Dubai, that shining city on the Gulf, looks just one of those futuristic dreams of some utopian afficionado, in truth is a "quivering town in a desert valley!" All the glamorous crystals of those towers and skyscrapers is a phony illusions of progress. Jammed inside the intensive-energy-wasted boxes are all but ingenuous managers, creative minds, and able strategists. Behind and inside that expensively imported know-how and technology still lurks munchkins wrapped up in their own warped time and space. Here where the old Italian saw is truly applicable: The appearance deceives!
To start with, the whole Arab Emirates is an anachronism of sorts. Made out of seven tribes with flags, a population of around three-quarters of a million; are also home to another 3 to 4 million of modern slaves. Not to forget they're home also to the largest concentration of millionaires on earth, 56,000 of them. How a strip of a desert, a hole-in-the-wall -a dog's pen with the tail left out!- of a place can have 3 or 4 times its inhabitants of imported labor without having any industry to speak of or agriculture or anything else beside the abstraction of oil and the peddling of other countries's wares is part of the globalization not very mysterious yet magical workings nonetheless! If Dubai proves anything at all, it proves the new ability of the global market of creating Las Vegases of consumption anywhere, literally, overnight!
All those buildings, in addition of being an anachronism to their surroundings -glass towers in 120+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures!- were built by outsiders, kept going on by imported labor, and maintained by foreign expertise. To what end? That's the big question. It appears that in the global distribution of roles Dubai got to play the Hong Kong of the Middle East: in addition to being the local distribution center of industrial goods and services, it also plays the advanced shining window on the West. A fixed and permanent show to what the hard working industrial societies can produce and sell to gullible passive consumers and who've been addicted to their products. One may say why not? Hong Kong played and still plays an important role of connecting the Chinese world with the rest of the world. The difference between Hong Kong and Dubai though is quite unbridgeable: the first has China watching its back and is inhabited by energetic, driven, and hard working Chinese; while the second has no backing whatsoever from its catchment area(s) and hinterland, and inhabited by a hodge-podge of immigrant labor and semi-conscious, lazy wrapped-heads sheikhs, and their sycophants, retainers, and servants.
The rise of the place coincided with the beginning of the turmoil in the Gulf area. When the armies's merchants, off-shore banks, and multinational companies -after losing Beirut, discarded Amman as risky, and found Manama too unstable- were trying to find a place close enough to the theaters of action yet out of the range of the shooting alleys, to import the fuel necessary to stoke the fires of first national chauvinism, Iran-Iraq War, then pseudo-nationalism, invasion of Kuwait, and from then on all hell broke loose, when the Big Kahoota and its Sisters and Brothers, every unemployed mercenary, every adventurer Rambo put on their war gear and headed to the new eldorado, the Middle East, to hone their tools and test their skills!
What role did the UAE, the GCC, and the rest of them play in all this? Major role! Their visceral fear from their neighbors, Iraq and Iran led them to adopt a truly myopic policy, that of outsourcing their security to the Empire in exchange for mortgaging their sovereignty, if they ever had any, to the same power. Fear is the enemy of rational thinking, to ward off the potential danger of the beasts lurking on the horizons of their borders, they were willing to let themselves be swallowed by the giant ! A bunch of historically wretched raggeds, got rich overnight, they behaved just as rednecks when they win a huge lottery ticket! They got greedy, jealous, and paranoid about what others are planning for them. Thus, they colluded and conspired with whoever was against their perceived potential enemies, not only they became willing "partners" in the campaign to redraw the geopolitical map of the area but they abetted and encouraged the invasion; and made themselves and their lands -perhaps their resources too!- available to the oncoming forces of "liberation" but planned also to profit from the enterprise more than what would possibly be asked of them as contribution toward the war efforts. Business knows no morality, the fat cats get even fatter? Is not this classical blood money and worse spent on baubles and gaudy trinkets like the towers in the desert?
Some people were duped, especially the Business Schools' graduates and the rest of the half-educated aping them, to think that in the international arena just as in the daily life, only money counts. The reality of the world teaches not so when it comes to areas -of business- sensitive enough and close to the skin. The Dubai Ports World's (DPW) generated uproar in the USA is another reminder that considerations above and beyond money are still on the counter. The emirs may dine and wine with whoever but they still, when push comes to shove, are Arabs, that's, radio-active, even when they're millionaires. Money may do marvels but doesn't change who they are! The wrapped-heads and their other no less clownish relatives better to put in their minds that they're what they're not because of money or lack of it but because of brain dysfunctions. To many circles in the West there're no good Arabs! The lack of self-respect of the so-called rich arabs and their elites is beyond description. And what we see only the surface that hides other less laudable traits these types exhibit away from the cameras when they're in the presence of their masters and leash holders; the latter wouldn't shy away from reminding the first of their place and in the process making a joke at their expense, as in the current affaire!
International investments, before they're opportunities for making money, are a security liabilities. All countries and states which have substantial investments outside of their borders have also huge military and otherwise powers to back those investments up. This is still and has been since the beginning of the Nation-State age! We may moan our luck, condemn the practice of intimidation and humiliation, but the fact remains that the weak, even when they're rich are not immune from the risks beyond and above the market place, those of stereotyping and xenophobia!
What the Emirates should do? Well, it's presumptive, if not useless, to give advise to those who've enjoyed very little respect from the West to start with, to now start respecting themselves and find some other place where to do their business, preferably in their own backyard to guaranty better their security. This kind of advise doesn't square with people raised in these wretched times, without a sense of pride and high level of consciousness to their standing in today's world. Otherwise how can one explain the fact that it's okay for the USA to corral those wrapped-heads in their own yards and backyards but when the sheep wants to graze out of its stockade all the pent up contempt is turned into shouts and screams of trespassing their fenced area. The stooges and quislings are not even to be trusted with loading and unloading containers from ships in the ports of the hegemonic power that keeps them in place? One asks are those folks still breathing on their own? Or, as "faqid ash-shay laa ya'Teeh," no dignity to have, no humiliation to account for?