Friday, February 24, 2006

Maybe Bush has a point?

With the Bush Administration's curious announcement to turn over American port operations to the United Arab Emirates, we sure have been hearing a lot about Dubai lately. (see pic) As it turns out, that plan is now on the slow-track pending some further nit-picking. Like I mentioned yesterday, I have no idea if the the President's plan to turn over the ports to the U.A.E. is a bad idea or not, I admit I'm still skeptical. But there may be a silver lining: Americans are (finally) talking about port security and that is a good thing.

This scandal plays out the same week that Dubai is hosting a million dollar pro tennis tournament. Additionally, the Dubai Duty Free firm is actually the title sponsor of the entire women's tennis tour. (Who knew?) Back in the 1980's and 90's when the tour was sponsored by a cigarette company, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova battled week in and week out to win the Virginia Slims Cup. Today's top stars are vying to become the Dubai Duty Free champ.

One quick peek at the tournament website and you see that Dubai really is a premiere tourist destination. There are even tips for what to wear:
With its liberal attitude, there is not much that visitors to Dubai cannot wear. However, as in all countries, a healthy amount of respect for the local customs and sensibilities do not go amiss. Dubai is an Islamic state and dress should be modest, especially when visiting the traditional areas of the Emirate. Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, but something slightly warmer may be needed in the evening for the winter months. In the evenings, restaurants and clubs usually have a mixture of styles, including Arabic, Asian and Western. During the day, good quality sunglasses, hats and sun-cream are definitely needed.
Good to know the girls won't have to wear a birque out on the court.

Aparently a clever Sheikh realized that one day the petro-chemical dollars will be gone and decided to invest heavily in Dubai's tourist industry. And they spared no expense whatsoever. Amazing hotels, golf courses, and resort facilites are springing up all over Dubai.

There's men's tennis tournament in the U.A.E. as well. And a falcon hunt (!) plus golf and polo tournaments. Dubai is clearly going after the high-end dollar, euro and yen. For a country that seems to be pinning its economic destiny on tourism, it occurs to me that the United Arab Emirates just might be the very best agent for operating American ports. (Did I really just say that?)

Think about it for a minute: in the last 20 years, the U.A.E. has invested God-knows-how many billions transforming itself into a desert paradise, and in order to capitalize on that investment, tourists need continue to go there! Add to that another $6.8 billion for the port contract, and you see the vested interest that Dubai has in keeping our ports in outstanding working order. Clearly the U.A.E. has plenty at stake here as well.

The government of the United Arab Emirtates recognizes the finite nature of the country's oil reserves. That gave rise to large investments in tourism and shipping industries to shore up the country's financial future. The way I see it, Dubai has tons of built-in incentive to dutifully and properly perform their mandate with American ports. Frankly, the entire economic future of the U.A.E. might be jeopardized if there were a security breach at one of the ports in question. I believe no expense would be spared to avoid possible tragedy.

The plan to turn over U.S. port operations to a foreign government-run firm maybe represent a certain degree of political tone deafness of the part of our president. But from a security or business point of view, I believe this decision may be perfectly sound.

(Men's Dubai champ Andre Agassi plays tennis atop one of Dubai's luxury hotel.)


'Bean said...

I think the most realistic view is
"critically, closely watch; wait; and see."

That said?

I've been to the UAE (early 1980s).

I'd suggest that, while the UAE is *MORE* liberal than most Islamic nations?

Wise for GLBT folks there to keep seperate hotel rooms. Unless things have changed, homosexuality is still an imprisonable offense.

Our Christian Talibangelists would just love that about the UAE.

Oh - and the conspicious consumption. They'd like that, too.

Orchidmaniac said...

Isn't Michael Jackson living in his self-imposed exile there?

jay lassiter said...

oh yeah, i forgot to mention the jacko connection. How could i neglect that detail?

Sissy Willis said...

Game and set. Excellent post! :)

'Bean said...



Man, he best leave ANYTHING under the age of 21 alone.

Unless he converts and either (1) gets a wife or (2) a enunich!

Veruka Salt said...

Dubai is a playground of the super-rich. The last thing I remember reading about them before all this is their plan to fashion an island grouping that would resemble the continents of the world and populate it with their super-rich residents with glittering estates worth millions of dollars each. They have no middle or lower class. It's all top drawer. That's where Bush's interest is. They are his peeps. Don't matter what in-security or discomfort that the average Joe in America might feel hearing that this country is going to hand its ports over to an arab country's government. Even after Bush has spent the last five years subtly pounding into his minions how they have to hate anything arab. But he doesn't mean rich arabs. He's talking about those poor scruffy unkempt arabs that prance around on TV shooting off guns and hollerin. Bush was so concerned about taking care of his rich arab friends that he threatened to use his first presidential veto to make sure this "strictly business" deal went through. Even after he supposedly hadn't even heard about this up to a few days ago. He's going to veto any legislation that would even delay the deal. Yeah. That sounds rational. Maybe he and Chaney really have gone completely insane and the whole little charade is being held together by Karl Rove who can't keep his eye on them 24 hours a day you know. So something is bound to happen like this now and then. And Rove will just step in and say, oh you know... What George REALLY meant to say... or Who Cheney REALLY meant to shoot was...
I have a headache.

David Amulet said...

Jacko is in Bahrain, not the UAE. Just FYI.

I recall that film of Andre playing some other bloke on the helipad of the Burj al-Arab hotel -- some hundreds of feet above the Gulf. Funny how both of them stayed well away from the edges of that platform ...

Jay: I repsonded to your urging and posted another essay, quite quickly this time. Thanks for the support.

-- david

Sharon GR said...

I have to agree with you there, Jay. The business aspect of this deal is not a whole lot different than things are now. You're right, at least, more attention is being paid to port security.

I still believe it's a stunningly poorly played move by the Bushies. His main defenses are "Trust us" and "I didn't understand all the details, but it's still a good deal." A veto, if a Repub-controlled House and Senate pass a law against it? Good way to alienate your base, while looking soft on security while defensive and cocksure about your own decisions! Astonishingly bad move by a White House that's been so careful and calculating of political moves.

Something is wrong here, but I'm not really sure what it is. I almost wonder if there's something else going on behind the scenes, some strange deal that was had. I'm sure if I look for a conspiracy theory, someone in the blogosphere has it written out already. If there isn't some strange deal behind the curtain- well then, it's just been handled very poorly policically by the Bushies. Which, Rove usually doesn't allow, so I'm surprized.

(P. S. I posted essentially this same comment on CoNJL after your comment on my post. Thanks!)

DBK said...

Don't be fooled by the "slow track". Here's what Senator Menendez said about that: This promise isn't worth the paper on which it is written. It is a smokescreen that changes none of the underlying facts. This merger has already been approved by the Bush administration. It is scheduled to close in less than a week, and once it does, Dubai Ports World will own operations at U.S. ports and can assume control of them at anytime without any ability for our government to stop it. Nothing that the company or the administration has announced changes that fact. We can't rely on non-binding promises from foreign governments to secure our ports. If the Bush administration will not stop this deal from closing, Congress must.

jay lassiter said...

you;re right about the fast track bit. looks like an inevitability?

'Bean said...


Dubai is, officially, rather Anti-Semetic!

"Progressive" is such a narrow term in Islamic culture, no?