t providing adequate port security it doesn’t matter whether a Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Christian, atheist, German, African, Dane, or American is unloading the cargo, there will be a problem.
It is my personal position that no political consideration imaginable creates an acceptable reason to compromise our nation’s security. Because the government of Dubai has allowed us to inspect cargo within Dubai since 911, because Dubai has been our strongest Middle East ally in the fight against global terrorism, and for all of the reasons mentioned above, it is my conclusion that the Dubai Ports World deal will not compromise our security. Period.
If that is the case, and I believe it to be the case, our failure to approve the Dubai Ports World contract can lead our friends in Dubai to only one conclusion; that we suffer from irrational Arab phobia. We will become the Western equivalent of cartoon rioters. That’s not a good signal to give our allies in the Arab world, especially one as solid and supportive as the kingdom of Dubai.
When all of his 14th century-thinking neighbors told Sheikh Rashid to stay away from the Western world and it’s influence, he was bold enough to tell them that they were mistaken and he was willing to take the heat. History has proven him correct. Now our politicians are being asked to be as open minded and bold as Rashid. I hope they have the wisdom to ignore those who wallow in Arab phobia.