The STAR Businessweek

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - THE FT VIEW - BY CHRIS­TIAN WAYNE – ED­I­TOR AT LARGE Stay con­nected with us at: Web: www.stlu­ci­as­ So­cial: www.face­­ci­as­tar Email: star­busi­ness­[email protected]­ci­as­

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.

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