Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Wake the Neighbors

It seems our geo-political neighborhood is going through some changes these days!  I usually receive travel warnings from the embassy once every other month.  It seemed that last week, they decided to compile just one email to pretty much cover anything outside our borders.

It Read:
Warden Message # 6/2011: Stay Alert to Regional Developments
The U.S. Mission to the United Arab Emirates reminds Americans to remain alert to regional developments. Below are summaries of current guidance from the U.S. Department of State for many countries in the region. The most up-to-date guidance and information can be found online at                                                                                                                                                                
The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Bahrain at this time. (Bahrain Travel Alert dated February 18, 2011)
The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises U.S. citizens of ongoing demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and protests throughout the Sultanate of Oman. (Embassy Muscat Warden Message dated March 13, 2011)
The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should consider departing. (Yemen Travel Warning dated March 6, 2011)
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Libya and recommends U.S. citizens in Libya depart immediately. (Libya Travel Warning dated February 25, 2011)
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Egypt. (Egypt Travel Warning dated February 18, 2011)
The U.S. Department of State continues to advise U.S. citizens currently in Tunisia to defer non-essential travel to the central, western, and southern regions of Tunisia. (Tunisia Travel Alert dated March 10, 2011)

So I decided to create a map of all the travel advisories and restricted travel countries just so I didn't lose track.  Here's what I came up with:

People keep asking if we are ok over here and the answer is yes, we are safe and sound.  Here's a recap of how the upheaval in the region means here.

We are insulated from the overall "mood" sweeping the region. Dubai citizens are rich (not as rich as they used to be, but still). They are well kept and enjoying one of the world's best social welfare programs. So it seems that happy people are pretty much quiet people when it comes to the whole government overthrow thing.

Although, I'm working on a project right now that is completely stalled because the company sales people can't travel to: Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia...the list goes on. So economically sales/trade have been hit.
There is a very large contingent of people (especially Muslims from the Gulf and the Levant) who would like to see the US stay out of the turmoil in the region.  The long history of colonialism in the region weighs heavy in the minds of the people here. To them, even if these revolts turn into a protracted violent war, they want to see their friends in faith peruse the option alone for if they are victorious they don't want to risk American involvement in any sort of rebuilding or new government. To them the death and destruction are part of the cost that might be paid and there is honor in it (they cite our own Revolutionary War).

European expats have been heartened by the fact that the Americans are taking a "wait and see" approach before entering into Egypt and Libya and working with other nations to figure out a more holistic strategy.  Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't endeared the rest of the world to us. The rights and wrongs of such engagements are a policy discussion, to be sure, but there is a pervasive feeling that the Americans have been bungling things with their involvement in the past decade and that their involvement is now bringing even more hardships to these complex situations.

On the flip side there is someone on the news every night asking "what the US is going to do about this?". So there is a constant expectation that we will be the world's arbiter. It's a bit of a damned if you do and damned if you don't scenario. (As a complete aside, there are a lot of tongues wagging about Sudan/Darfur. Do we just pick and choose which people to protect and war crimes to stop?)

So that's my brief 'on the ground' reporting from Dubai!

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