When you can't differentiate between a race and a specific government, that makes you a racist, by definition. When you declare that every government must be treated equally, regardless of their actions, that just makes you an idiot.
Over and over, these last few days, I've been seeing the argument that racism is driving liberal opponents of the port deal. Over, and over, and over. Once such luminaries of American race relations as Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin are on the case, David Brooks predictably snuffled around to the same point, in the Times, showing that the talking point has now reached the ears of the Officially Enlightened Ones. Now we have Tom Friedman (for whom corporatism and Free Trade has reached the status of the One True Millennial Religion) and even David Ignatius (who nobody pays enough attention to to come up with an insult for) repeating the same points.
And it doesn't particularly bother me when the predictable Brooks or other obviously agendized pundit draws up yet another obvious and transparent talking point as if it was his oh-so-ingenious bit of gained wisdom. A man who has brought, in the past, arguments taken from white eugenics into his columns does not particularly impress me as a guiding light on these matters.
It makes me a bit more frustrated, though, to see those on the left mouthing similar arguments: that avoiding "racism" means turning the cognitive functions of our brains fully off, and dismissing any conflicts between nations, governments, corporations, or groups as being race-based dalliances posited only by lesser beings, and that we could rise up to an unlimited and higher multiracial peace, as Icarus did, if only we would ignore that uncomfortable smell of burning wax.
Let's talk, for a moment, about the emotional baggage of this debate. You know what? Yes. This UAE "deal" makes me angry.
But it makes me angry because of the specifics of the deal, the specifics of the country involved, and the specifics of the infrastructure we're talking about. And I don't have a problem being irritated about it, because it is part and parcel with the five-year Republican insistence upon blocking any national security considerations at our ports, under the arguments that such security measures would be overly onerous towards corporate interests. This is simply the latest in a string of similar boneheaded dismissals -- it just happens to be the one that is considered the most emblematic, on both right and left, of the actual security problem.
I have to remove my shoes to get on a damn plane, in the name of national security, but a country whose royals met with Bin Laden in an Afghanistan-based "hunting" camp in 1999 gets to manage how the shipping containers move around at six of our nation's ports. And I'm supposed to be damn glad for the corporate-state inclusiveness.
I'm expected to put up with the notion that my phone may be tapped by my government -- without warrant or recourse -- because some guy who once called his cousin who once visited Afghanistan may have called the takeout desk of a Pizza Hut ten minutes before I did some random Sunday, thus "linking me with potential terrorists" -- but a nation whose assistance in stopping the financing of terrorists has been, historically, lukewarm at best is alarmed that they might be barred from financial profit in one specific sector of American industry with substantial national security implications.
I'm expected to understand that the War on Terror requires executive powers unlimited by check or balance, but one of the three nations on the entire planet to recognize the horrific and loathsome Taliban government of Afghanistan, while continuing to not recognize the state of Israel, is going to be upset if there are, God help us all, financial and diplomatic consequences for those actions upon one of their state-owned businesses.
Yeah. Notice a running theme here? If I or anyone from my family met with Bin Laden in 1999, I'd be in an offshore prison camp right now, with a bag over my head and recovering from the latest glowstick session. But if I'm a multinational corporation owned by a monarchy with those same ties, I'd have Republicans, pundits, hired consultants, financial advisors and erectile dysfunction spokesmen singing my praises in every newspaper, television show, and governmental body -- and telling folks like me that we're goddamn racist pricks for even bringing the issue up.
To use a term that is not used in our ever-so-insufferable political debate:
Bullshit. I'm calling shenanigans on that. Everybody get your brooms.
Despite the alarm and bluster over supposed liberal anti-Arab nationalism creeping into what might be a really, ripping good second quarter profit statement for the companies involved: the concerns here are specific to that country, and more specific still, to that government. This is what is known as "making distinctions".
It is possible to separate the actions of a state from the actions of all Arabs. It is even possible to separate the actions of one particular set of royal families from all Arabs. And an effective strategy in the craptacularly named "War on Terror", as we have all been pointing out to each other for a very, very long time, requires exactly that distinction. Distinction between the actions of governments, and of their citizens. Between the actions of extremists, those that harbor those extremists, and the vast majority of people that have no connection to either.
UAE is hardly a terrorist safe haven. But neither has it been fully cooperative, and neither does it have a recent history nearly as one-sidedly glowing as the unending stream of don't-look-behind-the-curtain Free Trade apparatchiks currently maintain. And that counts for something.
Yes, I know, UAE is a moderate Arab government. In this specific case, "moderate" means that some of the members of the monarchy have hosted Bin Laden at their camp and met with him, and other members of that same government have not. Some members of the royal family promote anti-Semitic conspiracy and hate literature, and others are more neutral on the matter. Well, that's just peachy, and that definition of "moderate" may be good enough for generally good relations and diplomacy, given the shoddy state of terrorism cooperation in the region. But it doesn't then follow that that definition of "moderate" requires the rewarding of that monarchy with this particular slice of national-security-tainted financial pie.
So I don't buy the notion that this is anti-Arab. (And especially not the logic that this is anti-Arab American. By that inane logic, opposing Columbian drug cartels would be bigotry against Mexicans.)
It is certainly possible to not be bigoted towards Iranians, and still not want an Iranian state-owned business managing and operating a nuclear power plant in the United States.
It is certainly possible to not be prejudiced against the Chinese, and still think that perhaps outsourcing the supply chains of the Pacific Fleet to a Chinese state-owned business might be a bad idea.
And it is possible to recognize that port security is a current and ongoing fiasco that is going to require significantly tightening port controls -- and that those controls are going to represent security and intelligence difficulties that may, in fact, preclude "Free Trade" in critical areas of domestic American infrastructure from being quite so Free, when it comes to states with a past record of divided loyalties in supporting the precise government and individuals responsible for worldwide acts of terrorism against the United States and other interests.
That really shouldn't be a difficult concept to grasp.