For the second time since entering the 2000’s, we’re deep in “coalition” talk, thanks this time to the strange breed calling themselves ISIS. President Obama, despite his reassurances to the contrary, may well have to commit U.S. ground troops to the effort to rout this collection of maniacs, because of revolting behavior they not only practice but seem to have a sick fetish for advertising. Given today’s cause, getting member states of the UN aboard in the attempt to assemble a coalition has been nothing like the side show when George W. Bush and his bloodthirsty phalanx tried doing the same for their Iraq misadventure. Back then the coalition-building process extended even to offering enticements for joining. But a shared feature of both undertakings was the presence of power hitters as well as partners of markedly lesser consequence.
In 2002-2003, with solid evidence of popular opposition to the Bush administration’s anti-Saddam posturing, not just here but elsewhere around the world, building a coalition to topple the Iraqi leader had its problems. Save for a dumfounding obsequiousness from Britain’s Tony Blair, support for Bush’s imperialistic designs wasn’t particularly bristling among the major players. France and Germany were objectors, as were Russia and China. Upshot of which was the Bush crew, notably Secretary of State Colin Powell, attempting to cajole some lesser lights among nations to help bump up the numbers, clearly in an effort to invest the so-called Coalition of the Willing with what it couldn’t possibly have: strong international footing. In the circumstances, Bush administration overtures across the Third World spectrum landed the likes of Nicaragua, Honduras and Dominican Republic as formal coalition partners.
Such canvassing of small states was fortunately not required here in 2014, the ISIS nemesis having evoked outrage throughout the civilized world. So that included in today’s coalition are small countries which in some instances can contribute to the international effort little or nothing. Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, seized the opportunity, while attending the UN General Assembly last month, to officially respond in the affirmative to Obama’s call and have the country be numbered among coalition partners. Whether or not Trinidad and Tobago will be making a material contribution, bottom line is that it surely won’t be much beyond symbolic. Bissessar’s move has however generated some criticism back home. One line of attack we saw was that the prime minister was “currying favor” with Obama. Along with which was the contention that Bissessar’s catapulting Trinidad and Tobago into the spotlight that way was also putting the country in harm’s way…harm as orchestrated by deadly ISIS of course.
We have long since come to realize that in these times of ongoing terror threat, we don’t necessarily have to be resident in the region considered Ground Zero for violence masterminded by terrorists to be potential victims. Attacks in Bali in 2002 and 2005, the massacre in Kenya last year and of course the 9/11 horror are but a small sampling of mayhem attributed to terrorists, that didn’t originate in the perennially sizzling Middle East. In light of which, one might conclude there’s no reason to make an exception of Trinidad and Tobago as a potential setting for terrorist-hatched misdeeds. We’re not about to do so here. But while prudence dictates that nothing be ruled out, we’re inclined to think that the folks committed to an agenda of terror have bigger fish to fry. Trinidad and Tobago, or any of its CARICOM neighbors, becoming a flashpoint in the global terror network is just a bit difficult to conceive of.
And maybe there was some intent on Bissessar’s part to curry favor with President Obama, as was alleged in the press. On its face, it’s difficult to imagine what, in her calculation, was expected to be the Obama give-back. At any rate, what the prime minister was undoubtedly doing in her UN spotlight turn had a whole lot more to do with retail politics on her home turf than any international alarm over abhorrent tactics by ISIS.
Bissessar and her crew are right now heavily focused on elections due next year. In the run-up, any and every situation that figures to be an electioneering ploy is fair game… including serious UN palaver about ridding the world of violent extremists. If this presents an opportunity to make like a world-class leader for the folks back home, why not? Attempting to harvest everything that might possibly yield election dividends is a not unexpected position by the prime minister at this time. She heads an administration that is easily the most brazenly corrupt, most shameless abusers of power the country has ever seen. In four local elections last year, results reflected the public’s vote of no confidence in the ruling party. Surely a time for bare-knuckled combat.
We therefore have, in Prime Minister Bissessar’s UN appearance this year, a classic insight into the phenomenon of the pipsqueak state as coalition partner, when there’s need for muscular joint action by the international community. Little more than moral support it might have been, her signing on to help vanquish the bad guys. In another universe (and battleground) this choreographed play must look real big.