October 24, 2020

The geopolitics of Caribbean security

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Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 1.49.14 PMDr Franklin Johnston From Jamaica Observer

The advent of global jihad is about to change the security architecture of our hemisphere. So far we have been largely immune to these problems. Islam is beautiful and I lived among them with joy, but Islamists caricature the Prophet (PBUH).

Location is our asset but it is also a curse. Proximity to the USA is no fun as jihadists seek to kill the great Satan, as they say. We are at risk as many of our people are venal, do unspeakable acts, and are easily bought. We sacrifice to prosper, but many are wankers who, for dollars, a gun, gold teeth, or bling, create mayhem. We live in peace and poverty, yet not like Gaza or Nigeria; we never lost life, limb to an IED, explosive vest, or had 2,000 people in a refugee camp — we were lucky poor. But life is about to change here and across the Caribbean owing to Carcom Single Market and Economy’s (CSME) vulnerability.

What is this Caribbean?

Because we scuttled West Indies Federation, politicians dissimulate and call the Leewards, Windwards, Jamaica, and Guyana “Caribbean”. But the Caribbean is much more — small islands to the south and east; the estuary nations whose coasts ring our sea from Venezuela to Mexico to New Orleans round to Florida and the large islands in the north close to us and the USA.

The West Indies is a small Anglophone rump named in the 1958 Federation, UWI, the cricket team and includes Belize in Central America and Guyana in South America — it’s not even in the Caribbean. Clearly the West Indies is not homogenous; just five per cent of the Caribbean speak English, yet CSME hijacked the “Caribbean” brand. The first duty of CSME is to secure its people, but it can’t protect us in the north or this vast sea and so relies on well-off neighbours. This makes the CSME federation a laughing stock.

Proximity to the USA is Jamaica’s defence, but CSME’s core is too far to benefit. America will never allow jihadist or communist to pitch in its backyard and, as USA Ambassador Luis G Moreno might say, “We are friends!” Were we invaded it would last only as long as it takes my son to fly from Lackland AFB with the cavalry. Freedom has limits. If our politicians do things to egregiously violate our rights and our diaspora call their congressman, it’s all over. It ain’t pretty, but it’s reality. Because of this there will be no kidnapping 300 girls or mass rape here — go to Nigeria pig! CSME does not replace our light poles after a storm, but USA does. A close, powerful, democratic friend is both a blessing and curse. I can live with that. Yet, we may be a Trojan horse. For, as CSME members, we may unwittingly carry foes into our friend’s house.

As members in CSME we are vulnerable to Islamic State. Trinidad’s and Guyana’s Muslim massive is an aberration in our hemisphere and impacts our risk profile. If a friend has Ebola, watch out! Our usual defence is distance — they are a day’s flight and pose no danger to us, or America, but with CSME and free movement it’s a new ball game.

Some members sell passports; a conduit for terrorists, so tourists and citizens may be at risk. Most Caribbean people live in our backyard — Cuba, Haiti, Cayman, TCI, Dom Rep, Puerto Rico — and are in America’s security shadow. We are Christian, have no large Muslim cohort, and the delay in Caricom’s free travel, once seen as a problem, was a blessing and we know friendly forces helped us. There is a clear and present danger to us and the USA. Will a Caricom passport be a liability? Will we face new border woes through no fault of our own? We may lose big time. Going south to join a shambolic union may lose us nearby friends. Can CSME HQ in Turkeyen, Guyana, protect us?

The CSME defence capability is a joke. The EU has NATO, OECS has DSS, and CSME has IMPACS. We are cut-throats and rapists; we defenestrate a foe with no fear, but we live in a Christian ethos so killers may find God. I can live with that. We do not label people kafir, kuffar, infidel, or behead them in God’s name on TV; and to stone a man for adultery would decimate our population — we be Jamaican! Trinidad and Guyana are fertiliser to jihad. Down south Muslim coupists murdered legislators, got pardons, and Africa vs India is still raw. Just imagine if IS gets to Haiti’s deprived masses with Saudi cash? Trinidad is the Achilles heel of CSME and CSME the Achilles heel of the hemisphere. We need Cabinet action now.

Since we scuttled the West Indies Federation our leaders have consistently given in to Caricom to prop up old men’s egos, and have gone overboard to show we are team players to our detriment. Do we need this faith and ethnic mess? Why? We grow our “out of many one” mantra to assure colour blindness, not grow difference. The church must speak out as Muslim and Hindu in Guyana and Trinidad skew our culture. Take CXC exams: instead of “religious knowledge” we do “comparative religion” to not offend them. Fine, but can we have RK exams for our Christian nation? Jamaica pays over half the costs and should run CXC. We complain about values and attitudes, let’s fix it where we can! Let our kids live and learn the beatitudes via CSEC and CAPE, and leave the comparisons for university. I can live with that.

CSME has a Cabinet and Trinidad’s portfolio is security; irony is some IS fighters have their accents. We dilute Brand Jamaica to our peril. St Kitts’ Cabinet portfolio is human development, so can they tell Usain and Shelly-Ann to run in CSME colours? Check this; the head of IMPACS is Francis Forbes our ex-police commissioner. How many frigates, fighter jets does CSME give him to protect us up north while he is in office 10 hours away? This means we have complex security and the most competent security forces in the West Indies, ergo CSME cannot protect us as well as we can protect ourselves. Jamaica has a CSME portfolio for “external negotiation & foreign relations”. Do they think our long suit is chit-chat? Science and technology is Grenada’s, and St Vincent’s is transport. Which one has the savvy of Phillip Paulwell or Omar Davies? They have no mass transit, toll roads, rail or big ports — they jester! CSME will always ask the USA for security help through us, as close neighbour and friend. They prefer the UK as they put us on this path to federation. CSME may bring Islamist infection — as I hear it did CHIKV with three students from south. We may be barred by Congress as we hold Caricom passports, like Trini jihadists in Syria. Our leaders go down south to find partners, ignore neighbours, and put us in harm’s way. Cabinet can change our future. History beckons! Stay conscious, my friend.

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. [email protected]
IMAGE: The Caribbean Court of Justice is in Port of Spain, Trinidad
For more on this story go to: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-geopolitics-of-Caribbean-security-_18560050

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