BY RAY FLEMING ALTHOUGH the details of the deal done with Dubai Ports World to hand over the operation of its recently acquired US ports to an American entity are not yet known, one thing is abundantly clear. President Bush has suffered an extraordinary humiliation as Republican politicians have ignored his support for the United Arab Emirates company and insisted that their concern for American security should take precedence. The Congressmen who have been protesting most loudly are probably those most worried about their electoral prospects in the mid-term elections in November; no doubt they have heard what people are saying on the streets. It may not be admirable that Americans are unwilling to have an Arab company running their ports but it is nonetheless evidence that US democratic processes are not as sclerotic as is sometimes assumed. This issue caught the public's interest and concern and in no time at all a done deal was undone and a President's threat to veto opposition to it was ignored. The consequenes of this in terms of America's reputation as a nation committed to free trade and open business may be severe, but that will depend to a considerable extent on the precise details of the arrangement agreed with Dubai Ports. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see whether Congress will be as ready to act with similar decisiveness when President Bush asks it to ratify the understanding he reached during his recent visit to India to give that nation exceptional assistance with its nuclear programme, even though that programme has been developed outside the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It will be within Congress' power to put the agreement on hold and although this issue will not capture the public's interest as has the security of US ports, there are good grounds for hoping that Congress will act to prevent Mr Bush from making future maintenance of the constraints of the Non-Proliferation pact even more difficult. With obvious exceptions this Treaty has worked well and it would be irresponsible to put it at risk at this particular time. Any gain in US-Indian relations would be far outweighed by a wider uncertainty about nuclear proliferation.
US DEMOCRACY AT WORK
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