Just imagine the spectacle. A representative of this sovereign nation meets with the American Secretary of State who has disinvited most other fellow members of the Caribbean Community.
Imagine, too, that the meeting occurs on the very day of the centenary of the birth of our sovereign nation’s leader – the same leader whose 1967 policy is inscribed in proverbial granite in the foreign policy of eight succeeding administrations: “We will not regard any great power as necessarily right in a given dispute unless we are convinced of this, yet at the same time we will not view the great powers with perennial suspicion merely on account of their size, their wealth, or their nuclear potential.
“We will be friends of all, satellites of none.”
These words, uttered as Barbados joined the United Nations, were finely tuned to the heat of the Cold War, as the United States was intensifying undeclared war against communist Vietnam. It was fulfilling a policy of containment of the communist hegemony through its fourth succeeding presidency: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, now Johnson.
But even as the Cold War passed firmly into history’s rearview mirror some 30 years now, as the American presidency moved from the 36th in 1967 to the 45th today, the Barrovian wisdom is remarkable in its ever-prescient durability.
The Right Excellent Errol Barrow remains right: large, rich and powerful nations always seek to entangle the small, poor, powerless ones in their own “sterile ideological wrangling”.
Likewise etched in stone in the foreign policy of the enslaving colonial power from which Barrow would set us free, originated in Lord Palmerston in 1848: “We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies.
“Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”
Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s national security advisor and secretary of state, would embrace a similar notion that US foreign policy is driven not by permanent friends but by permanent interests.
Save perhaps for the so-called special relationship between the US and the former imperial power we both share, no country on Earth can expect to remain forever on the American totem pole of friendship. Interests, not amity, would change our ranking.
Were Barbados to join Guyana and Suriname with significant finds of offshore oil and gas in exclusive economic zone, that place on the totem pole would inexorably rise.
But at present, we seem to drop with barometric speed given our desire for a peaceful, non-interventionist solution to Venezuela’s seemingly intractable but undoubtedly indigenous political difficulties.
Thus, Mike Pompeo, the Trump regime’s foreign policy chief, would choose only to meet with the Prime Minister of Jamaica bilaterally, and with the foreign ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti and St Lucia. St Kitts and Nevis were also added to the roster of the Pompeo ‘roundtable’.
This is the same quintet of nations, barring St Kitts and Nevis, whose leaders met with Donald Trump at his Mar-A-Lago private residence in Florida last March. The same countries have broken from CARICOM’s non-interventionist policy.
Then, as now, these meetings have occurred with no CARICOM mandate, yet purport to speak with a regional voice.
Bridgetown has already paid a price for supporting the concept that this region remains outside the militarism, violence, unrest and instability of other regions of the world, most notably the Middle East where the current US administration has further sought to destabilise.
The US has already withdrawn aid to Barbados; the little that is available to us is largely to bolster US national security so the US is mashing its own corns.
And the Prime Minister of Barbados, the current chairman of CARICOM, is right to declare this irregular assembly not to be worthy of endorsement. But she is not snubbing Trumpian Washington as much as she is echoing the ethos of one of our regional community’s founding fathers.
Barrow’s non-interventionist principle has again been brought to life in a centennial booklet, “Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow: Champion of the Caribbean Community”, produced by Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong, whom Barrow named as the youngest-ever lawmaker in appointing him to the Senate in May 1986.
That July, in his famous speech at the CARICOM summit in Georgetown, Barrow declared: “My position also remains clear that the Caribbean must be recognised and respected as a zone of peace.”
We urge the Prime Minister to hold fast, not merely because it might be good political optics to be seen to be in lock-step with the words of a much-revered but long-dead predecessor on his birth centennial.
Rather, we submit that by standing true to principles first enunciated 52 years ago and reaffirmed 33 years ago, Mia Mottley has this day put into practice decidedly Barbadian values: a disdain for corruption and respect for the rule of law; a sense of fairness and fair play; a compassionate regard for the small and the other so deeply entrenched we gave it a word unique in the English Language – “Cuddear” – and pragmatism.
Errol Barrow did not invent what it means to be Barbadian. But in taking this stance today, Mia Mottley chose, as he did, to follow our own decidedly Bajan, North Star.
That we believe what we do to be right, not merely politic, is sufficient to persevere to do right.