9 - The militarization of the Commonwealth Caribbean  pp. 135-154

The militarization of the Commonwealth Caribbean

By Tony Thorndike

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I was the first political leader in the Caribbean to call for intervention in Grenada. I did so because I was horrified at having a brutal military rule established right beside the islands I represent in Parliament. I am just as appalled at having my country militarized. The Americans arming these islands are making the same historical mistake the Grenadian revolutionaries made. The armies you set up to deter others always end up pointing their guns at the government and people. Who, I want to know, will guard the guards? That is the unfortunate stage now being set in the Caribbean. What we need is technology and jobs, not guns.

This cry from the heart by James ‘Son’ Mitchell, the then newly elected Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines in July 1984, expressed the dilemma facing the independent states of the Commonwealth Caribbean. With few exceptions, all are small with populations between 40,000 and 200,000; with even fewer exceptions, all are poor. All share the security problems that confront any state and a few others specific to their relative diminutiveness. Furthermore, they have to co-exist with a superpower neighbour in a region which resembles an arena of international competition for power and influence, with the Cuban ideological challenge undimmed. Their policies must be constrained not so much by being in the United States’ primary sphere of influence or the ‘backyard’, as by the fact that the United States is in their front gardens.