Guest Post by Jim Krane: Dubai, Not Obama, is the Mideast’s Best Peace Hope

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City_of_Gold-thumb1473.jpgThis is a guest note by Jim Krane, a former AP Persian Gulf correspondent. His new book on Dubai, City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism, is available here.
As Americans, Israelis and Palestinians continue their endless peace-jockeying, a more hopeful solution has emerged. It is a fresh Arab initiative that depends neither on America nor Israel.
It is Dubai.
Dubai, you must know, is the flashy Gulf city-state that is one of the seven United Arab Emirates. In my book, I argue that Dubaians, descended from illiterate Bedouin who faced starvation in the 1940s, have authored the most exciting Arab accomplishment in 700 years.
From nowhere, Dubai has mushroomed into a trading city-state on the lines of Hong Kong and Singapore, with sidelines in real estate and tourism.
Dubai accomplished all this without (much) oil, and without the help – or even recognition – of the United States. While Washington has been caught up prolonging the Israel-Palestinian conflict and starting a war in Iraq, Dubai was erecting one of the world’s most spectacular cities.
So, how can Dubai fix the Middle East? It certainly can’t do much to help Palestinians suffering under Israeli misrule. But that is the point. Dubai has succeeded in spite of the plight of the Palestinians, and in spite of what Arab leaders describe as US meddling that stymies their development. One of the favorite themes of Dubai leader Sheikh Mohammed is that his counterparts should stop bloviating about the Israelis and start serving the interests of their own citizens.
Dubai’s wild growth backs up Sheikh Mohammed’s message. His business-before-politics way is becoming a development model for the rest of the Arab world.
But wait, Dubai is in financial trouble. How could it be a role model?
Dubai’s downturn is temporary. Being one of the world’s most globalized cities, it couldn’t help but be infected by a global recession. The contagion kneecapped each one of its economic pillars: Shipping, logistics, tourism, and its binging real estate sector. Most of these pillars remain sound.
Dubai’s economic example isn’t widely understood in Washington. But it’s a good thing. Emulating Dubai could make Arab countries more stable and secure, along with the rest of us. For America, which has mistreated Dubai despite synergies with our interests, it’s a windfall.
If you remember, Dubai in 2006 bought US port operations and found itself vilified as a terrorist logistics center. Members of Congress now in the Obama administration — among them the senator who is now president — joined the Dubai-bashing. Well, it may turn out that this “terrorist logistics center” has one of the keys for fixing the Mideast’s terrorism problem.
The Dubai model is a mixture of social freedom, unbridled immigration, and raw capitalism. It is overseen by a government that is one of the world’s least democratic. This is no accident. Dubai avoids both elections and the Arab obsession with politics, especially the syndrome of feeling slighted by the West.
Dubai is pragmatic. It makes money doing business with Israel and Iran, countries shunned by other Arab states. The city’s finessing of simultaneous friendships with Washington and Tehran is as deft as it is precarious.
Dubai’s government wrings efficiencies using schemes from Harvard Business School and General Electric. Its use of strategic planning is a new concept in the Middle East. Dubai conceives developments, like no-tax business parks, and builds them exactly as promised.
In contrast with the surrounding police states, Dubai functions on the honor system. Alcohol is legal. Prostitution is tolerated. A nice example is the e-Gate scheme, which allows residents to use a biometric card to skip passport control. None of the neighbors has the confidence to replace state security with a smart card. Not Saudi Arabia, not Iran, not Israel.
Saudis and Iranians, especially, find a refreshing dignity in Dubai, a respect for their ability to make the right choice. “Friday you can pray, but Thursday night you might want to go to the bar,” says a Dubai-based Saudi. “It’s up to you.”
Dubai is certainly taking risks. But rulers from Morocco to Iran are already Xeroxing parts of the Dubai playbook and waiting to see how the more controversial approaches pan out. For some, it’s a matter of self-preservation: Dubai’s state-led development doesn’t involve elections. For others it’s a bid to stop the hemorrhage of bright citizens and cash fleeing to Dubai.
All of them ought to do more. Egypt, with its unemployed masses, could make use of Dubai’s incentives for foreign investment. Syria might adopt its free trade ways. Iraq and Israel could use a dose of its religious tolerance. And its Gulf neighbors might streamline their bureaucracies as Dubai has.
Of course, there are areas where neighbors emulate Dubai to their detriment. Dubai’s abusive “in-sourced” labor market is one. Real estate is another. One hopes Dubai’s property crash taught admirers what not to copy. And Dubai pays no heed to the environment. Thus Dubaians, with their monster 4x4s and chilled swimming pools, are the world’s most prolific polluters.
But overall, Dubai’s self-help mentality is the best hope for dragging this stagnant region into the global economic mainstream, with the accompanying stability and peace it implies. It’s time Washington took notice.
— Jim Krane

Comments

54 comments on “Guest Post by Jim Krane: Dubai, Not Obama, is the Mideast’s Best Peace Hope

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Here’s another question. Why do you think American companies with a high CSR index like General Motors, General Electric, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Cisco, Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Citigroup, P&G, Dell, Honeywell, etc. have taken Dubai as their regional HQ for the Middle East?”
    Well gee, it must be because of all these company’s high regard for human rights, the environment, and ethical business practices, eh?
    Gads man, you were on a roll until that last huge pile of steaming pimpmanship.

    Reply

  2. larry birnbaum says:

    “Dubai has succeeded in spite of the plight of the Palestinians…”
    Per nadine above: This was meant as an ironic comment, no?

    Reply

  3. marhabahome-dubai says:

    Intresting post. Let expect,dubai is welcoming decent executives.

    Reply

  4. HZ says:

    It is evident to me that the majority of those
    commenting on the issue of “slave-like” conditions
    have not visit nor lived in Dubai. Obviously,
    basing their opinions on articles and/or media
    reports portraying the exceptional conditions of
    labor. Here’s a quick note that many readers (vs.
    people who have lived in Dubai) might not know. Do
    you know that many of those workers have been
    working in the country for at least 10-15 years?
    Most of these workers are offered opportunities
    that are far more better than what they have in
    their home countries. The amount of money sent
    back by the workers (households, labor, etc) is in
    the billions of US Dollars.
    Saying that the workers live in guarded labor
    camps as a basis for “slave-like” conditions is
    not accurate. There is a high level of security in
    Dubai, so from labor camps to residential
    compounds to high end malls, you will find a 3rd
    party security company offering its services. The
    work sites are obviously guarded to ensure the
    security of the sites. I have been a resident in
    Dubai for since 2002 and frequently see workers in
    the malls, especially those near the construction
    sites, that includes malls like Mall of the
    Emirates, Ibn Batutta Mall, etc.
    Some time back I actually saw the BBC media
    report, which was a true shame for BBC, since they
    were extremely selective in portraying the labor
    conditions. The BBC report focused on the
    conditions of select labors from one labor camp,
    showing us one side of the story, without showing
    the overall picture. It turns out that BBC was
    focusing on the exceptional condition in a labor
    camp, portraying it as the general condition of
    labor camps in Dubai. How cheap! Despite this
    being the exceptional case, we saw reports of the
    Dubai government intervening and imposing
    penalties on the contracting company and ensured
    rectifying the labor conditions.
    Here’s another question. Why do you think American
    companies with a high CSR index like General
    Motors, General Electric, Microsoft, IBM, HP,
    Cisco, Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Chevron,
    ConocoPhillips, Citigroup, P&G, Dell, Honeywell,
    etc. have taken Dubai as their regional HQ for the
    Middle East. Obviously, these are people who have
    done their feasibility studies and not just
    sitting on their desks with no real job.
    Just for the sake of the record, whilst GM was
    making losses worldwide, Dubai was one region
    where GM was making money and continues to be a
    gold mine for many other American companies, who
    respect a decent business environment.

    Reply

  5. ... says:

    thanks paul… kf is excited about flipping out on us here and that appears to be it…it’s impossible to have a conversation if someone isn’t interested…

    Reply

  6. Paul Norheim says:

    And kf,
    isn`t it your prejudices against the commenters here that triggered
    your accusations of prejudices they don`t have?
    An example: “…” above did not compare Dubai to Iraq, Saudi Arabia or
    Afghanistan (please read what he actually said). And no one here
    associated Dubai with “war and religious fundamentalism”. Money
    laundering, yes, but not fundamentalism.
    “…it reveals the American insular inability for discernment where
    the Middle East is concerned.”
    I absolutely agree with the “insular inability for discernment”
    statement in general. But if you take the time to read this thread,
    your criticism is not accurate.

    Reply

  7. Paul Norheim says:

    kf,
    most of the criticism here have actually focused on the
    “slave-like conditions” of the guest workers in Dubai:
    “85 percent of the population and 99 percent of the
    private work force” – according to JohnH in his comment
    almost at the top of this thread.
    You`ve been there yourself, right?
    So perhaps you could enlighten us on the conditions of
    the guest workers?
    BTW: I can say with absolute certainty that Fox is not
    the preferred news source among the majority of
    commenters at TWN.

    Reply

  8. kf says:

    Comparing Dubai to Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Afganistan is whack, yo.
    It’s like comparing Rhode Island to Connecticut, Vermont or New Hampshire.
    And, it reveals the American insular inability for discernment where the Middle East is concerned.
    It’s not all war and religious fundamentalism. Or baked beans and maple syrup.

    Reply

  9. Romarri says:

    I don’t know why I feel this bitterness and grudge from these comments. Dubai has accomplished what other countries couldn’t giving the same amount of time and recourses. People there are living in prosperity and better conditions than they would in their own countries. No any type of racism is found; your color, nationality, gender or your pocket money won’t affect the way you’re treated. Yes, Dubai is a paradise for all those looking for a safer and a modern city to live in.
    Look at Dubai from a brighter perspective, giving the fact that any city or country in the world is no perfect, Dubai has the know-how to recover in short times of period and undertakes serious actions to solve its problems. Believe me, if you know the great leadership of Dubai insights, you wouldn’t sit on your chairs typing words on nonsense.

    Reply

  10. ... says:

    kf – i meant that as an analogy for the idea of going to dubai being equally unnecessary… i have some friends that are in saudi arabia at present and will be getting a report from them at some point.. i don’t have any interest in going to dubai.. there are many other places that are of greater interest to me…

    Reply

  11. ... says:

    kf – i agree with you on this – “”Our (usa) engagement tactics in the Middle East thus far have only ensured our continued difficulties.”” as for having to go to dubai to witness what is happening there, i don’t think it’s necessary for me to visit iraq or afganistan for me to know that the usa’s war agenda in those countries continues to be a big mistake… i can see that from right where i am, thanks…

    Reply

  12. kf says:

    Have you guys actually been to Dubai to witness what’s happening there, or are you getting your news from Fox? Many of these posts demonstrate excessive free time laced with free-floating rage. The reality is that Krane’s solution is one of the better ones to be posed. Our engagement tactics in the Middle East thus far have only ensured our continued difficulties.

    Reply

  13. Paul Norheim says:

    “Historically and by definition all from the left are millenarians who being terrified with their
    capitalist nightmares are countervailing them with their millenarian dreams.” (Kotzabasis)
    Well, if that`s correct, I do not belong to the left. I do not dream millenarian dreams.
    History – especially 1914-1989 – vaccinated me against millenarian dreams.
    Post 1989 a new dream occurred on the world scene: American hegemony, global democracy
    implemented with military means, perpetual global war on “terror”. The first scenes in that dream
    was produced by Fukuyama and Wolfowitz, the last ones by Dick Cheney, Lynndie England and
    Ahmed Chalabi.
    That`s the dream you`re still dreaming, Kotz.
    I somehow doubt that you`ll ever wake up.

    Reply

  14. ... says:

    kotz – don’t paraphrase Heraclitus.. he would have nothing to do with the bullshit that has come to define your ideology..

    Reply

  15. Cookies_and_Milk says:

    Why the hell did you link to that book twice in the same sentence? I hate it when blogs stuff their posts with as many useless links as possible. Gargh.

    Reply

  16. kotzabasis says:

    Historically and by definition all from the left are millenarians who being terrified with their capitalist nightmares are countervailing them with their millenarian dreams. And if you don’t dream Marxist ‘dialectical’ dreams but only Kant’s dream of “Eternal Peace,” der Ewige Friede, then that still makes you a millenarian.
    All men/women of reason abhor war. But sometimes war is necessary to prevent a greater catastrophe. And it is through war and strife, to paraphrase Heraclitus, against the enemies of humanity and freedom that mankind can achieve relative stability and peace. “Nothing for nothing,” to quote the economic historian David Landes. I, like him, “prefer truth to goodthink.”

    Reply

  17. Paul Norheim says:

    “And the other fugitive from reality who naps on his leftist millenarian dreams…”
    What kind of dreams, Kotz? Marxist dreams? Or perhaps Kant`s dream of “der Ewige
    Friede”?
    Nobody who actually knows me has ever noticed my leftist millenarian dreams before
    you did it online.
    I don`t see myself as a dreamer in political terms. My expectations on behalf of
    mankind are neither apocalyptic nor utopian. I simply tend to think that some things
    may get better, while other things may get worse. As a matter of fact, my world view
    is rather boring – although I expect certain spectacular surprises on the
    technological front.
    On a personal level, I think I`m blessed with a rather optimistic outlook. But on
    behalf of humanity and the future of mankind? Not so optimistic. And certainly no
    millenarian dreams.
    Let me use this opportunity to admit that my main political motivation or “interest”
    in geopolitical issues is an impulse to avoid catastrophes, mayhem, unnecessary
    bloodshed. I am especially concerned with those conflicts which may escalate to
    become regional wars, or worse: a new world war. We do not possess the means to
    achieve Utopia (and we never will), but we certainly have the military and
    technological means to achieve total destruction, an apocalypse.
    Perhaps unlike you, I am too much of a sceptic to have huge expectations on a grand
    scale. Good intentions are not enough. But both good and bad intentions may lead to
    planned or unexpected catastrophes. And this is my main concern.
    I`m not a pacifist. But I certainly don`t have such confidence in military means to
    solve conflicts as you apparently have. They often seem to deepen the conflict, or
    create new conflicts. I regard Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan as recent examples of
    this. I notice that you see at least the last two wars as examples of the triumph of
    military means. I don`t think I`ll ever understand your way of thinking.

    Reply

  18. kotzabasis says:

    Kervick
    Indeed you did. But you have made both your serious comment and your comical one in the context of Dubai and I’m talking about your laughable ‘polarities’ of argument from the serious to the absurd, and not about you.
    And that other fugitive from reality who naps on his leftist millenarian dreams, Paul Norheim, runs in support to his kindred spirit, Kervick.

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    Totally bizarre guest post. Bizarre.
    All I know about Jim Krane is he is an AP reporter…I guit reading AP articles 8 years ago…we should have a contest to see if any one can find an AP article headline that actually reflects the article’s content.AP is a joke, don’t know about Krane…except it’s obvious he doesn’t like Arabs.

    Reply

  20. JohnH says:

    Such a big world, so few models to emulate.
    The Arabs might be best off reading ancient Greek texts about democracy. After all, it was the Arabs who translated and transmitted much of what we know about ancient Greece to the West.

    Reply

  21. ... says:

    looking for arab role models is an interesting concept that needs to be shot down… why do arabs have only to look for a good role model in the arab world when their are none that are perfect and one can pull from any culture for what they might deem of value??
    i play music and i tend to play jazz, or improv music primarily.. does this mean i can only draw direction or inspiration from white jazz musicians of the past, given the fact in am ”’white”?? it is such a limiting way to view the world and i have said this before… get beyond your nationality, religion, race and find that the world is a much bigger place where freedom can be had… it is all a question of your conditioning and whether you want to let it close your world down, or not… thinking arabs must look only to arabs is a really whacked out concept and while i have let some others here try to cultivate this stupid idea, i thought i would make a different suggestion.. get beyond that shit..

    Reply

  22. ... says:

    paul norheim 533am – bang on.. thanks..
    dan kervick 1127am… don’t embarrass kotz… he does well enough on his own..

    Reply

  23. Dan Kervick says:

    Kotz, I’m talking about Dubai. You’re talking about me. Which is a more serious topic of discussion?

    Reply

  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Suggesting Dubai has a monopoly over Arab success (or failure) is just silly”
    Not if you’re trying to sell a book.
    It’d be interesting to know if Crane has any lobby connnections to Dubai. Or if he’s just looking to cultivate some.
    Or maybe he’s got a stake in a Dubai brothel? I pose the question tongue in cheek, but his glowing appraisal of Dubai’s tolerance of vice is an extremely odd way to present his assessment of Dubai as a “model” for other Arab nations to emulate.
    I suspect, rather than offering an analysis here, Crane is instead engaged in a bit of marketing. His is not a book I would buy, but it would be interesting to know if the book is a geo-political work, or simply an advertisement, marketing Dubai.

    Reply

  25. Tom Gara says:

    Like many places, there are certainly things about Dubai that its neighbours (and the world) can learn from, and things that should be avoided.
    I look forward to reading Mr Kane’s book, but it seems silly to say that one city-state is a model to be emulated by dozens of countries and more than 300 million people.
    Instead, how about acknowledging what has worked in Dubai alongside some other Arab world success stories. Each of these come alongside considerable negatives, but regardless, what about:
    – the development of a real community of entrepreneurs and innovators in Jordan
    – the lively public debate and cultural scene in Lebanon
    – The gradual, imperfect progress (is there any other kind) toward a parliamentary system in Kuwait
    – Abu Dhabi’s huge investments into fundamentally progressive institutions like world-class universities, R&D facilities and media
    – Qatar’s move toward a genuinely independent foreign policy (and, of course, Al Jazeera)
    All of these things are worthy of note, despite the negatives that still clearly cast shadows over each country. Suggesting Dubai has a monopoly over Arab success (or failure) is just silly.

    Reply

  26. kotzabasis says:

    Dan Kervick is the pendulum of a unique antique clock that swings from the serious to the comical. He swings from his serious proposal that Arabs “need to set their sight on multiple and diverse improvements drawn from MANY SEPARATE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION (m.e.), to the comical one , “Or maybe most of them can just go on doing their old world, TRADITIONAL THINGS (which nadine aptly described as “romanticize camel herding”) without lusting after the almighty buck…” This is very similar to his profound insight about Iran’s election when under the rubric of “Rumsfeldian Unknowns,” to quote him, he made the statement in one of his posts on TWN, that there might be “anti-democratic” forces that would aim to “overthrow” the democratic election in Iran.” And the pendulum continues to swing on.

    Reply

  27. Dan Kervick says:

    “… but people all over the world seize prosperity with both hands if they get the chance.”
    Maybe that’s true; and maybe the reason a lot of these countries are not seizing prosperity with both hands is because they are ruled by autocratic individuals who are content to let their people languish in their current condition, without seizing prosperity for them.
    So what is the Dubai formula for success? Get yourself an autocratic emir who seizes prosperity? Great recommendation. I can’t wait for the next brilliant innovation in development consulting, maybe something like this:
    Hey Arabs, I’ve got the answer to to your money woes right here: “Win the lottery!”

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    Dubai as a role model?
    Well, this bizarre suggestion at least gave one commenter here a fresh opportunity to
    bash Israel`s enemies: “Look, the Muslims in the world have organized their societies
    in such horrible ways that even a Casino, shopping mall and gangster paradise based on
    slavery and raw capitalism would serve as a role model for these miserable creatures!”
    And apparently to prove, once again, that his opponents are hypocrites.
    How can commenters at TWN avoid being accused of hypocrisy by Wigwag?
    Is it possible to approach this in a practical manner? Let`s assume (a wild guess) that
    there are around 30 countries on the planet with a miserable human rights record. When
    someone here complains about human rights issues in a country that is glorified in an
    article at TWN, should that commenter perhaps be obliged to provide a list of the 29
    other countries on the planet, with specifics for each country?
    I somehow doubt that this would satisfy Wigwag. If a country has a good human rights
    record today, it certainly performed badly three, seven or eighteen centuries ago, and
    you`re a hypocrite (to say the least) if you don`t mention that. Criticize one
    particular country that Wigwag likes, and he`ll let you hear that you`ve ignored the
    well documented fact that some other country somewhere did some stuff that was much
    nastier a couple of centuries ago.
    But we can`t paste in lists of the worst crimes committed in world history every time
    we criticize a particular country, can we?
    Perhaps there is a way around this. Perhaps we should stop criticizing countries and
    people that Wigwag admires or defends?
    Instead, we may perhaps say things like: “I wouldn`t dream of criticizing Hillary
    Clinton, she`s certainly a much better Secretary than the Foreign Minister of Malawi or
    Myanmar!”
    “Netanyahu? Avigdor Lieberman? Compared to Mussolini and his foreign minister, Bibi and
    Lieberman are nice fellows and trustworthy, peace loving politicians!”
    “The settlement policy? Not worth mentioning, compared to the scramble for Africa in
    the 19th and 20th century.”
    “The attack on Gaza? Peanuts, compared to what Hannibal, Djengis Khan, and Napoleon
    Bonaparte did!”
    Applied to politicians in general: If the person you were going to criticize is as bad
    as Heinrich Himmler was, go on. Blame him! If not, think twice. At least you should
    explicitly mention the crimes committed by Herr Himmler. Unless, of course, your
    accusations are directed against REALLY NASTY PEOPLE, I mean… people like Obama,
    Carter or Brzezinski…
    This way, we may eventually establish a framework for meaningful and honest discussions
    at The Washington Note, and get rid of hypocrisy once and for all.

    Reply

  29. nadine says:

    “Or maybe most of them can just go on doing their old world, traditional things without lusting after the almighty buck and glitzy capitalist “progress”.”
    I wouldn’t romanticize camel herding if I were you. People around the world may get misty-eyed over the good old days of shared poverty (rich Arabs like to do this as they go out to the camel park to spend quality time with their pet camels) but people all over the world seize prosperity with both hands if they get the chance. Prosperity brings long life, relief from suffering, and the luxury to even care about the individual and human rights. If you really care about human rights, you should be all for prosperity and capitalism, the only economic system that achieves it.

    Reply

  30. ... says:

    another faulty assumption built into wigwags analysis is that they hinge on his use of the values of the western world to gauge them.. it’s an ethnocentric viewpoint where one automatically assumes ones particular values (monetary and etc) are the only valid ones to be used… wigwag is guilty of this in his posts tonight..what next wiggy?

    Reply

  31. Dan Kervick says:

    “If Dubai isn’t a model for the Islamic World, what is?”
    “For all those Dubai critics; precisely which Arab nation do you think is more promising than Dubai?”
    There is a faulty presupposition here, WigWag. It does not follow from the fact that Dubai is not a good model for the Arab world that some other Arab or Muslim country must be a better model. It is entirely possible that no currently existing Arab country is a good model for any of the others, and they all need to set their sights on multiple and diverse improvements drawn from many separate sources of inspiration. Or maybe most of them can just go on doing their old world, traditional things without lusting after the almighty buck and glitzy capitalist “progress”.
    Again, my initial point was that the Dubai economic formula is not exportable to the rest of the Arab world, or probably anywhere else for that matter, and so it can’t be a model for anyone. Even *if* one accepts that money and fancy buildings are everything in life, and that Dubai is a great “success story”, still one must recognize that a tiny desert seaside financial hub, tourist destination and playpen for the affluent that can provide prosperity to 2.5 million people living on a 500 square mile patch of land is a fairly unique entity in the world. Such entities can only exist because there are so few of them.
    If *everyone* laundered money, trafficked in flesh, and incentivized excess with abandon, then the world’s wealthy would have no need for some *particular* place to go to do their excessive thing; just as if every city, town and hamlet ran a casino and brothel in the central square, you would have a bunch poor, shitty-ass casinos and cathouses catering only to the still-poor local yokels. Dubai cannot be readily made into some general formula that can be applied in countries that are much larger, are much more populous, and possess real cultures that go beyond the hobbies and diversions of the current sheikh.

    Reply

  32. WigWag says:

    Even though Dubai is not oil rich, it has the 14th largest per capita GDP in the world at $38,830 technically it’s the UAE).
    The next majority Muslim nation without oil on the list is Malasia which comes in at number 60 ($14,072). Next comes Turkey in the 62nd spot (13,138) and Lebanon in the 63rd spot
    (13,032). By the way, Iran, which has the third largest oil reserves in the world, is in the 71st slot ($11,250).
    Some of the nations that have larger per capita incomes than Malasia include: Trinidad and Tobago, Latvia, Botswana and Gabon.
    Every Muslim nation in the world without oil is an economic basket case. Even many of the Muslim nations blessed with oil are economic basket cases (e.g. Iran). There is exactly one exception to the rule: Dubai.

    Reply

  33. WigWag says:

    If Dubai isn’t a model for the Islamic World, what is?
    Gaza, run by bunch of fundamentalists thugs; the West Bank run by corrupt and aging psuedorevolutonaries; Egypt or Syria, run by authoritatian dictators who have run their countries into the ground; Saudi Arabia which doesn’t let women drive and which without its oil would have the GDP of Botswana; Iraq which is about to be torn apart by civil war between it’s three largest sectarian groups; Iran, which shoots students down in the street and is hated by its own citizens; Afghanistan, where women can’t leave their homes without their husband’s permission and where the Taliban cuts off the fingers of people who dare to vote.
    Exactly where should Arab nations look in the Arab and larger Muslim world for role models?
    With the possible exceptions of Indonesia and Turkey is there a successful, prosperous, peaceful Muslim majority nation anywhere in the world? Indonesia and Turkey excepted is there an Arab or majority Muslim nation anywhere with a vibrant civil society and a thriving economy not based on oil?
    The one nation in the world where Muslims do live in a free and increasingly prosperous society is India; but of course India is not majority Muslim, it’s majority Hindu. The Muslim nation that broke away from India in 1948, Pakistan, is amongst the most incompetently run nations in the world.
    Dubai with all its numerous faults makes at least a little progress towards leaving the fifteenth century and entering the 21st century and all the critics can do is launch diatribes about how bad Dubai is.
    For all those Dubai critics; precisely which Arab nation do you think is more promising than Dubai?
    If it’s not Dubai, to which nation populated by a majority of Muslims should young people in the Arab and larger Muslim world look to for hope?

    Reply

  34. Dan Kervick says:

    “Monaco has been around for a long time.”
    Sure, Nadine. But no one in their right mind would think Monaco is a “model” for Europe.
    Krane is apparently a well-regarded reporter, so I’m thinking that his book might be part surface-level and front-loaded suck-up with the boom lowered between the lines and in the back chapters. The suck-up is the going price for the “unprecedented access”.
    I know it’s no fun being a woman in many parts of the Arab world. But I’m thinking that if I were a woman in Dubai, I might actually prefer to wear an Afghan Burkha before some leering booty-hunter takes a liking to my face and sells me to a fat businessman.

    Reply

  35. nadine says:

    Dan, if the surrounding countries are repressive enough, the licentious port city-state you describe can survive for a long time because it provides real services that the surrounding countries don’t, both licit and illicit. Banking, importation of goods, gambling prostitution, etc. Monaco has been around for a long time.
    “Dubai has succeeded in spite of the plight of the Palestinians, and in spite of what Arab leaders describe as US meddling that stymies their development. One of the favorite themes of Dubai leader Sheikh Mohammed is that his counterparts should stop bloviating about the Israelis and start serving the interests of their own citizens.”
    Sheikh Mohammed makes more sense than Jim Krane. WTF does Dubai’s success have to do with the Palestinians, except insofar as Dubai has imported Palestinian guest workers? It’s hundreds of miles away from Israel. Just because the Arabs go around saying “Everything wrong in the Arab world is Israel’s fault!” is no reason for supposedly rational people in the West to parrot them.

    Reply

  36. Dan Kervick says:

    I trust I have said enough disparaging words in the past about the autocratic sheikhdoms and kingdoms of the Arab Peninsula not to be accused of hypocrisy for the following:
    Dubai’s “model” is not really exportable, and is thus not really a model. As Krane indicates, Dubai is not really a country in the modern sense but an old-fashioned “city-state”. As other such boom cities have learned in the past, if you live in a neighborhood of more austere and repressive states, practice a policy of neutrality and laissez faire economic liberality, and throw your doors open to every kind of of smuggling, money-laundering, offshoring, expatriot looting and flesh-peddling, you can do do a booming business for a time among the world’s playboys, embezzlers, swindlers and robber barons, who have more money pouring out of their bank accounts than they know what to do with.
    Dubai is just a glittering monarchical anachronism, a gaudy stone on the hand of the courtesan of the month, a fancy car in the garage of a cosmetically enhanced lottery winner. And it is very unlikely that Dubai will last in any way other than as a long-term tourist attraction where people will come in the future to see the comically opulent and excessive relics of the vanished Oil Coast.
    A model? Yeah right, maybe the whole world can become Foxwoods Casino, Monaco or Dubai, places whose existence is only possible because they are parasitic wealth-absorbing growths on the body of the real world.

    Reply

  37. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Ah yes, some brilliant think tanker gives us a glowing review of Dubai, and Wiggie jumps right in to deflect the harsh reality. I mean really, how dare we address Dubai on a thread that is about Dubai! Silly us, don’t we realize we are supposed to talk about China whenever we see a comment about Dubai?
    I wonder, do today’s “realists” now describe slavery as a mere “detriment”?
    Really, this post is a testimonial for decadence. Hookers even! Hey, at last, an Arab country you can you can get screwed for a buck. And booze too!!! Wow its heaven. Hookers, slavery, and bars too.
    And you can even get to the whorehouse in a monster truck!!!! Whooopeee!
    Egads.
    Oh, and Wiggie, be sure to accuse me of not taking China to task. Of course you know by know, China is really my favorite country. I particularly like their innovative use of child labor, as you know from my past posting.

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  38. JohnH says:

    You can’t help but wonder why? Maybe because the subject of Singapore and Hong Kong never come up. And China never comes up as some utopia, except perhaps in the corporate press (we know how they think labor should be treated).
    I criticized Dubai because that was the topic. That’s why.
    You raised the subject of selective criticism. I can’t help but wonder why.

    Reply

  39. WigWag says:

    I skimmed your report and will read it more carefully. I don’t know anything about the organization that wrote it, but I will do a little research.
    I did read the Executive Summary. Nothing in the Executive Summary suggests anything akin to slavery. What it does suggest is treatment of guest workers that could easily be compared to Mexican (and other)migrant workers in the United States. That’s another topic on which you and others are strangely silent. By the way, when posts pertinent to Europe come up we never see you or anyone else mention the terrible treatment of migrant workers there either.
    Which is my point; you and others are selective in what nations you criticize. For whatever reason you have no love for the UAE so the treatment of migrant workers in Dubai becomes an issue worth mentioning; the same for Israel. On the other hand you never mention the treatment of these workers on posts related to scores of other countries.
    I can’t help but wonder why.

    Reply

  40. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “As Americans, Israelis and Palestinians continue their endless peace-jockeying,…….”
    Israelis are “peace-jockeying”?
    Well, maybe somewhere, but not on the planet Earth.

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  41. JohnH says:

    Yes, I brought up ‘slave-like conditions’ to make the point that Dubai is not exactly paradise. You suggested several of us were being selective in our criticism because Dubai is not unique in that regard. And you listed several countries where slavery is practiced to make your point.
    Frankly, I’m not a big fan of any of those countries and would view boosterism of them with the same skepticism I expressed of Krane’s Dubai piece.
    I also pointed out that you were being selective–exactly what you accused me of–because you failed to mention the situation of Israeli guest workers. Then you made the claim that Israel is not “suborning slavery!” I suggest you inform yourself a little more about the situation of Israeli guest workers before you make up a claim out of whole cloth. You may not be fully aware of Israeli practices because Israel does not eagerly shine light on its dark side. And the American media certainly won’t publicize anything negative about Israel.
    Here’s a report that might help: “Migrant Workers in Israel – A Contemporary Form of Slavery.”
    http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:U2Mf3O4XmuIJ:www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/il1806a.pdf+israel+guest+workers+slave&cd=31&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
    Sounds pretty grim for Israeli guest workers.

    Reply

  42. ... says:

    wiggy, you keep on asking loaded questions with built in assumptions… it is the later part that folks are challenging you on.. if you were asking questions in some sort of neutral manner that would be one thing, but you’re not.. don’t act surprised, and go on to repeat the same thing as you have done again in your last post “And I asked why those who’ve brought up slavery in Dubai, fail to mention it when discussing other nations where it may be practiced”…
    i realize you’d like to change the topic and make it about us, but no one seems to want to oblige you… no more 2 part sentences with some truth and a some bullshit and you’ll get a different response.. try wiggling some more..

    Reply

  43. WigWag says:

    I’m not the person who brought up slavery, JohnH, it was you who did that. I was responding to your comment and the comment of others about “slave like conditions” and actual slavery in Dubai. In light of this, it hardly seems off topic to respond that you and others, while quick to bring up slavery in Dubai never mention its existence elsewhere in the Muslim world or in China.
    The Israelis are certainly no angels; neither are the Palestinians. But despite all of the terrible things the Israelis and Palestinians do to each other (a topic that is discussed endlessly at the Washington Note), neither party to that dispute is accused of suborning slavery.
    On the other hand, there is substantial evidence of slavery in both China and throughout the Muslim world, especially in North Africa.
    This is what the State Department had to say on this issue:
    “Saudi Arabia is a destination for men and women from South and East Asia and East Africa trafficked for the purpose of labor exploitation, and for children from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Africa trafficking for forced begging. Hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers from India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Kenya migrate voluntarily to Saudi Arabia; some fall into conditions of involuntary servitude, suffering from physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, the withholding of travel documents, restrictions on their freedom of movement and non-consensual contract alterations. The Government of Saudi Arabia does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.”
    You brought up slavery; I merely pointed out that there are credible allegations that it exits throughout the Muslim world and in China. And I asked why those who’ve brought up slavery in Dubai, fail to mention it when discussing other nations where it may be practiced.
    That seems on-topic to me.
    And it seems particularly relevant.

    Reply

  44. JohnH says:

    If I recall, Wigwag, the guest post was about Dubai, not China, Singapore, Hong Kong, or Muslim women. Of course, slavery anywhere is abhorrent.
    Now that you have gone off topic, and accuse us of selective criticism, maybe you could describe Israeli exploitation of the the Palestinian workforce. Of course, that was years ago. They had to give that practice up with the rise of the intifada. Instead they started exploiting Asian guest workers, just like Dubai. Want to comment on their treatment?
    http://www.mail-archive.com/pen-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu/msg56767.html

    Reply

  45. WigWag says:

    It’s quite interesting to read all the moral outrage about slave labor in Dubai. It’s funny how the virtual slavery of women, which is all too common in the Muslim world, never elicits a response.
    It’s also rather strange that in numerous posts about China, so few comment on the ubiquitous use of slave labor in that country.
    To wit,
    Time Magazine
    Slave Labor in China Sparks Outrage
    By Simon Elegant/Beijing Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2007
    “The furor in China surrounding the discovery that children and the mentally handicapped had been kidnapped and sold into slavery is showing no sign of abating. It seems increasingly likely that the controversy will mark a significant milestone in the evolution of the country’s civil society.”
    Why is it that slave labor in Dubai sparks so much moral outrage while slave labor elsewhere inspires hardly a whimper?

    Reply

  46. samuelburke says:

    I for one am not going to fuss about Halliburton moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai on the sunny coast of the Persian Gulf.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff03132007.html
    It makes sense, and it makes things so much clearer, too.
    Halliburton, recall, is the company that has made the most money of any private enterprise off of the Iraq War–$27 billion to date, most of it in the form of extraordinarily profitable no-bid contracts (the company earned a record $2.3 billion last year alone). It is also Vice President Dick Cheney’s company. He headed it for five years before deciding to go into “public service” as President Bush’s regent in 2001, and he continued to receive compensation from the company, and to hold options for Halliburton stock well into his vice presidency, refusing even to put his holdings into a blind trust, as wealthy political figures normally do to ensure that they don’t make decisions based upon considerations of personal gain.
    Before, there was always the old argument that “what’s good for Halliburton is good for America.” That line may have been hokey when it was first uttered with regard to General Motors by then GM chairman Charles Wilson, and it is surely hokey today, but it can lead to some confusion among Americans still in thrall to the corporate creed.
    But with Halliburton now a Dubai corporation, with its tax obligations now owed to the Dubai Revenue Department instead of the IRS, that deception is gone.

    Reply

  47. easy e says:

    Posted by …, Sep 01 2009, 6:07PM
    i join others here in finding this post bizarre.. dubai is the bastion of a lot of things, but unless types of slavery have become popular again, it has nothing to do with any type of freedom or democracy.. wigwag i see you’re asking stupid questions again at the beginning of your post…
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Spot on, (…)!

    Reply

  48. samuelburke says:

    An Unlikely Criminal Crossroads
    Posted 11/27/05
    interesting post…israel palestine the u.s and dubai????
    From Egypt to Afghanistan, when terrorists and gangsters need a place to meet, to relax, maybe to invest, they head to Dubai, a bustling city-state on the Persian Gulf.
    http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/051205/5terror.b1.htm
    The Middle East’s unquestioned financial capital, Dubai is the showcase of the United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich federation of sheikdoms. Forty years ago, Dubai was a backwater; today, it hosts dozens of banks and one of the world’s busiest ports; its free-trade zones are crammed with thousands of companies. Construction is everywhere–skyscrapers, malls, hotels, and, soon, the world’s tallest building.
    Related News
    Paying for terror
    A godfather’s lethal mix of business and politics
    But Dubai also serves as the region’s criminal crossroads, a hub for smuggling, money laundering, and underground banking. There are Russian and Indian mobsters, Iranian arms traffickers, and Arab jihadists. Funds for the 9/11 hijackers and African embassy bombers were transferred through the city. It was the heart of Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan’s black market in nuclear technology and other proliferation cases. Half of all applications to buy U.S. military equipment from Dubai are from bogus front companies, officials say. “Iran,” adds one U.S. official, “is building a bomb through Dubai.” Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents thwarted the shipment of 3,000 U.S. military night-vision goggles by an Iranian pair based in Dubai. Moving goods undetected is not hard. Dhows–rickety wooden boats that have plowed the Arabian Sea for centuries–move along the city center, uninspected, down the aptly named Smuggler’s Creek.

    Reply

  49. ... says:

    i join others here in finding this post bizarre.. dubai is the bastion of a lot of things, but unless types of slavery have become popular again, it has nothing to do with any type of freedom or democracy.. wigwag i see you’re asking stupid questions again at the beginning of your post…

    Reply

  50. WigWag says:

    Dubai may not be a bastion of democracy but since when has that inspired such antipathy on the part of Washington Note readers?
    Reading Jim Crane’s post put me in mind of Hong Kong and Singapore. Both of those nations are imperfect democracies at best; they’re not criticized very often.
    Dubai’s growth is also reminiscent of the rapid economic development seen in several cities on the Chinese mainland. Does anyone think Dubai is more autocratic than China?
    The selective outrage is perplexing.

    Reply

  51. brigid says:

    A rich, corrupt, oil kingdom is the inspiration for the Middle East?
    I think your post does a disservice to what inspires Middle Eastern people.

    Reply

  52. JohnH says:

    I’m also stupefied by this unabashed boosterism for Dubai. It’s like saying, “America is great because the top 0.1% have fabulous lives.”
    Yes, “Dubai’s abusive “in-sourced” labor market is one [detriment.]” I’d say a major one. Let’s not forget that “guest workers make up about 85 percent of the population and 99 percent of the private work force.”
    And talk about slave-like conditions: “They rise before dawn in guarded camps, work six days a week at guarded sites and return by bus with time to do little but eat or sleep.” And then to add insult to injury, they may not get paid. But it is good for business–or rather the business owners.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/05/world/africa/05iht-dubai.3.6990197.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2
    No wonder Halliburton moved its corporate headquarters there.
    And this is a model for the Middle East? Give me a break!

    Reply

  53. Bob Morris says:

    I’m stupefied by this. According to Forbes and McMafia, Dubai is a world center for money laundering. and of course, construction has long been notorious for being a way to launder money.
    People there whose condos have dropped in value and can’t make the mortgage are often put in prison. The slave labor they bring in to do their work is generally kept in horrible conditions after their passports have been seized.
    > Dubai avoids both elections and the Arab obsession with politics, especially the syndrome of feeling slighted by the West.
    Goodness, how refreshing to be done with that pesky democracy and stuff.
    (Or was this meant to be biting satire? I sure hope so.)

    Reply

  54. Cato the Censor says:

    “Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history.”
    What is with people like you that you could have anything positive to say about such a vile place as Dubai where people are kept as virtual slaves? Do you go hunting for gold coins in sewers?

    Reply

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