Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Washington and the Ports of Paranoia | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The curtains closed on the political and economic incident that took place recently as the Emirates announced its withdrawal from the agreement to manage six U.S ports. This action was taken to obviate the political tempest that took place in Washington bearing in mind that these businessmen from the Emirates went to the United States to invest, not to invade.

Despite these business intentions, by using the pretense of protecting America’s security, some members of congress have sent an important message to the Arab world. They have provided a service to those who look for ways to attack the west in general and particularly America. The security issue is a feeble excuse as the perpetrators of 9/11 themselves came from within the United States.

Therefore, I consider the decision made by Congress against the deal as a victory for terrorism because spreading fear is the essential goal of terrorists. This has been the major outcome of the story of the “ports of paranoia,” and paradoxically, ports are the location of access and communication. At this point, one must refer to former U.S president Roosevelt’s words that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and this is what some members of Congress did not realize whilst preoccupying themselves with internal conflicts.

The withdrawal of the plan to manage the U.S ports has sent a negative message to the Arabs representing Americans now only in military attire. They will no longer be perceived as businessmen, physicians or teachers. They will only be seen as soldiers, furthermore, as irresponsible soldiers as Rumsfeld said, “If civil war breaks out in Iraq, the Iraqis must deal with it!”

On a daily basis, we reiterate that our governments do not know whether to ward off the idea of receptivity or to follow the public gingerly to the extent that we are no longer aware of who is rational and who is an extremist, who is the ruler and who is ruled concerning this fear of receptivity and trade with the west in either goods or knowledge. We have discovered that many of those within our regimes and cabinets who we have condemned are actually more rational then some “patriots” of the American Congress. In fact, the promoters of false confrontational opinions in Arab media have gained much more legitimacy than their counterparts in American media.

In Washington, some argue that the problem was keeping the port issue a secret from Congress. This may be true; however, the real problem now is the impression that has been left with Arabs due to the cancellation of the deal. What Washington is unaware of is that the Arabs have seen nothing from America except its soldiers in the Arab region. We see a number military bases rather than universities, companies or factories. Washington feared Dubai’s management of the ports despite it representing economic openness in the Arab world due to security concerns. That is their right. However, Arab people also fear and are paranoid about the Americanization of Arab and Islamic identity and that too is their right.

For the rationalists on both sides, of whom there are few, their positions of paranoia can only lead to a cultural split. It seems that the future generations will have no choice but to dance to the rhythm of extremism and obscurity. The Americans can justify their position towards the ports issue as much as they want, but the problem that remains is that the message that they have sent to the Arab world is worse than they imagine.