Hands off Venezuela. Or boots-on-the-ground off, rather.
This is by far the closest to an actual foreign policy crisis that Trump administration has faced yet. It is also the one for which a single misstep could cause total chaos. Naturally, there were prominent (and predictable) voices calling for an intervention. While Maduro is indeed a despotic ruler, we need to think hard before suggesting any further misadventure. Consider the questions one needs to ask before another military intervention, which will inevitably result in a regime change and a civil war.
First, what strategic interests are there for the United States in Venezuela? Venezuela is an oil-rich country, but it is also an economic basket case. There’s no unity in the political class, the military is pretty solidly behind Maduro, and no large-scale defections or popular uprisings are spontaneously happening that look likely to topple Maduro anytime soon. In fact, the regime is propped up by Cuban forces.
Consider the similarity to Iraq immediately post-intervention, and the entire Baathist military and bureaucracy disbanded and pushed underground, fueling insurgency with the support of Iran. In other words, a regime change is a recipe for insurgency and civil war.
Second, what are the intervention plans, and what about mission creep? Would we have an exit strategy and timeframe? There is, so far, no clear coherent plan adopted by the administration, nor is it even possible, because of the reasons mentioned above. Dictators often leave the country and retire with their millions, but that is when they see the situation is hopeless. In this case, the situation isn’t.
The Monroe Doctrine is still active, and America is well within her rights to intervene if any other great power approaches and forms a base that can change the balance of power of the region. But 100 Russian military advisors don’t change the balance of power. It is not the Cuban missile crisis redux, and neither Russia nor China currently has any cross-continental power projection will or capability.
Venezuela is a humanitarian concern, not a strategic concern, a key difference that needs to be considered. It’s easy to sympathize and offer diplomatic support, aid, food, and even weapons. It’s entirely another thing to intervene militarily, and force regime change.
He stands within the cusp of history, of being the first American president in more than a quarter-century to not have started an open-ended and costly so-called humanitarian intervention. He should trust his original electoral instincts and aspire to make that his legacy.
Amen to all that. Let the invade-the-world-invite-the-world types, both civilian and military, gnash their teeth down to nubs over the “missed opportunity” to set up another quicksand-box in their already-oversized playground. Stepping in with anything more than an offer of bargain prices on bulk M4 purchases would be a serious mistake for Trump—and for America. The Venezuelan people foolishly voted themselves into socialism; let them learn on their own that they must shoot their way out of it.