Mon | Aug 26, 2019

Martin Henry | Holness’ pitch for peace, leaving war behind

Published:Sunday | September 30, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Martin Henry

Prime Minister Andrew Holness' last lick before flying off to the 73rd annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly was announcing another state of emergency - this time across three Corporate Area police divisions. He literally left the announcing news conference at Jamaica House for the airport.

Holness, according to The Gleaner, underscored the importance and timeliness of the forum "at a time of heightened global concern about hostility and conflict within some of our societies". He also underscored Jamaica's proud and strong leadership role in driving efforts to dismantle the apartheid system in South Africa.

Let peace begin at home. And let us dismantle the garrisons like apartheid.

Jamaica has been a warring society, both hot war and cold war, from since before Independence. The gangs are at each other's throats and against the rest of the society. We have had our political tribal wars. We have had peace treaties and peace walks. But as any strong leader for peace knows, peace is best secured by decisively pacifying the threats to peace.

This is what we'd hoped the zones of special operations would have been about, making the failed strategy of states of emergency redundant and unnecessary. This is what we wanted to hope the new Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch of the police force would be about. But its start has dashed that hope.

The clear, hold, and build strategy of the ZOSO plan offered the prospect of simultaneously dismantling crime and violence production in multiple targeted communities through short and tight intelligence-driven security operations, followed by maintaining law and order and establishing an environment for social and economic reconstruction.




When the Government and security forces continuously cry that they do not have the resources to mount multiple ZOSOs and SOEs (but then turn around and do so!), not only are they giving advantage to the enemy, but they are also saying to crime-weary, peace-hungry citizens that the State does not have the capacity to protect all of you at once. Keep on getting murdered until we can get to you. Wi soon come. The other message, of course, is help yourself; we can't help you.

And many communities abandoned by the State have already embraced this message out of raw necessity and made their own security arrangements, including arming with (illegal) weapons of defence, not offence. The net result of all this is that we live in an absence of peace while 'world leader' Holness talks peace to other world leaders at the UN, leaving another ineffective state of emergency behind at home.

The biggest 'war' in the world right now at a time of unprecedented peace between the nations (there are several very nasty internal conflicts running within states like Syria and Iraq) is the trade war heating up between the United States and China, with the potential of sucking in the whole world.

While there may be many other losers, including the general global economy, from the escalation of the US-China trade war, China is bound to lose. China exports three and a half times more to the United States than it imports from the US. With all the puffing of the Chinese economy in world media and how China is standing up to the United States, this is a David and Goliath battle.

World media reports on the speech delivered by the most powerful world leader focused heavily, far too heavily, and too lightly, on the laughter in the General Assembly, which his opening remark drew: "In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country."

I have listened to the entire 34-minute address, one of the most important that any US president has delivered to the United Nations in the 73-year history of the world body, and I have read the transcript.

It is both foolish and irresponsible to rush to commentary and to highlight the laughter without carefully analysing the most powerful speech delivered at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly.

With his rhinoceros hide, President Trump quickly recovered from the laughter and proceeded to set out a detailed justification for his claim about the achievements of his administration, a bold claim that can easily be fact-checked.

But, more important, the leader of the world's most powerful country, acutely conscious of that power and the weaknesses of the rest of the world, set out in substantial detail the foreign policy of his nation. And we'd better listen.




Trump roundly rejected globalism and multilateralism · la UN and reiterated American individualism with cooperation and aid to be given on American terms. "As my administration has demonstrated, America will always act in our national interest ... . We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism".

Say what you will, Trump's speech is quite forthright and clear. Trump made a geopolitical tour de force of American engagement around the world, providing reasons for positions taken. He addressed energy, in which America is now the world's largest producer and a net exporter, trade, and migration, giving America's clear position on these thorny issues. He articulated a clear and firm position on American aid and on the United Nations itself.

Rather than just deriding and laughing at Trump, who has the destiny of the world more in his hands than any other man, we could learn a few things from him.

I expect a similar "principled realism" in my own country's foreign policy and its relationship to multilateral institutions, even where we have reasons to disagree with elements of Trumpism. Our unfolding renewed relationship with Israel is a good example of principled realism as a small sovereign state. Without abandoning the Palestinian cause, which Israel is not asking its friends to do as China demands for Taiwan, we can benefit greatly from an exchange of experience and expertise with Israel, which has something to offer.

Israel is a world leader in security and agriculture and has a strong interest in our popular music. I note that we have just made the first shipment of medical marijuana extract oil to Canada. Israel is a world leader in medical marijuana. And together, we can construct a path around the American intransigence against the ganja trade for medical use.

As far as I understand it, I am guardedly supportive of the foreign policy being pursued by this administration with Senator Kamina Johnson Smith quietly at the helm. The days of South-South solidarity, the Group of 77, the ACP, and preferential markets are over. The New World, with Trump's long, silhouette cast over it and existential threats like climate change hovering over it, requires "principled realism", balancing sovereign interests against collaboration and cooperation and against various sentimental solidarities.

On the eve of the 73rd, the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres of Portugal, chose as his theme for a message to the world, from many options, "Climate change - defining threat of our time. Climate change is the defining issue of our time - and we are at a defining moment. We face a direct existential threat," the secretary general wrote in an article carried by The Sunday Gleaner last week.

The year 2020 is only two years away, not enough time to change course.

Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris Accord. One unintended benefit of this 'disaster' is its potential for freeing up the science on global warming and climate change to be more respectful of and accommodating of dissenting voices that can only produce a better science, in the long and fruitful tradition of sceptical science, to deal with the existential threat written about by the UN chief.

- Martin Henry is a university administrator. Email feedback to and