Economy Middle East — 23 February 2006

Of course there is a double standard; of course there are inconsistencies; of course there is hypocrisy. This is a War on Terror guys not a boy scouts field trip to plant trees. People seem perplexed as to why so many senior US politicians would want to block the operating of six seaports by a company owned by the United Arab Emirates government. Why the incredulity and noise, ports are on the front line of a nations security, they are as important as the operating of tanks, missiles or Special Forces and even Rumsfeld (who has overseen a huge growth in private military contractors) wouldnt outsource the management of these to a foreign government. By definition foreign governments will have their own national interests often incompatible with those held by the host country. Operating ports is not like running a doll factory; they lie at the heart of a countrys internal security apparatus.

Some may be surprised at my argument; many will rightly point to the ports issue being another example that the War on Terror is a War on Islam or more accurately a War on Islams political re-emergence. Following on from the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the incarceration of Muslims in Guantanomo, the sick torture of Muslims at Abu Ghraib, the failure to accept Hamass election victory; the blocking of a company on the basis of an Islamic bias seems to fit a consistent pattern and is indeed another own goal in the battle of ideas. I broadly agree with this contention, if foreign ownership of US ports was the issue, why did Congress not raise a stink when a British company previously owned the ports. Or why no criticism of the fact that other US ports are managed by companies from Denmark, Singapore and Japan and even more surprisingly: that foreigners own almost 30% of US port terminals (welcome to globalisation). I know members of Congress find it difficult these days to find the time to even read the legislation they are passing, (some of them too preoccupied enjoying lobbyist paid golfing trips) but you would have thought, even they could have found out who owns valuable parts of the countrys infrastructure.

No my main point is that key pillars of a countrys security infrastructure and defence should not be controlled or managed by foreign governments. Of course this concept cuts both ways. This is why the UAE government should not be providing their seaports for the extensive use by US aircraft carriers or allowing the US air force perennial use of their world-class air-to-air training facility. This is why the Bahraini government should not be permanently hosting the US Navys fifth fleet but building their own. This is why the Iraqi and Afghan governments need to be calling for the removal of foreign forces from its borders and commence responsibility for its own security. This is why the Pakistanis should remove FBI offices from its cities and come clean on Americas role in the command and control regime of her nuclear program. This is why Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait should be closing down their US operated bases and investing in their own infrastructure.

A key factor in the Muslim worlds decline is that its autocratic leaders have outsourced not just their defence capability, but their energy production, scientific development and foreign policy to western states and corporations. How many new inventions, scientific innovations and industrial capabilities emanate from the Muslim world, not many I can tell you, a crime in the context of oil at $60 a barrel. Americans are now waking up to the fact that an over reliance on foreign entities whether it relates to oil, port operations or Chinese acquisitions of US energy companies threatens national security. The Muslim world needs to realise the same and stop its own addiction to foreign dependence. The Muslim world has more to offer than just being Americas airfield and the worlds gas station.

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