Caribbean Maritime Society

By Rodriguez Beruff, Jorge | Hemisphere, Spring 1997 | Go to article overview

Caribbean Maritime Society


Rodriguez Beruff, Jorge, Hemisphere


Although Michael Morris deals with a narrower topic than Maingot, in several ways Caribbean Maritime Security is related to Maingot's work, notably to the pertinence of a geopolitical approach to international relations in the Caribbean and the new challenges to regional security in the post-Cold War era. Unlike Maingot's book, the work by Morris explores an aspect of the regional situation on which there is a glaring dearth of information and research. Caribbean Maritime Security is therefore a unique contribution to the literature on regional security that should stimulate further research on naval and maritime issues.

Morris notes the apparent paradox represented by the evident importance of the maritime dimension of Caribbean history, on the one hand, and the apparent neglect of maritime policies by Caribbean states, on the other. This contradiction is of particular concern to the author as "...maritime affairs and security promise to be central to the future of Caribbean states." The importance of naval and maritime matters to the Caribbean has been enhanced by the expansion of national maritime zones brought about by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, and by the dual challenges of seaborne illegal migration and the burgeoning drug trade. Naval policy in the Caribbean relates mainly to national coast guard capabilities, since only large states such as the United States have the capacity to project conventional naval power based on large navies. Thus, the book focuses mainly on coast guards and their "offshore enforcement" role.

In Chapter 2, the author provides a much needed overview of existing naval forces and capabilities. In his typology, only Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico have offshore territorial defense capabilities. Cuba and the Dominican Republic are classified as having inshore territorial defense capabilities, and in both cases the tendency points toward a possible weakening of those capabilities. (The end of Soviet support is mentioned in the case of Cuba and the obsolescent equipment and budgetary constraints of the Dominican Republic is also discussed.) The rest of the naval forces of Central America and the Caribbean are classified as "token." Morris also divides the regional coast guards into three groups: multimission, inshore, and port and harbor. This chapter also provides invaluable material on personnel, military expenditure, arms transfers, and US assistance.

The third chapter and an appendix provide a general overview of the naval aspects of the Cold War in the Caribbean, analyzing the role of the US, the USSR, Cuba and other Caribbean states. The author argues that never throughout the Cold War, except during the Cuban missile crisis, did the sporadic and limited presence of the USSR (or the mainly defensive naval potential of Cuba) pose a major naval challenge to the US. Morris's argument underscores how blown out of proportion was Cuba's "naval threat" during the heyday of the Cold War. …

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