This story began cropping up last night and I’ll confess that I immediately began rolling my eyes and thinking, “here we go again.” By the time I was ready to go to bed multiple outlets were already out with the most provacative headlines imaginable, all of them having to do with President Trump “threatening” military action against Venezuela.
Right up front I wanted to point out that I don’t believe for a moment that Donald Trump is giving any consideration to or drawing up any plans for an invasion of Venezuela. Even if he were really off his rocker at this point, that country would be so far down on the priority list as to not merit the time to plan the attack. But let’s look at what he actually said. (Reuters)
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday threatened military intervention in Venezuela, a surprise escalation of Washington’s response to Venezuela’s political crisis that Caracas disparaged as “craziness.”
Venezuela has appeared to slide toward a more volatile stage of unrest in recent days, with anti-government forces looting weapons from a military base after a new legislative body usurped the authority of the opposition-controlled congress.
“The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary,” Trump told reporters in an impromptu question and answer session.
What we’re seeing here is really some of the same, boilerplate language we’ve gotten from pretty much every president in my lifetime when there’s trouble brewing with a restive foreign power. Saying, “including a possible military option” is just President-speak for all options are on the table. It’s what we always say, only Trump has a tendency to be a bit more bombastic about it because projecting strength is sort of his calling card. Still, this fell far short of any sort of fire and fury such as the world has ever seen type comments. The State Department seemed to attempt to clarify that when they put out their official response.
Today, Nicolas Maduro requested a phone call with President Donald J. Trump. Since the start of this Administration, President Trump has asked that Maduro respect Venezuela’s constitution, hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, cease all human rights violations, and stop oppressing Venezuela’s great people. The Maduro regime has refused to heed this call, which has been echoed around the region and the world. Instead Maduro has chosen the path of dictatorship.
The United States stands with the people of Venezuela in the face of their continued oppression by the Maduro regime. President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country.
None of this is to say that we don’t have a plan to fight Venezuela. We have a standing set of plans to invade and defeat every nation on the planet, including Canada. We just don’t think very seriously about most of them. (Unlike the plan for North Korea which is currently being updated every fifteen minutes by most accounts.)
But the bottom line is that we have zero reason or incentive to take any sort of military action against Venezuela and both Trump and Maduro know it. What would be the target of the attack? Their military is spread all over the country in small, rapid deployment units. There’s no place for any sort of grand battle to unfold even if they wanted to fight us. And what would be the objective? Simply removing Maduro from power? If so, I assume that means pretty much destroying Caracas. Yeah… that should go over really well.
Another question is deciding who the troops would be fighting in the streets. Remember that the Chavistas, as they are commonly known, still make up a fair portion of the population. Chavez was really not unpopular and while many of his supporters are clearly disillusioned with Maduro, that doesn’t mean that they are suddenly red, white and blue blooded lovers of America, proudly waving the flag of capitalism. One of the great tools that Chavez employed to keep his nation unified (attempted with a lesser degree of success by Maduro more recently) was the constant threat of an invasion by the capitalist Yankees in America. Attacking them would only prove the point and popular support would be tough to come by among the locals.
Venezuela is collapsing on its own. As Ed pointed out yesterday, much of what remains of their infrastructure is probably being sold off to the Russians even as we speak. The people will either settle for continuing to starve and turning into a poor man’s North Korea (without the nuclear capabilities and military might) or they will find a way to remove Maduro themselves, possibly with the help of his own military. Either way, that’s not for the west to decide at this point and we have much bigger fish to fry just now anyway.