THE LIMITS OF CARIBBEAN DIPLOMACY: THE INVASION OF ANGUILLA

Operation Dirty II

 This brings us to Operation Dirty II which bears a strong resemblance to its predecessor. Obviously, Operation Dirty II had its genesis in the failure of Operation Dirty to get off the launching pad. Since the tactics of the first operation were a failure, all that required change for the second operation were the tactics of the first because the desired end was the same: to bring Anguilla under the heels of the St. Kitts Government by reasoned persuasion or otherwise. The actors in this unholy alliance were the same as before. There was to be no failure this second time around so the Caribbean Governments were to play a less prominent role. There was to be no talk of any Caribbean police forces nor was there to be any peace-keeping role for Caribbean Commonwealth forces. The Mother Country was to play the major role. Why not? She was accustomed to roles of this type. Probably, it must have been reasoned, if she could live down the Suez invasion, she could live down anything else. However, the position was different for the Caribbean states. They could not seem to be giving the green light to Britain to invade Anguilla.

To put it in more precise terms they could not be associated with sanctioning the invasion of their Caribbean kith and kin, when the United Kingdom had steadfastly refused to invade its own kith and kin in Rhodesia.

This then was the real significance of the Carifta Resolution of February 6, 1969, when the second major conference ended. The Caribbean Heads of Government called upon Britain “to take all necessary steps in collaboration with the Government of the State to confirm the territorial integrity of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla /six/[2].” This now-celebrated resolution was an effort on the part of the Caribbean governments to say to Britain, “Anguilla is your responsibility. Do what you wish.” The resolution was a half-hearted attempt by the Caribbean governments to divest themselves of any responsibility for Anguilla. But as I have already pointed out, no amount of camouflage or skirt-hiding can erase a Caribbean problem from the list of vital interests of the Caribbean states.

When reasoned persuasion failed to convince Mr. Webster that Mr. Bradshaw would treat him as a long-lost son who had returned to the fold, Operation Dirty II was unfolded before the very eyes of an incredulous and utterly astounded world. Its stench, quite understandably, was greater than that of Operation Dirty.

World opinion was immediately unsympathetic to British action. Almost universal opprobrium was heaped upon Britain’s head. The government of Trinidad and Tobago sensing that it was being engulfed in Britain’s shame, made a lame effort to line up and be counted amongst those states despising British action. It unbelievably pointed out that “all necessary measures” would have put the issue beyond doubt. But the omission of “except the use of force” was a deliberate effort to create ambiguity in interpretation when no such ambiguity existed in the minds of those persons who sanctioned the Carifta Resolution. The Prime Minister of Jamaica called for the prompt withdrawal of British forces. However, the two independent states of Barbados and Guyana pulled the rug from under the protestations of Jamaica and Trinidad by endorsing the British invasion.

Small wonder that the British Foreign Minister felt free to chide the Jamaican and Trinidad Governments as “two-faced,” while the Chief Whip of the Opposition Democratic labour Party in Trinidad charged that the Heads of Governments had condoned “political hypocrisy and political treachery” in adopting the Carifta Resolution.

The Prime Ministers of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago also uttered the fantastic statements that Britain had not consulted them in advance on the use of force. As far as I know, British Foreign Policy is still made in the British Foreign Office. At other times, it may be made in Washington, but never in Kingston or in Port-of-Spain. Such political fantasising on the part of Caribbean leaders must cease in the real world of power politics. In essence, Caribbean leaders must realise the limits of their diplomacy. Of course, the whole thing sounds so naive, that it could have been a put-up job.

Britain probably said “If the heat from the operation is too great, you boys are at liberty to throw the whole thing on me. I have been accustomed to this type of heat for years.”

In sum, Caribbean diplomacy was in utter disarray and entirely discredited in the eyes of the knowledgeable world.

These were certainly the thoughts that the Trinidad andTobago Minister of External Affairs entertained when he voiced in Parliament that Caribbean unity was “an absolute essential step.

Operation Dirty II, like its predecessor was also a dismal failure. It was not successful in bringing Webster and Anguilla under Bradshaw’s heels, thereby not effecting an ultimate solution of the problem. In the second place, the infamous invasion only served to place Anguilla in the sympathetic spotlight of the world. Any solution of the Anguilla problem must now take world opinion into consideration. Witness that the British Foreign Minister has already been forced into announcing that “It is no part of our purpose that the Anguillans should live under an administration they do not want. ” Thirdly it demonstrates that small or weak states are not necessarily the voices of conscience in inter-national politics. They too, like powerful states, throw morality in international relations out of the window when the going becomes tough. Of course, the sad fact here is that weak and small states need morality in their corner even more than the big powers. This is a glaring fact of real politik.

However, morality seems destined to be employed by small powers in their relationships with big powers, only to disappear against smaller powers. Hence we have India’s seizure by force of Goa and the Caribbean Governments aiding and abetting a metropolitan power to crush their own Caribbean brothers. On hindsight, India’s onslaught on the Portuguese enclave was mollified by the fact that the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly Resolution 1514 xvi ) has made colonialism morally offensive. Like other resolutions of the General Assembly, the Declaration is not international law, but has the force of international law. Therefore, for all intents and purposes India’s attack on Goa was in a sense sanctioned by international law[3]. The support of certain Caribbean Governments of British actions seems less justifiable.

The Conduct of Foreign Policy

The fumbling of some Caribbean Governments in Operation Dirty II may not be such a bad thing if the lessons are learnt. The conduct of foreign relations is an affair that merits serious study. In 1917 when the Communists came into power in the Soviet Union, Trotsky, the People’s Commisar for Foreign Affairs, thought the conduct of foreign relations a simple affair. He soon discovered that the conduct of foreign relations was a full-time and complex Job. The Trinidad Ministry of External Affairs has discovered this the hard way. The defunct Foreign Affairs Committee has been suddenly resurrected and staffed in bi-partisan fashion.

Foreign relations is such a serious affair that well-trained technicians are required to work continuously. Too often, however, it does not appear to be taken seriously. For example, in Trinidad the debates on foreign policy in Parliament are very few, and the quality of these debates leaves a great deal to be desired.

When Trinidad was seeking entry into the O.A.S, one prominent Senator admitted that he did not know what the O.A.S. was all about, many others could be counted in this category.

Since debates in Parliament are so few and sterile, the public must be made to feel that the Ministry of External Affairs is conducting serious business. The result is that headlines of affairs of secondary consequence receive prominence far out of proportion to their importance. A very good example is that of a picture of an Ambassador sitting down at his desk, pen in hand, about to sign some seemingly important document or a picture of a diplomatic official presenting his credentials. In the era of modem diplomacy, when the forms and frills of a bygone age have been relegated to minor importance, the representatives of some new nations seem bent on transporting themselves into some past golden age.

The crux of the problem is that there can be no objective assessment on the performance of representatives abroad. In the first instance, there are too few individuals qualified to write on these matters. Those who are qualified to write do not write since, for the most part, they are civil servants. Consequently, the only news that reaches the press is that which is permitted to pass through the governmental sieve. I know of no government which is desirous of releasing news adverse to its representatives abroad, and consequently, its interests. These problems discussed here, especially the lack of information on foreign affairs, are nothing peculiar -to Trinidad or the Caribbean states. It is an almost universal problem made so by the proliferation of new states since the Second World War. There is a shortage of trained personnel since many of them are urgently needed in other important areas of domestic activity.

The Anguilla affair has placed the spotlight on Caribbean diplomacy. Lack of interest in foreign affairs in the Caribbean should never be the same again. The press, usually full of news of the former Mother Country, is now reporting on the Caribbean’s relations with Latin America, and the role played by African and Asian States at international conferences. All these factors should contribute towards a new awareness of the position of the Caribbean in world affairs, especially the factors that influence the policy behaviour of the Caribbean vis-a-vis other parts of the world. What follows is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis of the foreign relations of the Caribbean States, but an analysis of the factors operating on these States in the Anguilla crisis.