20/20 Blindness on the Caribbean: <em>A Guest Blog from Johanna Mendelson Forman</em>

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Johanna Mendelson Forman.jpg
Johanna Mendelson Forman is a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and was previously Senior Program Officer for Peace, Security and Human Rights at the UN Foundation. She post below is a version written specifically for The Washington Note and is a shorter version of this article that just ran in The Washington Post’s “Think Tank Town” column. (This article was written ‘before’ the June 19-21 conference and is written with that tense.)
This week [June 19-21] leaders of 14 Caribbean countries will meet in Washington, D.C. to discuss the future of the region and its relationship with the U.S.
For U.S. leaders the Caribbean 20/20 Vision conference is low priority on the foreign policy agenda for officials too busy with the Middle East and a war in Iraq. (We understand that the meeting of Caribbean Heads of State with President George Bush will be little more than a photo op, and the one with Secretary Condoleezza Rice keeps getting switched due to other more pressing concerns!)
And the media silence on this event only underscores the lack of understanding that exists about a region. Although the Caribbean states vary in size, (most are small), wealth, and population, we underestimate the region’s geopolitical potential. These states represent votes at the UN, the OAS, and make it possible for the U.S. to advance its agenda in multilateral organizations.
The last seven years have failed to generate a coherent policy to manage our relationships with the Caribbean. U.S. policy toward the region has been limited to fighting drug traffickers and preventing terrorists from advancing to U.S. shores. (Note that the capture of alleged JFK bombers who hailed from Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana happened because there was excellent law enforcement cooperation with the Caribbean states.)
We handed the Haiti mess off to the UN in 2004, with Brazil leading the peace keeping operation there. Only in March 2007 did President George Bush look south when he traveled to Latin America on a whistle-stop tour that yielded little more than a memorandum of understanding on biofuels with Brazil on renewable energy, and agreements about technical cooperation in support of three Caribbean and one Central American nation gaining greater energy independence.
U.S. effectiveness as a good neighbor in the Caribbean could help overcome a sense of betrayal that many of the Caribbean states felt after the U.S. intervened in Haiti for a second time in 2004. Our actions not only created ill-will among the CARICOM states, but it also reduced our effectiveness in the corridors of multilateral institutions like the OAS and the UN, where the U.S. had counted on the Caribbean to help support U.S. interests through their votes.
If the U.S. is to once again rely on the support of these small island states, it will have to demonstrate that it takes its commitment to the third border by seriously crafting a policy that addresses the regional concerns: stimulating trade and development, reducing poverty, stabilizing Haiti, supporting the U.S.-based Diaspora, and mitigating climate change through expanding renewable energy resources.
Only by putting greater emphasis on a collaborative approach to the multiple and complex policy issues in the Caribbean will the U.S. once again be able to regain its legitimacy as a trusted actor and ally.
— Johanna Mendelson Forman

Comments

15 comments on “20/20 Blindness on the Caribbean: <em>A Guest Blog from Johanna Mendelson Forman</em>

  1. Den Valdron says:

    Does anyone seriously expect either Democrats or Republicans to care a whit about any issue of importance to the Caribbean.

    Reply

  2. Sandy says:

    I read when you said this before….and didn’t discount the possibility at all. Anything is possible. Just look at what little we know of that HAS happened! Who could make THAT up? Just IMAGINE all the s**t that has gone on that we DON’T know about! Wild!
    Anything is possible when there is no rule of law….that is taken seriously by its leaders, that is.

    Reply

  3. Dons Blog says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve looked, but at one time I saw an article that stated Caribbean banks were one of the top 3 purchasers of US debt. Why and how?
    Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist but the only thing I can think of is part of the $15 billion lost in DOD is going to keep the US afloat. If bonds really fell and countries started earnestly dumping dollars, it could be disastrous. Ok, I sound like a conspiracy theorist. But no one has ever answered my question.
    With major free ports, drug smugglers, and some unstable governments, the Caribbean is much more important than some would give credit.

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  4. Sandy says:

    Me, too, Carroll.
    Waaay too many children left behind.

    Reply

  5. Carroll says:

    It is estimated that the expenditure of a mere $19 billion would eliminate starvation and malnutrition worldwide. In a time when the United States’ current defense budget is $522 billion, the goal of eradicating world hunger is clearly well within reach if we act together as one world.
    Posted by Jessica at June 26, 2007 08:50 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I’ll vote for that.

    Reply

  6. Jessica says:

    It seems as if America doesn’t even try to have good relations with the international community. Again and again in various areas around the world we enter into other countries, take what we want, leave what we don’t, and get out of those countries before we lose more than we have gained at the expense of the countries themselves.
    Today, national boundaries no longer define our world. We face common problems and must work together as a world community to fight them. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, which call for cutting world hunger in half by 2015 and eliminating it altogether by 2025, are a good place to start thinking and acting with a global mindset. It is estimated that the expenditure of a mere $19 billion would eliminate starvation and malnutrition worldwide. In a time when the United States’ current defense budget is $522 billion, the goal of eradicating world hunger is clearly well within reach if we act together as one world.

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  7. Carroll says:

    Forman’s work and goals are admirable.
    But like so many others, the reason I can’t get as excited or even involved in the what we “should” be doing with our policy, is it is too much like denying reality and busying yourself with planting flowers in the middle of a force 5 hurricane.
    All good policies and intentions are of no avail until we clean up the American “interest” sector.

    Reply

  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I am curious about Johanna’s take on the cautious optimism she expressed about Bush in her 2005 speech before the United Nations World Summit.
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-UN/summit_2845.jsp
    Surely, I have to believe she is probably as dissappointed as many of us are. In fact, it wqould suprise me if she wasn’t more disappointed, considering her obvious desire to see the UN as a viable and productive arbiter of world peace.
    As an aside, I am struck by the completely polar tones and apparent convictions between her post and Jane Harman’s. Its a real shame we can’t trade in Harman and her ilk for the likes of an army of Johanna Mendelson Formans.

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  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    To these monsters in Washington, the only good democracy is a democracy led by puppets beholden to the agenda of the United States. What Bush/Cheney visualize is a global network of dictatorships, that they call “democracies”. What happened in Haiti has not recieved near enough press, and is definitely as despicanble as any of the global machinations Bush/Cheney have engaged in. And equally as despicable, is the complete lack of oversight or outcry that the Democratic leadership raised over the issue.

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  10. mrsucram says:

    It is only when the US needs the help of Caribbean nations it appears to care or lend a hand.
    In response to the recent aid offerings/donations made by Hugo Chavez to various Caribbean nations, the US has responded by asking their Ambassador(s) to contact the different Caribbean Heads of States and ask them to refuse assistance from Chavez……
    Why would they do this when Washington turned their backs on the Caribbean a long time ago!
    There is oil in Venezuela and Brazil…..and until the other Caribbean Nations find oil, the US will have no interest.
    China which is a worlds’ away, has a lot more influence in the Caribbean than the US does…….
    Where exactly is US foreign policy focused and where will it find success.
    I pray that the next US president tries hard to make up for lost time and opportunities…..but I fear that it may be too late.

    Reply

  11. mrsucram says:

    It is only when the US needs the help of Caribbean nations it appears to care or lend a hand.
    In response to the recent aid offerings/donations made by Hugo Chavez to various Caribbean nations, the US has responded by asking their Ambassador(s) to contact the different Caribbean Heads of States and ask them to refuse assistance from Chavez……
    Why would they do this when Washington turned their backs on the Caribbean a long time ago!
    There is oil in Venezuela and Brazil…..and until the other Caribbean Nations find oil, the US will have no interest.
    China which is a worlds’ away, has a lot more influence in the Caribbean than the US does…….
    Where exactly is US foreign policy focused and where will it find success.
    I pray that the next US president tries hard to make up for lost time and opportunities…..but I fear that it may be too late.

    Reply

  12. Marcia says:

    It has been a very very long time since the US has had any “legitimacy as a trusted actor and ally in the Caribbean or Central and South America other than with corrupted dictatorships, land-owners and the local corporate elite.
    The World Trade Organisation and World Bank have been used for partisan purposes putting a stranglehold on developing countries who if they struggle to extract themselves from the grip of the so-called “aid” now risk being labled terrorists.
    I am not sure that once the mask has been torn off and the curtain lifted so the behind the scenes is visible to all – brute force wielded by power hungry power holders – there is a going back to some supposed state of good-will.
    For so many countries good-will has been a narrow one way street contributing to their improvishment.
    We are now witnessing the same technics applied to the working and middle class in our own country.

    Reply

  13. David N says:

    Fine. Now what are you going to DO?
    This is an example of what we should be doing, not just with the Carribean, but also with Mexico and the Central American states. See my posting with regard to the Harman article.
    There is a reason that the border with Canada is the longest unguarded international border in the world, and it isn’t just that they’re white and speak English (well, almost). Economic prosperity and adherance to liberal principles of government have far more to do with it than mere tribalism.
    But that’s hard . . . it’s really hard work.

    Reply

  14. Sue says:

    Dr. Forman,
    Fascinating post. It brings to mind a series of emails I exchanged with Mr. Clemons regarding Guyana at the time of the Georgetown flooding. Mr. C., it wasn’t much, but do you remember?

    Reply

  15. daCascadian says:

    Thanks again Steve for reminding those of us out here in the wilds of NAmerica that there IS some sanity still remaining inside the D.C. Beltway
    “…Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals…” – Iraq Study Group

    Reply

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