Trump Should Stick To His Original Foreign Policy Instincts On Venezuela

Trump Should Stick To His Original Foreign Policy Instincts On Venezuela By  for The Federalist

When the bugle calls, Peter Hitchens once wrote, the conservative instinct is to rally around the tattered banner. Nowhere was it truer than the last few days, with Venezuela teetering on the brink of civil war. For all practical purposes, Juan Guaido, the suave Macronist liberal whom the West recognizes as the legitimate president of the oil-rich republic, was on the way to topple the Maduro dictatorship, flanked by dissident military men. But that didn’t work out.

What transpired since then is dodgy, but it appears the dissident military leaders and bureaucrats chickened out. In what looked like a replay of the failed coup attempt against Turkish despot Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the forces loyal to Maduro started to attack protesters. Foreign Policy reported that “the lack of any major military figures publicly casting their lot with the opposition should worry the opposition leader. He [Guaido] says he has military support behind the scenes, which could be critical to a democratic transition, but he has not produced solid evidence of it.”

The Atlantic confirmed the chaos, saying that “despite administration officials’ ominous mantra that ‘all options are on the table’ in Venezuela, they appear to have little appetite for taking military action,” adding that the Pentagon was not ordered to prepare for any military intervention.

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One Wrong Move Would Spell Chaos for Venezuela

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.

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