The irony of the secret sweetheart deal with the United Arab Emirates in connection with its taking over the operation of six of our most important ports is that the UAE is about as far removed from a democracy as a country can be. The touching push for democracy throughout the Middle East currently touted by the Bush administration seems to have slipped a link on this one.
The closest the UAE comes to an election is the appointment of it’s president and vice-president every five years by the Supreme Council which is composed of the rulers of the seven emirates. The rulers of the seven emirates are, of course, rulers in the classic sense of the word and the closest they come to engaging in ‘democracy’ is the decision each must make as to which son takes control of the country upon his retirement or earlier expiration.
Not that I have a problem with this. This method of governance has been an ongoing success story in this region for a few thousand years. The seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain are all run by Sheikhs of long standing. One Sheikh, Saqr bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, has been running his Sheikhdom since 1948.
Actually, this truth probably represents the most important justification for concluding that the governance of the UAE is, to say the least, stable, and that if they are a friend now they are likely to continue to be. The reason for this stability has not, needless to say, been mentioned by the Bush administration in justifying its trust.
Perhaps the secrecy surrounding this deal was partially motivated by the perceived need to obfuscate this issue.
Notwithstanding the apparent dependability of the UAE’s government one must still ask, however, what of its citizens? This is a fair question. It seems obvious that at least some of them don’t like the United States even a little bit. Two of its citizens were players in the attack on the World Trade Center and several of its bankers facilitated the financing of it. Some of its citizens facilitated the movement of illicit nuclear components and technology from Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan to wannabe nuclear powers Iran (allegedly), Libya (at that time) and North Korea.
Our most dependable allies in the Middle East – and of course, they are not democracies – are composed of citizens who in significant numbers hate our guts for our relentless meddling in their affairs. Given half a chance, via the imposition of some element of ‘democracy’, they will vote into power those who speak loudest against us. Say, like the sweeping Hamas victory in Palestine or the major gains by anti-western advocates in recent Egyptian elections (said to have been rigged to prevent an anti-western, anti-regime sweep).
In any case, what amazes me most about this recent fumble by the Bush administration is that it seems to be just another example of the administration’s complete ignorance of the things that arouse its citizens, or yet another example of its thorough indifference.
I think both.
I still remember vividly the half dozen polls taken just prior to the 2000 elections that trounced the idea of a tax cut by a four-to-one margin (76-78 percent against) while the Bush administration’s first official act was to enact a major tax cut.
I don’t mean to get off the point, however. Suffice it to say that it is incomprehensible to me that an administration of such monumental incompetence as the Bush administration is actually running the government of the United States of America. It has been a shipwreck in the making from its first moment of existence, and I am appalled.
At any rate, click on the headline for some commentary on this port management deal.