With the Cartoon Wars giving way to the ports imbroglio, Jim Geraghty, blogging from Turkey, wonders if we're seeing a tipping point in Western attitudes toward Islam. Geraghty collects a lot of quotes, and writes of "my sense that in recent weeks, a large chunk of Americans just decided that they no longer have any faith in the good sense or non-hostile nature of the Muslim world. If subsequent polls find similar results, the port deal is dead."
The ports deal may be dead, I'm not sure, but I have some thoughts about how the White House blew it in Saturday's Wall Street Journal. (It's subscription-only, but this link may work, and there's an excerpt here.)
What's interesting -- and what supports Geraghty's point -- is that Democratic politicians who have generally opposed "racial profiling" are nonetheless opposing the ports deal because, basically, the company involved is an Arab company. It's funny that it's the Bush Administration that has -- not least because it's traditionally been too friendly to the Saudis -- been very careful not to cast the current war as a war against Muslims or Arabs. (It was forever before Bush even admitted that his war against terror was actually a war against fundamentalist Islamic terror.) Obviously, however, the Democrats, and judging by the polls, a lot of other people, feel otherwise.
I think that's unfortunate. Osama and the Islamists want to see an all-out war between Islam and the West. If this happens, Islam will rapidly become a tiny remnant of its current self. You can worry about port security if you want (I did, though I feel better about the port deal now -- though in part because it appears that port security in general is so very bad that this deal can't make much of a difference) but casting this in terms that suggest that we're at war with all Arabs, or all Muslims, just buys into the Islamists' apocalyptic scenario. I don't like to see people in America, by pandering to stereotypes, doing that.
The storm over the ports
More people seem to be supporting the ports deal. Jim Glassman writes:
The irony is that, while the British understand that empire has given way to globalization, many Americans -- especially protectionist politicians like Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and xenophobic TV hosts like Lou Dobbs -- do not.
DP World is a firm based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, next to Saudi Arabia and just across the Persian Gulf from Iran. It is a company that knows this business well, currently running what The Guardian, the British newspaper, calls "one of the most efficient port organizations in the world," including deepwater facilities in Turkey, Hong Kong, three ports in mainland China, Australia, Germany, the Dominician Republic, Venezuela and South Korea. "Its port operations are breathtakingly fast and efficient." Meanwhile, Dubai itself is building a freeport hub, "so vast that approaching a fifth of the world's cranes are now to be found at work there."
And Dubai -- I don't have to tell you -- is an Arab nation. Yes, two of the 9/11 hijackers were citizens of the UAE, but, then again, as Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute notes, Richard Reid, the attempted "shoe bomber," was a British citizen, and Jose Padilla, among others, is an American citizen (as was Timothy McVeigh). The UAE has been a staunch ally in the war on terror, training security forces in Iraq and helping to cut off the flow of money to al Qaeda.
Isn't this precisely what the United States preaches? Don't we want places like Dubai to fight terror and to grow, to invest, to buy, to trade, to adopt Western commercial practices, to expose themselves to the rest of the world and thus become tolerant and moderate?
And as the Hotline's Blogometer notes, many bloggers are changing their minds:
This movement was generally led by the intellectual right, and the intellectual left soon found itself in guarded agreement -- the deal wasn't as bad as it first seemed. The more partisan wings of the left and right, roughly speaking, have continued either to oppose the deal or are shifting to oppose it on other grounds. But most everyone knows the facts are not yet fully known -- especially after the last couple days.
But not everyone agrees. Michelle Malkin is still deadset against the deal:
It is not "Islamophobic" to remind you all of this important context as the White House pushes forward with the deal, citing CFIUS's approval in order to argue that "there's nothing to worry about."
Nor is it some sort of betrayal of the president to do as GOP Sens. Shelby and Inhofe have done, and push for greater transparency, accountability, and commitment from CFIUS to national security concerns.
Nor is it Chicken Little-ish, knee-jerk-ish, or un-American to oppose any final approval of the Dubai Ports World transfer until and unless these steps are taken.
And Hugh Hewitt is still against it, writing:
The quality of the company's port operations in Dubai or anywhere else around the world is not being questioned --it is undeniably very good-- or the need to see the Arab world embrace modernity, or the absolute truth that we need to honor and support our allies in the Arab world. For those reasons I have spent a lot of the past few weeks counseling against the republication of the Danish cartoons as an unnecessary affront to Muslims who may not only be on our side in the GWOT, but who may also be U.S. citizens and U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
But it seems that the simple fact remains that is it is harder for this company to defend this company against penetration than, say, an Australian company, because of the country and the culture in which it is located.
The fight isn't over. As you follow the debate, you may want to read this roundup from the Council on Foreign Relations.
So there's a move to let a company from the United Arab Emirates take over the management of several U.S. ports. This has some people very unhappy. The National Journal's Blogometer has a huge roundup of reactions.
I confess that the story sounded odd to me when I first heard it. But looking around the blogs, amid the outrage I found blogs here and there who made the case that it wasn't such a bad idea. And I managed a podcast interview with Jim Dunnigan (publisher of StrategyPage.com) and military columnist/blogger Austin Bay on the topic today, which left me convinced that the hysteria is much ado about mostly nothing. (You can hear the interview here, or via iTunes here. If you're on dialup, you'll want to click here. The ports discussion starts at the 13:00 mark.)
It's still a P.R. disaster for the White House, though, despite the amusement factor of seeing Democrats like Chuck Schumer endorse what amounts to racial profiling. Had the White House folks been watching the blogs, they would have seen this issue over a week before it became a major national story. But had they been doing their job, they would have made the background clear in advance anyway -- or at least had the information ready to go in rapid-response mode. They didn't, and it will likely prove an expensive mistake.
The cartoon wars continue
Mobs of ignorant thugs continue to riot around the world over the publication of some rather innocuous cartoons that are seen as mocking the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Nigerian Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad attacked Christians and burned churches on Saturday, killing at least 15 people in the deadliest confrontation yet in the whirlwind of Muslim anger over the drawings.
It was the first major protest to erupt over the issue in Africa's most populous nation. An Associated Press reporter saw mobs of Muslim protesters swarm through the city center with machetes, sticks and iron rods. One group threw a tire around a man, poured gas on him and set him ablaze.
These people are doing more to make Mohammed look bad than any cartoonist ever could. Slideshow: View the cartoons that started it all They're also sparking more and more debate about the limits of toleration. Right now it seems a one-way street: The Taliban blew up millennia-old Buddhist monuments, avant-garde Western artists show their "courage" by immersing crucifixes in urine, and the burning of American flags hardly raises an eyebrow. And Western media certainly don't mind publishing photos or reports (such as Newsweek's false report that Korans were flushed down the toilets at Guantanamo) even if such reports will "inflame the Muslim World." So long, anyway, as it's not inflamed at them. When it comes to the Danish cartoons, as Tim Blair notes, " Most media organisations have taken a stand by boldly running away."
Indeed. A happy exception to this trend was the Rocky Mountain News, which published the cartoons and reports that reader reaction was highly favorable. Yeah, readers tend to appreciate news media actually, you know, reporting things, rather than deciding to keep them in the dark.
Of course, it's worth noting, as James Hudnall does, that the Danish cartoons weren't enough to "inflame the Muslim world" on their own -- the Danish imams who peddled the story added three fake cartoons of their own. Apparently the originals were too tame.
Too tame to inflame the Muslim world. But still, apparently, too offensive for us to see. Or, perhaps just too scary for the press.
The unfortunate question remaining for folks in the media is this: Now that people have realized they're easily intimidated by threats of violence, who'll be the next to try that approach? And in what cause?
More on avian flu
People keep worrying about the spreading avian flu. We interviewed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist about federal efforts to prepare for a pandemic, and the results weren't entirely comforting -- one of the pieces of advice he offered was to make sure our wills are up to date. You can hear the interview by clicking here, or you can get it via iTunes by clicking here. There's a low-bandwidth version, suitable for dialup, here.
Blurring the line on amateurism
I mentioned Michael Totten's blog-reporting from Iraq, and he's posted a couple of additional installments. Here's a report from Kurdistan, in which he observes:
Egypt, for example, is far more grim and depressing than Kurdistan, but it's easier to have a good time if that's what you're looking for. Guatemala is much poorer and more dangerous and more politically dysfunctional, but it's still a better place to go as a typical tourist if you want good food, hotels, and attractions.
I don't mean to criticize when I say this. The Kurds have been through decades of fascism, genocide, and war. They suffered more than any other group of Iraqis. Northern Iraq endured more recent hardship than any other place I have ever been in my life. Scratch just beneath the happy veneer of Iraqi Kurdish adults and you'll find people with family members murdered by Baathists, who experienced unimaginable oppression by a regime that wanted to completely erase them, and who fled to the mountains during the uprising in 1991 when the cities of Iraqi Kurdistan were emptied of people. They still have no sewage system, and they still only have a few hours of electricity each day. Having a good time just isn't a priority for them right now.
But they do what they can with what they have.
Read the whole thing, and check out this annotated photo gallery, too. It's great travel (and war, or at least post-war reporting). How does he do it?
No big checks from big magazines. At the end of the photo gallery, Totten writes: "If you enjoy my posts from Iraq, please don't forget to hit the tip jar. I can't do this for free. Thanks!" He does write some freelance pieces, but his reporting is mostly funded directly by his readers. That's a new thing -- practiced also by other Iraq-bloggers like Michael Yon and Bill Roggio. It's not professional journalism in the old-fashioned sense, but I suspect that writers who are directly funded by their readers do a better job of giving their readers what they want. Traditional writers write to please editors -- because that's who distribute the paychecks -- with readers coming in second. Bloggers like Totten, Yon, and Roggio are different.
And one reason that this can happen -- as I spell out at length elsewhere -- is that technology and markets are making small-scale operations more feasible. Even a decade ago it would have been hard for these guys to connect to their readers and (pre-PayPal) hard for their readers to pay them. Not impossible, exactly, but much, much harder than today, enough so that it would have been a practical impossibility for most folks. That's changed, and I'm glad.
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