Politics & Policy

Sanctimony and Silence

For all the bluster, mum's the word on the main question as the ports debacle ends.

I have this simple question that no one seems to want to answer.

Thankfully, the five-alarm debacle that was the lucrative deal to permit a company wholly owned by the United Arab Emirates to manage stevedoring operations at several U.S. ports has been averted. Backstage pressure induced the UAE to withdraw, avoiding further, immense embarrassment to President Bush, who inexplicably raised the stakes of this blunder by threatening a veto–his first, and what a bizarre cause to take that maiden voyage over.

The end has unleashed another torrent of censorious caterwauling from the “Let’s Make a Deal” Right–an amalgam of free-trade-at-any-cost business interests and starry-eyed democracy-builders who see in every apparent moderate throughout the Islamic world a James Madison waiting to happen. This morning’s latest philippic from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page is case-in-point.

Objection to the deal, we’re told, was a “political stampede” manufactured out of the worst kind of chauvinism–just because it was an “Arab-owned company buying port operations.” Yes, this was a wanton “mugging of a foreign investor.” It marks the “the re-emergence of the ‘national security’ protectionists.” (The “they’re delusional” quotes around national security are the Journal’s, not mine.)

So I’ll ask the same question I asked last week on NRO’s Corner. The same question a number of us have been asking for the last several weeks, with deafening silence the lone response: Does it matter that the UAE appears to be in violation of our fundamental antiterrorism law?

We’re told there’s a Bush Doctrine. That our national security is singularly dependent on communicating to the world–a world full of shady regimes and deadly terror networks–a simple, elegant message: If you are with the terrorists, you are not with us. If you are with the terrorists, we are going to treat you as a hostile. Period. Full stop. End of story.

The UAE was with the terrorists, big-time, before 9/11. The port-deal proponents–finding it most inconvenient to dwell on that very recent history–ignored it, preferring to libel patriotic opposition as benighted nativism, or to insist that the suicide hijackings against us were a road-to-Damascus moment for the Emirati sheikhs. It was the epiphany that put them on the right side of the Bush Doctrine’s line in the sand.

Oops. It looks like the UAE continued to underwrite terrorists long after that. Even to this day. The regime remains a booster of Hamas, an organization pledged to the destruction of Israel by violent jihad. An organization that has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization under American law since we began officially stigmatizing such entities in the mid-1990s.

It’s very simple. Hamas is an organization that an American would be sent to jail for supporting no matter how much that support might be good for the economy. It is an organization that an American business would be put out of business for supporting.

To my knowledge, no one suggested anything so drastic for the UAE. We simply said that a country engaged in what Americans would be sent to jail for doing shouldn’t be rewarded with the commercial plum of a role in the management of our ports–a role that would inexorably require them to be read into at least some of our security arrangements.

Money, the free-traders well know, is fungible. If we pay it to the UAE and we know they pay it to Hamas, the law has this crazy idea that this is the same thing as we paying it to Hamas. I imagine even the Wall Street Journal would probably not think that was a very good idea, even if Hamas used some of it to buy Uncle’s savings bonds and thus “help[ed] finance the military that keeps us safe.”

So, some of us simply said: The Bush Doctrine should be enforced.

This is not about anything so trifling as the UAE. It is not comparable, as the Journal speciously claims this morning, to the protests over Japanese acquisitions in U.S. markets during the 1980s or the failed Chinese effort to buy the Unocal oil company last year.

The Bush Doctrine is the plinth on which American national security is built. It is the monument that tells the rest of the planet that September 10th is over. It is what warns those who would threaten us that we are serious about Islamist terrorism–that we understand our enemies are not rational, are not corrigible, cannot be bargained with, and need, as circumstances dictate, to be bombed, bled or squeezed wherever we find them.

The second we flinch from that–and there is a very good argument that we have already done so–we are far less safe. It encourages our enemies everywhere that bin Laden is right when he tells his would-be recruits that we lack resolve. It tells the regimes that abet terrorists, and without which they could not threaten us on a global scale, that it’s back to business as usual.

So to all the bitter port proponents, spewing all the bile: Once you’re done with the insults, the slanders, the juvenile analogies, the constructive-engagement Kool-Aid, and the rest of your bag of tricks, can you please explain, just one time: Why doesn’t it matter if the UAE provides material support to Hamas?

Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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