Michael Pascoe writes:

In a weird sort of conservative way, David
Frum, a former special assistant to the worst US
president in living memory, sets out the case of how Bush lost the Dubai Ports
debate and allowed the US to insult one of its best Middle Eastern allies and damage his
miserable leadership. Apparently the American public and its populist
politicians don’t trust Arabs to employ American wharfies because Western
governments have gone soft in their rhetoric about Arabs.

No, it’s not exactly easy to understand,
but the damage done by the Dubai Ports deal is. Within the limits of Frum’s
argument, there remain the key points:

In the aftermath, the world’s great and
good have been tut-tutting about the alleged rise of American nativism and
xenophobia. But let us be clear: there would have been no problem with this
deal had the purchasing company been Japanese or French or South African. Even
Chinese purchasers have not provoked much controversy.

The
deal was not lost because the purchasers were foreign. The deal crashed because
the purchasers were a very specific kind of foreigner: the Arab and Muslim
kind. Since the terrorist attacks of September
11 2001, western governments have utterly repudiated the idea
of any connection between terrorism and Arabs and Muslims. As Mr Bush declared
on September 20 2001: “The enemy
of America is not our
many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical
network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”

You
have to allow for the fact that this Frum fella has obviously spent time with Bush.
It might be catching.

These
governments have been so concerned to remind their populations that most Arabs
and most Muslims are not terrorists that they have forgotten that most
terrorists are Arabs and Muslims. Western governments have been so concerned to
protect the good name of the silent Arab and Muslim majority that they have
overstepped the truth to minimise the size of the extremist minority. They have
described states such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as strong allies
when it was obvious to any newspaper reader that these states were playing
double games.

You
might say that political leaders have been so concerned to prevent a backlash
that they have hesitated to acknowledge the existence of the frontlash.

So
there you go – it was a frontlash. If Bush had been mercilessly bagging Arabs
in general, but specifically defended Dubai Ports, it would have been all
right. Or is this part of some Seinfeld script?

Peter Fray

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