March 9, 2006
Well, there goes our hopes for building alliances in the Middle East. Lacking a clear sense of leadership from the White House, Republican leaders in Congress caved in to populist outcries and rebelled against the Dubai Port World port management contract. As I wrote on Feb. 28, this isolationistic reflex is "blindingly stupid." This morning came word that the United Arab Emirates would divest itself of U.S. investments, which was probably an empty threat, but a very hostile gesture nonetheless. That in turn killed any hope for salvaging a compromise on Capitol Hill, because it would look like the United States was submitting to blackmail. So early in the afternoon Sen. John Warner read an announcement that DPW would sell off its U.S. port operations, making sure that all managers were Americans. Read it and weep at washingtonpost.com. The two countries really need each other, so they will probably come up with some arrangement, but it's still a lot uglier outcome than it had to be. Part of the blame lies with President Bush for failing to stay on top of such sensitive issues, and for mishandling it when it first became public knowledge. Sen. Chuck Schumer's astute expose of the DPW deal last month was a stroke of political genius, from a partisan political standpoint, but it unleashed a terrible diplomatic setback for the United States government. I hope he's enjoying himself.