The STAR Businessweek
Despite the successive inabilities demonstrated by crop after crop of Caribbean leaders who have failed to recognize the geopolitical importance of our region, the hegemons of the world have not. In 1904, American President Theodore Roosevelt issued what later became known as the Roosevelt Corollary during an address to the United States Congress, effectively stating that the United States had a God-given right to involve itself in any and all affairs in its Caribbean backyard—militarily, economically or otherwise. In a shining example of Roosevelt’s “Big Stick” foreign policy, the Corollary was issued shortly after the American president deployed naval battleships to the future site of the Panama Canal —after negotiations with the Colombians proved too strenuous— subsequently ushering in the Panamanian revolution from the Republic of Colombia.
Certainly, any student of history would know that by the late 1890s and early1900s, Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were little more than Johnny Come Latelies arriving to the party—and with impeccable timing. The French, the Spanish, the British and the Dutch all had significant interests in the region but, facing their own set of domestic challenges back home, Roosevelt’s big stick and penchant for freedom-fighting won America the Caribbean. For the next few decades, until the beginning of the Cold War, American dominance in the region went unthreatened. In the Caribbean specifically, American hegemony seldom wavered though sideshows like the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s and the invasion of Grenada in 1983 proved to the world that the Caribbean remained a largely uncontested hotbed for influence peddling and diplomatic arbitrage. Today, the significance of the Caribbean’s geopolitical attributes are more palpable than ever, despite the flaccidity of most of its leaders in realizing them.
In terms of political independence, the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean is one of the youngest regions in the world. Antigua & Barbuda has been independent for 37 years, Barbados 52 years, Dominica 40 years, Grenada 44 years, Saint Kitts & Nevis 35 years, Saint Lucia 39 years, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines 39 years, and Trinidad & Tobago 56 years. On average this region has only enjoyed political suffrage for 43 years. If we only look at independent Caribbean islands within the OECS membership, the figure drops to 39 years of political independence—the same age as Saint Lucia. Yes, though our nation may be an archetype of the region, it is not an excuse to be average.
Much has changed since the days of the rough riders, the missile crisis and the New Jewel Movement. No longer is the Caribbean hermetically sealed from the rest of the world by big-stick American foreign policy. The guard is changing and, for the first time in centuries, our islands have the sovereign right to decide which global courtships we allow to blossom into lasting alliances. In an era of asymmetry, we must behave asymmetrically.
It’s Nothing Personal. It’s Business.