I haven’t been paying much attention to the port controversy, because it seems to me that what the UAE will actually be doing is not very ‘controversial.’ I admit that I also reflexively cringe at the notion of a company owned by a foreign country operating our ports, but there is a word for that- xenophobia.
I understand the Coast Guard had some concerns, but I am not sure that their ‘concerns’ will be everything they will be made out to be in the next few days (rest assured, the blogosphere will be hysterical, as will the shrill wings of both parties). The Coast Guard, after all, is supposed to have concerns about border security and the security of our ports. That is their job- to be concerned about those issues so you and I do not have to be concerned with them.
It appears that xenophobia and hysteria still sell, as coalitions that range from Michelle Malkin to Peter King to Chuck Schumer are standing around screaming that we are all going to die if the UAE takes over the daily operations of some ports. If anything, the make-up of the most vocal opposition to the port deal assures me that this really isn’t as bad as it is being made out to be.
Regardless, Bush has taken another hit in the polls (how do you go down from rock bottom?), and there is no doubt that this issue was mishandled by the administration. However, Richard Cohen notes that the entire country is taking a hit overseas:
We are in an odd era of symbolic news events. The Dick Cheney shooting was treated as if it were of cosmic political importance. Some pundits even called on the vice president to resign, while others merely saw everything the Bush administration had gotten wrong — an almost inexhaustible list — as distilled in a single bad shot and the resultant pout. Now it is the port controversy. But if the Cheney story was about everything else — including, of course, the taciturn and slippery Cheney himself — then this port controversy is really about security anxiety and a dislike of things and people Arab. The deal may not be perfect, but it is a long way from a Page One story.
America has many friends in the Arab world. You can go to Saudi Arabia, for instance, and talk “American” at a dinner party — banter about the Washington Redskins or California real estate prices or, of course, politics. The region is home to many people who have gone to school in the United States and admire it greatly. They are not the majority by any means, but they are important and influential — and they are being slowly alienated by knee-jerk insults and brainless policies that reflect panic and prejudice. The true security cost of the Dubai deal has already been inflicted.
Hearts and minds, indeed.