In This Review

The Influence of Small States on Superpowers: Jamaica and U.S. Foreign Policy
The Influence of Small States on Superpowers: Jamaica and U.S. Foreign Policy
By Richard L. Bernal
Lexington Books, 2015, 456 pp.

“You can get it if you really want,” the Jamaican reggae singer Jimmy Cliff exhorted listeners in his 1970 song by that title. To judge from Bernal’s memoir, Jamaicans have taken that message to heart. Bernal, a former Jamaican ambassador to the United States, makes the case that despite being a small, geopolitically irrelevant island, Jamaica has often had its way with its much more powerful neighbor. He recounts how during his tenure in the 1990s, on issues such as trade preferences, foreign aid, debt relief, and counternarcotics, Jamaica succeeded in moving Washington closer to Jamaican preferences by building a constituency of Jamaican American immigrants and influential Americans from Jamaican families, such as Colin Powell and Harry Belafonte. Jamaican diplomats also knew how to work the interagency process within the remarkably accessible U.S. executive branch, knock on the right doors in Congress (despite the “astonishing” ignorance of world affairs found on Capitol Hill), and network with think tanks and other policy entrepreneurs. Bernal also emphasizes the importance of doing one’s homework, building trust with important policy players, and identifying mutual interests. Interestingly, Bernal argues that information technology empowers small states by decreasing their transaction costs and increasing their capacity to mobilize constituencies.