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Jacqueline Anne Braveboy-Wagner

Despite the near-absence of studies of the Caribbean within the mainstream of international relations (IR) theory and foreign policy analysis (FPA), as well as a tendency to subsume this diverse and unique region within the larger Latin America, a focus on Caribbean international relations offers several interesting implications for the wider fields of both IR and FPA. Realist, liberalist, constructivist, and critical approaches all can be incorporated into the study of Caribbean foreign policy in unique ways, and the subfield of foreign policy analysis can also be enriched by focusing on the particular domestic sources of foreign policy in small, culturally diverse, developing countries such as the Caribbean states. Among the unique characteristics of foreign policy in these states is the important role played by external forces in both the economy and the polity, leading to constraints on decision-making autonomy. The external factor also explains why the idea of “inter-American relations” has long been viewed as providing the necessary backdrop for explaining Caribbean foreign policy. Related to this is the important role played by the main regional actors, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), which has thinned the boundary between state and region. As for the prioritization of military-security issues seen in the more powerful countries of the globe, these Caribbean states (apart from Cuba) have eschewed military adventures and traditionally defined their foreign policies in terms of the prioritization of economic development. Finally, to study Caribbean foreign policy means that the scholar must exercise creativity in borrowing from perspectives not normally included in traditional foreign policy studies. Sociology, anthropology, historiography, political economy, and public policy are complementary tools for understanding the Caribbean. Moreover, situating the study of foreign policy within general currents of thought on the role of small states and global south states is also recommended.