Brave New World
Stabroek News
January 1, 2003

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This is the time for pledges of new beginnings. The difficulty with such pledges is that they carry with them into the future so much inescapable baggage from the past. This is as true for a country as it is for an individual.

The old year shapes the new and the old world likewise moulds the contours of the emerging world. Yet certain global trends have now jelled and a point may have been reached where one can speak without excess of a New World. It is the world in which it will be imperative for Guyana and the other Caricom states to put aside old ways of thinking about the international system and begin the urgent search for a new diplomacy.

In seeking for a model or new intellectual framework with which to think about the new world order, one recalls the work of an Indian political scientist, Patel, who writing at the end of the nineteen sixties, with remarkable prescience advanced the theory that the world of states would eventually divide into an Inner Circle of highly developed industrialised states, a kind of inward looking group, whose only concern with the rest of the world would be to take "fire-brigade action" to ensure that fires which start in the outer countries would not spread over into the Inner Circle. To appreciate the full measure of Patel's foresight it should be recalled that he was writing in the era of bi-polar power, a "free" world led by the USA versus the socialist bloc dominated by the USSR. The rest of the world, the developing countries, were arbitrarily and uneasily grouped together in a Third World.

Two major recent events together with emerging policy-edicts issued from the White House serve to confirm Patel's Inner Circle theory. The two events, neither of which has any immediate impact on the Caribbean, are likely to have far-reaching effects. They will shape the future of all regions of the world. They are the respective meetings of NATO and the European Union which had as their main concern the expansion of membership.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) whose membership includes the USA, Canada, the western European States and Turkey was established after World War II as a bulwark against Soviet and communist expansion. Its arena of action was at that time limited to Europe. The recent meeting was held in November in Prague with President Bush present to ensure that NATO's development conformed to the US vision of world order. There were two developments in Prague which lend credence to the Inner Circle theory. The first was that it extended membership to seven mainly Eastern European former communist states namely Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. In consequence, the overall membership of the NATO alliance now amounts to 26. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic had joined three years earlier.

The second development was even more significant, namely the decision taken under US pressure to create a twenty-thousand strong multinational NATO Response Force (NRF) to fight terrorism anywhere in the world. This is a mechanism very suggestive of "Fire brigade action" to put out "fires" anywhere in the world.

The other significant development following closely on the heels of NATO was the European Union Summit in Copenhagen in December where it was decided to admit to membership ten countries, several being former communist regimes. The ten are: Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the ex-Yugoslav republic of Slovenia and the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta. The enlargement was seen as the final step in ending the cold war.

In short there is now in NATO a political/military entity extending across North America including all of Europe (both western and eastern) to the borders of Russia. Russia already has an association and consultation relationship with NATO and the way is open for membership. The EU will now be the largest trading bloc, largely self-sufficient, in the world.

While these entities are determined by geography and culture and levels of development it should also be noted that they are ethnic-based. The "lesser breeds" in Kipling's phrase remain outside. These groupings will be responsive in different degrees to what Sir Shridath Ramphal has called the new imperium, the assertion of imperial power by the Bush administration. The proposed new NATO strike force fits neatly into the Bush strategic doctrine with its emphasis on pre-emptive strikes. The European Union while involved fitfully in trade wars with the USA where the resulting fines and penalties are seldom exacted, is still - despite strong rhetoric - to formulate a foreign policy independent of the USA.

With NATO heavily dependent on US arms and logistical support, the Bush doctrine articulated in the document "The National Security Strategy" will inevitably become the operating framework for the NATO alliance. The main element in the doctrine is the assertion of the right to pre-emptive action. While one cannot dispute the contention that terrorism is a shadowy and elusive network which cannot be fought in terms of the existing international law and practice on war, the pre-emptive right is now being extended to states as for example Iraq, even though neither Bush nor Blair has been able to show any connection between that state and terrorism. To run the risk of incurring pre-emptive action all that will be necessary is for the US administration to pronounce the state a rogue-state.

Two military developments are particularly illustrative of the emerging closure mentality of the Inner Circle. The US announced two weeks ago the beginning of the installation of the Star Wars anti-missile system which is designed as a kind of umbrella/network to protect and ward off incoming missiles. The second development is a form of covert action which was demonstrated when US hell-fire missiles delivered from a CIA controlled unmanned "predator" aircraft assassinated recently an Al Qaeda suspect in Yemen. This is another example of longrange fire-brigade action.

The emerging `mind set' in America and the USA is bound to have, indeed is already having profound effects on economic and other negotiations between the developed industrialised and the other states of the world. There has been a noticeable hardening of positions on the WTO. The most recent example of this is the deadlock in the negotiations in the Special Session of the Trade and Development Committee to strengthen Special and Differential (S&D) treatment under existing trade rules for certain particularly vulnerable developing countries including Guyana. S&D treatment is crucial for Guyana if it is to hold onto or negotiate acceptable transitional arrangements if necessary out of preferential markets for sugar.

Similar situations are to be expected in the forthcoming negotiations with the EU on a post-Cotonou treaty.

It appears that with Argentina unable and Brazil unwilling, the US may be getting ready to quietly abandon the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). One sign of this is that Chile has now been permitted to negotiate a separate trade agreement with the USA.

There are also likely to be further curtailments in economic assistance and the flow of foreign investment, the latter having been noted by the World Bank.

Those are some of the outcomes which can flow from the emerging new configurations of world power and with which Caricom states including Guyana must get ready to cope in this Brave New World.

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