Over the last two days, in two separate articles, we spoke to what appears to be a brewing ideological struggle between the Powerful United States and its emerging counter-weight, the People’s Republic of China.
As I argued in the first article, this is a sense of déjà vu for the tiny Island Nation of Jamaica which saw, it’s productive sector destroyed, an incredible brain-drain occur, and her economy eviscerated in the 1970s as the United States and the Soviet Union battled for world domination.
As the ideological warfare raged between America’s capitalist agenda and the Soviet’s communist push, smaller nations found themselves at the center of proxy wars between the two hegemonic powers as they competed, not just for real estate but for their doctrine to be the defining doctrine worldwide.
Despite the immeasurable damage done to Jamaica in the 1970s, the Island was arguably luckier than other small nations that found themselves at the center of the fight between the two giants in what became known as the cold war.
Tragically for Cuba, another Carribean Island just 90 miles from Jamaica’s westerly shore, events in the 1960s brought America’s force down on the Cuban people. A force that has stifled and brought untold suffering to the Cuban people.
The counter-arguments that Communism has been responsible for the devastation of Cuba is worth discussing. However, Several nations, particularly in Eastern Europe were gobbled up into the Soviet Empire, after the fall of communism, those countries have done remarkably well for themselves.
Cuba has not, and cannot do the same economically. America’s embargo, and the stranglehold it has placed on the Cuban economy, crippling sanctions, and other means, makes it impossible for the Cuban economy to grow, regardless of Cuba’s domestic politics.
In what appears to be the second iteration of what happened to Jamaica in the ’70s, there are some ominous clouds developing which ought to be of grave concern to Jamaicans regardless of where they live.
In two separate interviews given to local media entities, both the American ambassador to Jamaica and the head of the United States Southern military command found it necessary to lecture Jamaica about her relationship with China.
In both instances Admiral Craig S. Faller head of Southern Command and US Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia gave interviews, and in those interviews seem to have forgotten that Jamaica was not one of America’s Colonial outposts but a sovereign independent nation.
The text and temerity of both officials seemed to suggest that Jamaicans (a) were incapable of understanding the unforeseen consequences of Jamaica’s relationship with China, (b) Jamaican officials were incapable of making decisions in Jamaicas best strategic interest.
Interestingly, the U.S. itself is indebted to the People’s Republic of China to the tune of $1.11 trillion as of May 2019.
It is safe to say that the US is fully conversant with China’s motivations when they invest in America’s treasury bonds. So too should we assume that Jamaica understands what’s at stake when it borrows from China?
In the United States system of Justice, there is a term in law that determines whether a party wishing to sue in Federal court has the right to do so.
That term is called ‘standing”. Before that case can progress in the system, the system has to determine whether the plaintiff has the right to make the case in the first place.
Accordingly, the arguments of both American official may be on point as it relates to the need for Jamaica to be extremely cautious about her dealings with the People’s Republic of China, the question is whether either or both officials have the “standing” to make those admonishments to Jamaica.
It was Mark Twain who said; “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits”. It goes without saying that the United States has no standing to dictate to Jamaica how to conduct her affairs.
Sure, Jamaica needs to be clear-eyed about China’s strategic intentions, which are tied to their loans, so too does the United States need to change its approach to independent sovereign nations.
What Jamaicans do not need are lectures and a talking to, like an errant child. Jamaicans are not uncivilized, uneducated little outpost natives. What Jamaica needs is respect, low-interest loans, technical expertise and investments which will help to lift the small nation’s economy to a place where her people will have no need to leave out of economic anxiety.
Regardless of China’s long-term strategic interest, it is difficult to turn down low-interest loans and infrastructural expansion which are critical to the ultimate development of the country.
The United States has assisted Jamaica in numerous ways that have been helpful. Many Jamaicans will readily point to something which they have individually benefitted from. To those Jamaicans, it is difficult to make the case that there are larger more consequential considerations outside those minor benefits.
Others talk about the fact that there are probably hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans living and working in the United States.
What they fail to recognize is the ease with which Americans can visit and live in Jamaica, much unlike the reverse.
The policy that Americans must have a passport to travel outside the country is of the making of the United States, it has nothing to do with other nations.
Previously Americans could travel to Jamaica with only a driver’s license.
Jamaica has no way of knowing whether or not Americans traveling to the Island have criminal records. In fact, many do have criminal records and many do commit crimes while visiting. Many commit crimes while living in Jamaica.
In these instances, there is no reciprocity of respect in the Jamaica-America relationship.
So yes, there have been much that the Americans have done as a large power to assist Jamaica, hurricane and other disaster relief, and a general slate of across the board assistance, none of which can change Jamaica or propel her into the 21st century.
Low-interest loans and technical assistance does give the Island the ability to move forward. They allow for much-needed highways linking all sections of the country together, much the same way that President Dwight Eisenhower embarked on a massive highway building project across the United States during his presidency.
Eisenhower understood that interstate commerce was critical to expanding and growing the American economy.
Andrew Holness also understands that creating roadways across the Island is critical to island development.
Jamaicans love the United States of America, given a chance, Jamaicans would unanimously opt to travel and live in the United States, more so than they would, the People’s Republic of China or any other nation.
Nevertheless, those same Jamaicans will get rather defensive when their country’s sovereignty is not respected.
They are quite aware of what China is doing, but at the same time, they are mesmerized at the highways being built across their own country.
Those infrastructure projects are a source of pride, and no amount of lecture will dampen that pride.
The United States may have missed a golden opportunity to fully solidify its relationship with an all-important strategically placed ally.
Maybe a little more respect would have resulted in some better loan agreements, grants, and technical support.
Jamaica has done a lot of heavy lifting trying to live up to American demands. On a personal note, I have risked my own life for years in the fight against illicit drugs, because the Americans wanted us to.
The former [Air Jamaica] was forced to pay enormous fines to the United States for the sins of ingenious marijuana smugglers.
Today Jamaica is flooded with illegal American made guns. Instead of helping to bolster the crime-fighting efforts of the Islands law enforcement, the United States seeks to attach punitive measures to those who come down hard on the Islands criminals.
Maybe a change of attitude will go a long way, instead of a lecture.
Mike Beckles is a former Jamaican police Detective corporal, a business owner, avid researcher, and blogger.
He is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog chatt-a-box.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
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