I haven’t made up my mind on this issue yet, but I’ll throw in two cents worth of thoughts anyway:
1) Not for the first time, the WH handled this issue ineptly. Either the communications shop is out of the loop, or the communications shop is out of its depth.
2) Suppose a British firm manages the ports and puts a British Muslim in charge. What would be the U.S. government’s response? Demand he be fired on the basis of his religion? I don’t think so.
3) Suppose a British firm manages the ports and places a British Anglican in charge. And one day he gets a phone call telling him there are certain documents he will deliver to a specific location or his wife and children back in Devon will be toast. You think that wouldn’t pose a security risk?
4) Suppose the Dubai firm manages the ports and puts out the word that if it encounters any problems it will respond in a forceful manner and will not worry about pesky investigative reporters, letters from Human Rights Watch or academic notions of what is permitted under international law. What do you think the impact of that might be?
My points are these:
1) It is unwise to underestimate your enemies; it also is unwise to overestimate your allies.
2) While it can’t hurt to study this deal a little more thoroughly (which would be a face-saving measure for all concerned), it is not obvious that national security will be compromised by giving the UAE a green light.
3) Finally, we need to have security measures in place that are failsafe–no matter who is managing the ports.