(A Review of David Granger’s The Defence of Guyana: deterrence and development)
David Granger’s The Defence of Guyana: deterrence and development is a timely publication. It fills a void through its promulgation of a defence policy which is relevant not only to Guyana but to other small states seeking deterrence capabilities without the high costs associated with maintaining a large conventional defence force.
The book is an example of the art of defining and developing a defence doctrine. It is exceptional for its comprehensive exposition of the defence of a small state which has had to face threats to its territorial integrity and national sovereignty for more than 50 years. These threats were of such a magnitude that they necessitated the establishment of strong standing Force to resist and repel any potential aggression. Financial and resource constraints, however, harnessed efforts at building a bigger force.
Defence policy became an inevitable choice between ambition and the availability of resources. The dilemma of being unable to afford a large conventional army which would not be occupied meaningfully during peacetime led to the concept of a ‘People’s Army’ in the post-Independence period. It led also, particularly in the 1970s, to the Defence Force’s involvement in development projects including agriculture, engineering and construction.
The concept of a People’s Army was not without its detractors, however. It was seen by critics as a means of having a pliant Force, subservient to the political élite. Financial limitations would hobble the maintenance of a People’s Army. Cutbacks in defence spending, in the latter half of the 1980s, led to the Force’s downsizing and under-capitalization.
The People’s Progressive Party’s presence in government represented a period of benign neglect of defence. None of the Commanders-in-Chief from 1992 until 2015 articulated a clear defence policy. The Defence Force thus remained rudderless, adrift but directionless.
This changed with the accession of Brigadier (rtd.) David Granger to the Presidency. As a former Force Commander, he brought to the office of Commander- in-Chief and Minister of Defence a thorough comprehension of the capabilities of the Force and the challenges with which it was confronted. These threats were intensified soon after he was sworn in as President and were instrumental in shaping his country’s defence doctrine – the ideological underpinning of his national defence policy.
The objective factors informing defence doctrine in a small state remained unchanged but the stakes were higher. The country, at that time as in the past, continued to face formidable external threats to its territorial integrity. The discovery of petroleum reserves offshore aggravated those threats. Defence remained a priority. The small state of Guyana, however, still lacked the financial resources to maintain a sufficiently large conventional army and navy.
How then was the country to provide effective deterrence to aggression and, at the same time, ensure the protection of its resources? A defence doctrine was needed which would allow for a response without the high costs associated with maintaining a large conventional army. This was the challenge before President Granger. He had the will-power, experience and intelligence to promulgate an appropriate defence doctrine to guide defence policy and reorganization.
Total National Defence has become the country’s overarching defence doctrine. The President, in this richly-illustrated book, explains the doctrine as implying that “…all the elements of national power – diplomatic, economic, military, political, social and technological – will be employed to reinforce defence and promote economic development.” In his words, it means that the nation must rely on an affordable but effective Defence Force while counting on the cooperation of its citizens in the event of a challenge to its territorial integrity.
Total National Defence is not a novel concept. President Granger would have been familiar with it as student of military history and during his visit to the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It was viewed as an effective response by a country, without a large conventional Force, to the threat of invasion by a formidable enemy.
In assessing this defence doctrine, the scholar A. Ross Johnson noted:
Total national defence rests on the premise that small and medium-sized states must be self- reliant in defense if they are to maintain their sovereignty and can, if they have the national will and appropriate institutions to involve the entire citizenry in national defence, successfully resist (and thus likely deter) external attack.
David Granger’s choice of a national defence doctrine cannot be faulted. Total National Defence is suited to maintaining only a small conventional Force, but with a larger Reserve Force deployed across Guyana’s ten administrative regions. It is an effective means of ensuring deterrence and defence in a small state against the threats by external foes with larger and superior equipment.
David Granger, in this book, is not satisfied with merely defining an appropriate defence doctrine. He goes on to detail the functional, organizational and operational changes to give effect to this doctrine.
The book discusses, also, three other important elements of the country’s defence policy. The first is diplomacy which has always been the country’s first and most effective line of defence. The second is the impact of defence cooperation with friendly states as a means of improving military capabilities. The third involves ascribing to the Defence Force a role in responding to national emergencies, including natural disasters.
The Defence of Guyana: deterrence and development provides assurance that Guyana’s defence is in safe hands. David Granger does not contemplate a Defence Force which confines itself to barracks during peacetime. He envisages an important role for the Force – which he deems ‘a force for good’ – in safeguarding the national patrimony, protecting its territorial waters and exercising surveillance over its long borders.
David Granger’s book confirms his place among the Region’s foremost defence strategists. He has inscribed a sterling dissertation on defence policy which should become a lodestar for small states well into the future.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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