TCS Daily


Dubai and Our Sailors

By Will Ball - February 24, 2006 12:00 AM

The current dust-up over whether or not a firm from the United Arab Emirates should be permitted to manage ports in the United States looks very different from the perspective of US sailors in the Persian Gulf than it might to members of Congress back in their offices far away on Capitol Hill.

Making her way to her home port this week from a long and arduous deployment to the Gulf is the USS Theodore Roosevelt, CVN71, whose captain and crew soon will be received happily by family and friends in Norfolk, with salutations from the Navy brass for another job well done. The time spent in the Gulf conducting round-the-clock air operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom adds to the ship's log the completion of a sixth long deployment since her commissioning over twenty years ago. Most of those voyages have been to the waters of the Gulf, where American seapower and American sailors do the indispensable and oft-overlooked work of backing up soldiers and Marines on the ground in Iraq, keeping track of movements in the air and at sea, and helping our allies.

Perhaps the TR's returning sailors will be permitted to add their voice to the current debate over ports and dockside services. After all, sailors have been keen judges of harbors, their good and bad aspects, for centuries. And American sailors from the days of Decatur to Perry to Nimitz have called on practically every port there is, forming clear opinions as to the characteristics and qualities of each, from the view across the harbor to the view across the waterfront bar.

And on this point, our sailors could speak clearly and emphatically to the flip side of the debate on Capitol Hill. They could observe that after weeks of hard work at sea, the welcome given to them and their shipmates in Port of Dubai is just about as good as it gets. In a region of the world not previously known for "liberty ports" that compete with their Mediterranean and Western Pacific counterparts, the new Dubai is fine, fine indeed, according to the sailors of today. Harbormasters, citizens and yes, even port security officials there afford an especially warm welcome to American warships -- aircraft carriers in particular.

Our sailors today know the meaning of allies in the war on terror, and they know from the reception they receive time and time again when ashore in Dubai that the government and people there are on our side. A keystone of American foreign policy in the Gulf region since 1980 has been to strengthen ties and security relationships with the Gulf emirates, and the fruits of that successful engagement can now be seen readily in Dubai, Doha, Bahrain, and all along the coast of the Gulf. Following a quarter century of effective diplomacy and building on opportunities for strong ties in the region with all components of the U.S. military, Washington has opened doors with its presence for economic growth and development that has benefits extending far from the Gulf's shores.

Little heed has been paid to this dimension of how Dubai not only is an important player in the region strategically, but also how in a more basic way it is important to those who serve in uniform at sea, a long way from home.

Some in Congress who display an eagerness to vote against Dubai Ports World in the pending transaction will choose to ignore the facts that are relevant in an objective security and economic analysis.

But surely they can pause a moment to consider the views of the captain of the USS Ronald Reagan, newly arrived on station in the Gulf beginning her maiden deployment as the aircraft carrier relieving the TR. For soon will come the moment when, after many days and nights underway, he will get his aircraft safely back aboard, turn away from the wind and put his big ship's bow toward the south and the long carrier pier over the horizon. And surely the question then will cross his mind -- a consequence of this week's argument on Capitol Hill -- as to how his ship with her namesake and her extraordinary crew will be received, once the mooring lines are over and all is secure and the sailors hit the beach in Dubai.

Will Ball served as Secretary of the Navy; Assistant Secretary of State; and White House aide in the Reagan Administration.

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4 Comments

Didn't go far enough
Not only is Dubai OK for liberty, but nearly a thousand U.S. naval ships are serviced each year. To the best of my knowledge, none are any worse for the experience.

Back to basics
Little heed is being paid to "how Dubai not only is an important player in the region strategically," because that's not the primary issue. What matters most is our security at home, both now and out over the coming decades.

The doctrine of preemption recognizes that a large, open society cannot (and often, unwisely, will not) police individual threats; therefore it can only fight terror by closing off sources of potential danger. Let's apply the doctrine of preemption to this pre-9/11-era deal by shutting it completely down. There's a war on.

Ally?
I think the US need to scrutinize the meaning of ally. How can the US be Allied to a nation that don't respect human rights. I am not a very pious person, but I don't have a problem with people that want to practice their religion openly. This do not exist in Dubai.

This political relationship is along the same line as the congressional black caucus allying itself with the kkk. Its absurd. The US did the same with the Soviet Union in WW2. And, what was the result? The US government alliance with the UAE is very dubious. I, personally, wouldn't befriend a racist. The US government has an atrocious history of backing the wrong mutt.




Check your facts
Sorry but you don't know what you are talking about. The UAE is the only Arab country where non-muslims can openly practice their religion, and it has been this way for at least 20 years. There are a number of christian congregations that own buildings and operate with the full knowledge of the government. It is true that they are not allowed to proselyte, but that is quite different than saying that there is no religious freedom.

I visited Dubai twice while on active duty and it was by far the most welcoming, open, and modern of the middle eastern countries that we visited.

Besides, as has been pointed out elsewhere by those who can restrain the knee-jerkism that seems to infect so many these days, DPW will NOT be involved in port security. The Coast Guard has, and will continue to have, primary security responsibility over all US ports.

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