“The lawyer, like the diplomat, deals in debate and compromise. A knowledge of law is essential to the diplomat, an ability to negotiate essential to the lawyer, and a knowledge of human nature is essential to both. But when the lawyer turns to international problems these similarities lead him to the false conclusion that diplomacy is a form of law. His whole training has accustomed him to presuppose a court where right is distinguished from wrong, legal from illegal, and where there are police and jails to enforce a decision. Moral as well as legal concepts govern his thinking…. He seeks to regulate affairs by hard and fast formulas within a completely ordered system. None of these concepts applies to international affairs. Even international law, which covers only a tiny part of the field of diplomacy, has few sanctions.”
– Charles W. Thayer, 1959
-pg. 157, THE DIPLOMAT’S DICTIONARY, Chas. W. Freeman, Jr., United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington, Rev. ed. 1997
The recent military adventurism by Guatemala and its subsequent diplomatic maneuverings in support thereof have created great disquiet amongst the Belizean people. It appears that we are only now realizing that our post-independence posture, designed by men intoxicated with political power, has allowed Guatemala in just thirty five short years, to out-maneuver us. So much so that Guatemala has now decided to annex the Sarstoon; and with impunity it appears!
Guatemala’s actions on the Sarstoon are no small matter, it is a breach of our sovereignty of the worst kind. Belizeans therefore have a duty to resist Guatemala’s efforts at every turn, lest history forever condemn our cowardice.
I wish for my fellow Belizeans to understand that in their interactions, states deploy what are called elements of national power. Contemporary thinking says that these elements are diplomatic, informational, military, economic and technological. The levers of these elements are actuated depending upon the circumstance prevailing at the time, and the desired outcomes of the states involved. It is the mastery of the deployment of these elements that determines a nation’s place in the global order and in the bare sense, the very survival of a nation state.
In order for a state to deploy any of these elements, it stands to reason that they must first create and then sustain them. The two elements of national power that the Guatemalans have been deploying to great effect as of late are the diplomatic and military elements. Regrettably, Belize has been unable to match either.
Since our independence our political leaders have done very little to build any of the elements of national power. Immediately upon our independence we adopted an inward looking posture; this explains why today the Police outnumber the BDF, even with a larger neighbor claiming substantial parts of our territory.
Independence, to the political class, was an opportunity for self-enrichment. Foreign policy and the unfounded Guatemalan claim required too much effort, it seems—effort that detracted from the imperatives of self-enrichment.
Barely a generation since our independence, this inward looking posture has so imperiled our country that Guatemala now violates our sovereignty and territorial integrity with increasing frequency. Now, in the face of such aggression, we have Pharisees telling us that the ICJ is the only way to go? I reject this notion out of hand!
Never before in our history, despite Guatemala’s often irrational behavior, has it set out to actually exercise sovereignty over any part of our territory. This is seismic! But if you listen to the official narrative, it is all Wil’s fault. Belize’s foreign policy, for the most part, has been wholly devoid of strategic thinking, boldness and creativity. The annexation of the Sarstoon by Guatemala has been the result of this failure, not the doings of Wil Maheia.
It cannot be coincidental that we are where we are today. How can it be when for thirty two of the thirty five years since independence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been led by learned attorneys? Of the nine post-independence Foreign Ministers (FM), quite dreadfully, only two was a non-attorney (Rt. Hon George Price) If we are to buy the often advanced notion that attorneys possess some of our best minds, how then could we have been so completely out-maneuvered by Guatemala?
The Hon. Sedi Elrington has clearly been our worst FM, but surely Sedi’s approach to our foreign policy must come from the Cabinet—a Dean Barrow Cabinet at that. The untenable diplomatic/military position in which we now find ourselves did not develop overnight; a glimpse back into history provides interesting lessons.
Of the thirty five years since independence, Dean Barrow and Said Musa have been FM for a combined period of eighteen years. These two learned gentlemen have therefore been responsible for directing our interactions with Guatemala for 51.4% of the intervening period since our independence. If you consider their tenures as Prime Minister, then their combined period of influence over foreign policy extends from 1984 to present; an incredible 91.4% of our post-independence existence.
If anyone is to be blamed for our predicament, then it must be Dean and Said: both lawyers. Said might be able to argue (and get away with it) that under his tenure as either Prime Minister or FM, at no time did Guatemala exercise de facto sovereignty over any part of Belizean territory. Dean, on the other hand, cannot escape the fact that under his and Sedi’s watch Guatemala has annexed the Sarstoon. A vexing state of affairs!
Such dismal performance has led me to believe the pronouncements of Charles W. Thayer. The time has come for a non-attorney to lead our diplomatic efforts.
I concur with your editorial—”Schizo Sedi” must go!
Major Lloyd Jones (R)