Academic journal article McNair Papers

2. the 1980s in Retrospect

Academic journal article McNair Papers

2. the 1980s in Retrospect

Article excerpt

Understanding the Caribbean's present complexity, changes, and challenges requires an appreciation of the recent past. A look back at the decade of the 1980s finds that geopolitics, militarization, intervention, and instability were the major security concerns. Given the interface between domestic and international politics, it is understandable that there were links among some of these themes and among their domestic, regional, and international aspects. Grenada's militarization in the 1980s, for example, was predicated on the need to defend the Grenada revolution against foreign intervention and local counterrevolution. Ironically, this very militarization created the climate that led to the self-destruction of the revolution, presenting the United States with the opportunity to intervene. In so doing, the United States was able to fulfill a preexisting geopolitical aim. Militarization and concerns about stability in Dominica, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines also raised security concerns within the Eastern Caribbean, such that Eastern Caribbean states not only created the Regional Security System (RSS) in 1982 to bolster subregional security, but were willing accomplices of U.S. intervention in Grenada a year later.

The four themes--geopolitics, militarization, intervention, and instability--were often subsumed under a megatheme: vulnerability. This topic became an important reference point for analysis of small state security concerns everywhere during the 1980s? States were--and still are--considered vulnerable because of geographic, political, economic or other factors that cause their security to be compromised. Vulnerability is thus a multidimensional phenomenon. One study identified six factors that can lend to it:

* Great power rivalries

* Territorial claims

* Possession of valuable resources

* Provision of refuge to refugees or freedom fighters

* Corruption

* Suppression of democracy. (2)

Experts from the Commonwealth of Nations who studied the vulnerability question noted the range of threats to which small states can be vulnerable:

   The special position of small states is borne out in all three major
   categories of threats to security: threats to territorial security
   resulting from incursions to both military and non-military
   sources; threats to political security, which can involve a broad
   range of actions that are deliberately intended to influence and, in
   some cases, bring about a specific change in the threatened state's
   national policies; and threats to economic security, involving
   action that can have the effect of undermining a state's economic
   welfare ,and which, additionally, can also be used as ,an instrument
   for political interference. (3)

All the above factors have affected Caribbean countries in recent years, and some continue to do so at we approach the 21st century. The size and political, military, and economic limitations of Caribbean countries make them all subject to the dictates of the United States, the hemisphere's hegemon, and, to a lesser extent, to pressures by middle-sized powers such as Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela. In explaining the range of threats to which Caribbean states are vulnerable, former Barbadian Prime Minister Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, observed:

   Our vulnerability is manifold. Physically, we are subject to
   hurricanes and earthquakes; economically, to market decisions
   taken elsewhere; socially, to cultural penetration; and [now]
   politically, to the machinations of terrorists, mercenaries and
   criminals. (4)

Sandiford neglected to mention the vulnerability related to U.S. foreign policy and security pursuits.

Caribbean states not only suffer from power deficiencies, but many of them also have weak state systems, a combination that exacerbates their vulnerability. As Barry Buzan noted, "where a state has the misfortune to be both a small power and a weak state . …

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