Regressive Left, Security, World Affairs

Resolving the Venezuela Crisis: Is There a Case for Outside Military Intervention?

For the past four years, in plain sight of the world’s media, and just a few hours by plane from the world’s most powerful democracy, a criminal regime has been inflicting a humanitarian catastrophe on its own people, provoking widespread hunger and impoverishment, the spread of disease and death, and an exodus of Biblical proportions to neighboring countries that threatens regional stability. The national health system has collapsed, fostering the outbreak of infectious diseases, which, given the flight of millions of the country’s citizens abroad, poses a growing health risk to the continent. (Polio, long ago eradicated in the country, has returned.)  The same regime’s most senior members (as well as those of lower rank) have been credibly accused of narcotics trafficking and personally profiting therefrom. Even relatives of the president have been involved and given long prison sentences. The regime also commands a police force implicated not only in the drug trade, but in kidnapping, extortion, and corruption. Not surprisingly, the population it is supposed to protect is left subject to the highest homicide rate anywhere. The regime’s currency is undergoing an annual inflation rate nearing a million percent (according to the IMF) and is plunging in value, resulting in average monthly salaries that equal roughly two dollars; and the number of its citizens living in extreme poverty has jumped from 24 percent in 2014 to more than 60 percent by the end of 2017. The country happens to have the largest oil reserves on the planet, but production facilities are falling apart, and output is plummeting. Much of whatever revenue does come of it is ransacked by the ruling elite.

I’m talking about Venezuela, of course, formerly one of South America’s wealthiest, most prosperous countries, but now being reduced to a Hobbesian state of nature. Venezuela’s de facto disintegration stems directly from the Maduro regime’s usurpation of all political power, and originated with the probably fixed presidential polls of 2013 that saw a Hugo Chávez crony and former bus driver, Nicolás Maduro, barely defeat Henrique Capriles, one of Venezuela’s most successful governors.

Soon after the election, in 2014, anti-government demonstrations broke out across the land. Maduro responded by first imprisoning, and eventually placing under house arrest, the protesters’ leader, Venezuela’s opposition leader, Leopoldo López (of the Voluntad Popular party). It also began incarcerating hundreds of anti-regime activists (often subjecting them to torture), using administrative means to intimidate voters, and strategically distributing, in return for votes, ever scarcer food supplies, thereby weaponizing hunger. (Malnutrition is widespread, especially among children; over the past three years the average Venezuelan has lost nineteen pounds.)

Naturally, none of this went down well with Venezuelans, so the Maduro regime has ensured they will have no say in their political future. Last year, the regime supplanted the opposition-controlled National Assembly with a rigged body known as the Constituent Assembly, and, in May 2018, held “elections” that reinstated Maduro. The United Nations and the European Union refused to accept them as valid; and the Organization of American States (OAS) termed them a “farce,” lamenting “an infamous day for democracy in the Americas.” Only a handful of countries (including Russia, North Korea, and a few Caribbean states reliant on Venezuela for oil), recognized the polls. Maduro remains wildly unpopular — with an apparent approval rating of, as of July, 24.3 percent. Accordingly, the internet abounds with Venezuelans’ sarcastic, insulting jokes about him — a popular meme puns his surname with burro, or donkey. (For a belly laugh, Google images for “Maburro.”)

The regime doesn’t take kindly to such humor, though.

Venezuelans have been voting with their feet to escape the ruin the regime has inflicted on them. The economy contracted by 16.5 percent in 2016 and 13.2 percent the next year; since 2013, it has shrunk by almost 50 percent. Although hunger is rampant and hospitals lack medicines, the Maduro regime has refused all humanitarian aid. Desperate, famished Venezuelans — some 2.3 million of them, so far, according to the UN — have fled abroad, mostly on foot, to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and other places. The surging refugee crisis — unprecedented in Latin America — has provoked alarm and even violence in some of the host countries, which have begun imposing restrictions on entrants to stem the flow. The head of the Organization for Migration has warned of an approaching “crisis moment.”  Maduro’s response to the mass outflow of his citizens?  Scorn and derision. For him and his cronies, the feast must go on — Habano cigars and all.

With the Venezuela crisis worsening, the Trump administration has let it be known that “all options are on the table;” and Trump himself has mooted invading the country.  The Trump administration had secretly been in touch with dissident officers in the Venezuelan armed forces about launching a coup, but the regime caught on and arrested them. Most recently, Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the OAS, broached the idea of a foreign military intervention against the Maduro government, which he accused of crimes against humanity.  The United States and the EU have imposed rafts of onerous sanctions, but with no discernible effect on the regime’s behavior. The latest punitive measures, adopted by the US at the end of September, target Maduro, his wife (a former speaker of the National Assembly and a prominent politician in her own right) and members of his inner circle. Imposing a blockade on Venezuela’s export of oil — the government’s main source of revenue and hard currency — might force a change in leadership, but only after significantly worsening life for the masses of already hunger-stricken Venezuelans.

So, what is to be done?  Given that the Maduro regime has neutered the opposition and rendered impossible change via the ballot box, and in view of the stakes, both for the Venezuelan people and the region, outside efforts, including US efforts, to bring about a change of government in Venezuela must continue — despite the long, problematic history of American meddling in Latin American politics. (Think Chile in 1973 and the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, for example.) For starters, the US and other countries could offer Maduro and his accomplices, in return for their abandoning power, safe passage to a third country (say, Russia or China), as well as immunity from prosecution. Such an offer would seem immensely unjust, given the scale of the Maduro regime’s crimes, but this might be the price to pay for the peaceful removal of the government.

What if these efforts fail?  Does a legal basis exist for outside military action to oust the Maduro regime? Yes. The doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), adopted by the UN (and approved by Venezuela) in 2005, provides it. The principle is simple: sovereign states have a duty to safeguard their populations from, among other things, crimes against humanity and genocide — and a government’s rejecting humanitarian aid and leaving its people to starve and die without medical care certainly constitutes the former, and possibly the latter. Other factors buttressing the case for intervention include the breakdown of the Venezuelan state, its involvement in narcotics trafficking, and its inability to confront the raging epidemic of violent crime.

Citing R2P, the UN has authorized military action a number of times in Africa and the Middle East, but with a spectacularly bad result in Libya in 2011 — the descent of that country into anarchy and the dramatic outbreak of the Mediterranean refugee crisis. In the case of Venezuela, however, Russian and Chinese vetoes would surely doom any R2P resolution concerning Venezuela in the Security Council.

But the Security Council isn’t the only body that could act. The O.A.S. could, and might be gearing up to do so. On September 17, Almagro tweeted that “millions of people have already been murdered, tortured, and displaced in Venezuela. The responsibility to protect is not to count the dead” — an obvious reference to R2P. (The International Criminal Court, at the behest of six Latin American countries, is already investigating human rights abuses in Venezuela.)  Colombia has special incentive to intervene, since Venezuela has permitted two Marxist guerilla organizations — the FARC and the ELN — to launch attacks against Colombia from its territory. (It should be noted that Colombia also has a large, battle-hardened, well-equipped army, and could lead any intervention.)  If Colombian president Ivan Duque has, at least as of last summer, publicly rejected the idea of using military force to topple Maduro, his government, and that of Canada, recently abstained from a Lima Group proclamation opposing the use of military force against Caracas.

Could Maduro effectively fight back?  The country has a 438,000-strong “Bolivarian militia” (possibly equipped with Russian shoulder-carried Igla anti-aircraft missiles), that could assist Venezuela’s regular army, which has more than 300,000 troops. Armed, pro-regime motorcycle gangs known as Colectivos patrol barrios and suppress dissent, but they could also attack invaders. Military planners would have to take all this into account; but it should be remembered that the Venezuelan military has not seen action (and that, low-scale) since the 1960s; and its soldiers have been increasingly going hungry, deserting, and being arrested for treason or rebellion. Under fire from forces led by, say, the Colombian army, which would surely receive intelligence support (if not more) from the US, how long would they hold out?  How many would choose to fight and die for the wildly unpopular Maduro?

Once Maduro and his henchmen have been removed, the country stabilized with an international coalition of forces occupying key government and military facilities, political prisoners freed (including, obviously, Leopoldo López), and humanitarian aid permitted entry, the same coalition could oversee the formation of a transition government. This government could declare the reestablishment of constitutional order and the holding of free and fair elections within, say, four to six months — elections in which all parties, including the current ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, could take part.

The intervention proposed above would carry risks. But they must be weighed against the certain consequences for Venezuelans of doing nothing: more disease, death, political oppression and flight abroad.

Venezuelans deserve better, but this time, they need help to get it. Providing assistance would be the humane — and just — thing to do.

Feature photo by Marcos Salgado / Shutterstock.com

 

Jeffrey Tayler is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyTayler1.

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97 Comments

  1. Emmanuel says

    If the international community decided to ger involved in Venezuela and send troops to get rid of Maduro and his gang, there is no doubt it would succeed. The big question is : and what happens after ? writing the word stabilization is easy, achieving it is much harder. To my limited knowledge, Venezuela is not divided in as many factions as Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, but even so the country would be quite a mess.
    On top of that, we should not be naive and forget that foreign countries willing to be involved in Venezuela might be more interested in taking control of the country’s oil ressources rather than in the welfare of the local people.

    • Bill says

      @Emmanuel, your ending thought is what struck me. If the US were to intervene, for example, we’d simply see the papers filled with “Trump just wants his cronies to get the oil!” the same as when the US went into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein who had conducted actions just as genocidal against the Kurds.

    • dirk says

      Wellfare of a nation or country is always a thing of the people there themselves, never of others, not even of the UN, or of some ideological International Bill of Rights. It’s all Macchiavelli!

      • Emmanuel says

        @Bill you are right when you say that people hostile to an intervention (or the leader behind it) always delegitimize it by invoking an attempt to seize the country’s economic ressources. However, it does not mean that economic considerations do not play a role at all. Even if oil is not the primary justification of an intervention, its control will play a role in the aftermath and the reconstruction of the country.

  2. dirk says

    I really hope to encounter Gringo again on this thread, he tried to find me on another thread -Suffragists Fought….-, to discuss on potatoes, plantains,hunger, emigration, old and new ways of food production, in the former one on the Venezuelan catastrophe, but got cut off due to closing of the comments. This one is less focused on food, but, nevertheless, the catastrophe remains!

  3. Greg Lorriman says

    The reliability of news reports and sovereignty is the big problem.

    After the “Mexicans are rapists” reports grossly misrepresenting Trump’s actual words (which were about illegal immigrants), and the absurd anti Syria reporting on chemical weapons attacks as if the Islamists would never do it to their own (notable for the fact that chlorine, the reported chemical, needs only bleach and vinegar not a sophisticated lab), and the WMD attacks on Iraq on the basis of lies by French espionage services, attacking a country is not justifiable except where it attacks you directly.

    What’s needed is for the people themselves to be encouraged and supported in solving their own problem. Collectively they caused it. Collectively they need to suffer it so that even the 25% who still support the donkey renege. Collectively they need to deal with it.

    Anything else is storing up the same problem for the future.

    • It’s emotionally challenging, and a real horror for those who live it, but such intervention is a bit like bailing out rich and powerful corporations when their bets fail (but apparently are “too big to fail” yet failed nonetheless)….risk for reward is lost if there’s no failure.
      But the international community can attack a country to save those inside from genocide (and resulting refugees that otherwise become a problem for receiving nations), but that’s not the case in Venezuela.
      Otherwise, on a smaller scale, you’d not think it appropriate for the police to enter a home where violence is being inflicted.

  4. E. Olson says

    The only truly right wing coup in recent history was Pinochet in Chile, who grabbed power from a democratically elected leftist government that was destroying the economy of the country. Pinochet cut the size of government and instituted economic policies suggested by Milton Friedman and the U. of Chicago economics faculty, and after stabilizing the country voluntarily gave up power and allowed free and fair elections. With far fewer natural resources than Venezuela, Chile is today one of the few (only?) truly successful countries and economies in South America. The question is whether there is currently a Pinochet in Venezuela and how such a person might best be supported.

    • Emmanuel says

      As a leader, Pinochet was fairly successful from an economic point of view and left Chile in a better situation than when he took power. However, he was also a brutal dictator who had anybody who stood against him jailed, tortured and executed. From the Human Rights point of view, he was not an “enlightened despot”. Venezuelan citizens might not be very enthusiastic about the prospect of getting their own Pinochet.

      • Greg Lorriman says

        Pinochet really was not a ‘brutal’ dictator. this is a modern re-writing of history, as with Franco. And applying modern standards retrospectively.

        It was a military dictatorship with everything that that entails. Soldiers are no picnic. By brutal dictator standards, he was a lamb. The numbers bear this out with relatively very small numbers of dead.

        Further, as with Franco and Spain, people forget the murderousness inherent to atheist “the masses” ideologies, which both of them fought with the necessary violence.

        • Emmanuel says

          I agree that Pinochet was far from being the worst dictator of the 20th century, but that is not my point. All I want to say is that I hope for the sake of Venezuelan people that there are more alternatives that left-wing dictatorship and right-wing dictatorship.

          • E. Olson says

            The Pinochet death count is somewhere under 5,000 people, plus many more tortured, which is a terrible tragedy, but show me a left-wing dictator/communist government that has killed and tortured fewer people and peacefully given up power to free-elections? As terrible as dictatorship is, it might be the price that must be paid to restore a country that is as far gone as Venezuela and one that tends to elect left-wing governments that would start the road to destruction again.

        • Jack B Nimble says

          @Greg Lorriman

          I can’t let your BS pass unchallenged. Readers should read the entire article that I excerpt below and decide for themselves if Pinochet and his band of torturers were ‘lambs’:

          Physical torture

          One torture method which was very commonly used was the “grill” or “La Parrilla.” In this torture, electricity was fed from a standard wall outlet through a control box into two wires each terminating in electrodes. The control box gave the torturers the option of adjusting the voltage being administered to the prisoner. The naked prisoner was stretched out and strapped onto a metal bedframe, or a set of bedsprings, and tied down. He or she was subjected to electrical shocks on several parts of the body, especially on sensitive areas like the genitals and on open wounds. The Valech Report includes a testimony of a Chilean man who was interrogated by prison captors. They took off his clothes and “attached electrodes to his chest and testicles. They put something in his mouth so he would “bite his tongue while they shocked him.” In another method, one of the wires would be fixed to the prisoner (typically to the victim’s genitalia) while another wire could be applied to other parts of the body. This caused an electric current to pass through the victim’s body, with a strength inversely proportional to the distance between the two electrodes. A smaller distance between the electrodes led to a stronger current and thus more intense pain for the prisoner. A particularly barbaric version of the “grill” was the use of a metal bunk bed; the victim was placed on the bottom bunk and on the top bunk, a relative or friend was simultaneously tortured.

          Most prisoners suffered from severe beatings, and broken or even amputated limbs. At Villa Grimaldi, DINA forced non-compliant prisoners to lie down on the ground. The captors ran over their legs with a large vehicle, and crushed the prisoners’ bones. The assailants also beat prisoners in the ear until they became deaf, and entirely unconscious; this torture method was called the “telephone.” Most of the acts of punishment were intended to severely humiliate the prisoners. At the Pisagua Concentration Camp, captors intimidated prisoners by forcing them to crawl on the ground and lick the dirt off the floors. If the prisoners complained or even collapsed from exhaustion, they were promptly executed. Prisoners were also immersed into vats of excrement, and were occasionally forced to ingest it.

          Sexual abuse

          Pinochet’s regime carried out many gruesome and horrific acts of sexual abuse against the victims. In fact, several detention sites were solely instituted for the purpose of sexually tormenting and humiliating the prisoners. Discothèque (Venda Sexy) was another one of DINA’s main secret detention centers. Many of those who “disappeared” were initially held in this prison. The prison guards often raped both men and women. It was at this prison where internal repression operations were centralized. Militants anally raped male prisoners, while insulting them, in an attempt to embarrass them to their core.

          Women were the primary targets of gruesome acts of sexual abuse. According to the Valech Commission, almost every single female prisoner was a victim of repeated rape. Not only would military men rape women, they would also use foreign objects and even animals to inflict more pain and suffering. Women (and occasionally men) reported that spiders and live rats were often implanted on their genitals. One woman testified that she had been “raped and sexually assaulted with trained dogs and with live rats.” She was forced to have sex with her father and brother—who were also detained.

          Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_violations_in_Pinochet%27s_Chile

          • But who cares? Its not my country, and Pinochet was not a commie.

            Perhaps the voters in Chile should have thought about the blow back from the US that before they elected a commie.

          • Leftists never care about the tens of millions abused and murdered under Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot, but can always cite atrocity figures for every second rate Latin American goon squad that was sympathetic to the interests of America.

            Who cares about Pinochet, Pol Pot had the highest per capita extermination rate of any regime in the history of the world? By eliminating Allende, it may have prevent another Khmer Rouge for all we know.

          • Greg Lorriman says

            @Jack B Numble “I can’t let your BS pass unchallenged.”

            I wrote comparatively. I didn’t say he was actually a sweet little lamb. Further the soldiers behaviour, as reported, was not on the orders of Pinochet. Which I also addressed “Soldiers/military-dictatorship is no picnic”.

            Whereas the average brutal dictator was directly involved in such actions.

            Meanwhile, for comparisons’ sake, there were far worse and far more numbers involved in atheistic regimes.

            In any case, I doubt much of that report. There are details that don’t match up to the culture and people of the time. Soldiers or not.

          • Jack B Nimble says

            @KD

            Here are the main post-mortem criticisms of Allende by rightists. How do his faults compare with the atrocities carried out by Pinochet’s goons?

            1…mass nationalization of private industry
            2…alleged friendliness with more militant groups
            3…supply shortages and hyperinflation
            4…[having] an autocratic style, attempting to circumvent the Congress and the courts
            5…having a hostile attitude toward critical media
            6…closeness with Fidel Castro and Eastern bloc countries
            7…dictatorial style in defiance of Chile’s democratic government institutions
            8…Allende [allegedly] held racist, homophobic and anti-semitic views, as well as believing at that time that mental illnesses, criminal behaviour, and alcoholism were hereditary
            9…Allende … was himself an atheist
            Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticisms_of_Salvador_Allende

            I’m glad that @KD mentioned blowback; some but not all autocratic regimes around the globe are the result of the US [i.e., the CIA] backing corrupt and incompetent right-wing autocrats who were subsequently toppled in popular uprisings:

            Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran
            Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar in Cuba
            Norodom Sihanouk in Cambodia
            Jean-Claude Duvalier ‘baby doc’ in Haiti
            Hosni Mubarak in Egypt………etc., etc.

            And what kind of deformed moral reasoning is it that says Pinochet gets a pass because Pol Pot was much worse?

          • Allende was a communist agent and would have turned Chile into a Communist satellite just like Cuba, with a lovely human rights record like Castro racked up. Instead, Pinochet broke a few eggs but reformed Chile and returned it to a sensible liberal democracy.

            Its not even a close call, unless you believe that Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Pol Pot aren’t “real socialism” and “real socialism” is just about to dawn with the next idealistic jerk spouting pretty socialist slogans.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Allende was elected President by an extremely narrow plurality of less than 1.5% (36.61 versus 35.27). He was only allowed to take office when he promised not to change the Chilean Constitution. He promptly began to nationalize the economy, aided in part by the same type of government-supported thuggery we are seeing today in the Chavistas. The Chilean Congress remained steadfastly anti-collectivist, so he increasingly resorted to rule by decree. That, coupled with ignorance about economics and a collapse in the price of copper (Chile’s biggest export) led to an economic collapse. By the time he was overthrown real wages were barely a third what they were when he was elected. Pinochet was no angel, his corruption has tarred his legacy, but without him Chile would have soon become Venezuela long before there was a Chavista Venezuela.

      • Jack B Nimble says

        @TarsTarkas

        Allende RAN on a platform of nationalization and land redistribution and was elected. From Wikipedia article “Presidency of Salvador Allende”:

        “…..In the 1970 election, Allende ran with the Unidad Popular (UP or Popular Unity) coalition. Succeeding the FRAP left-wing coalition, Unidad Popular comprised most of the Chilean Left: the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Radical Party, the Party of the Radical Left (until 1972), the Social Democratic Party, MAPU (Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario) (in 1972, a splinter group – MAPU Obrero Campesino – emerged) and since 1971 the Christian Left.

        Allende received a plurality with 36.2% of the vote. Christian Democrat Radomiro Tomic won 27.8% with a very similar platform to Allende’s. Both Allende and Tomic promised to further nationalize the mineral industry and redistribute land and income among other new policies. Conservative former president Jorge Alessandri, standing for the National Party, received slightly under 34.9% of the vote….”

        Look, Allende never had the support of the Chilean military, except for a few generals and admirals who were side-lined during the coup. When the crunch came, Allende had a few bodyguards armed with rifles; the military attacked his headquarters with high explosives.

        There is absolutely no evidence that Allende planned a Cuba-style takeover, but even if he had, he had NO militias or paramilitary forces at his disposal. Communist takeovers have generally required an effective military force, like the Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh, Castro’s guerrilla army or the PLA under Mao. The same is true of right-wing takeovers: Spain under Franco, Chile under Pinochet or Greece in the late 1960s under the ‘Colonels.’ That’s just a statement of fact.

        • Društvo says

          Thank you, Jack B Nimble. It’s hard to evade all the leftard and rightard cheerleaders with their annoying high-pitched insults to common sense. Thank you for defending that fragile light from above.

  5. dirk says

    Chile is especially succesful in its rural production, not only feeding themselves (Venezuela not even in staples such as rice and beans) but massively exporting horticultural produce, wine and fruits, to all supermarkets in Europe. How do they manage? And why Venezuela not (with much more and better soils)! The curse of oil??

    • Zoltan Zandar says

      At the start: the curse of oil, i.e., of free-flowing foreign money, and opportunities for corruption. Now: VZ is a narco-state supported by the Russian and Cuban governments (i.e., Russian international mafia).

  6. Stupid idea. Either back a strong man like Pinochet with some juice, or fund neighboring states to pick territorial fights with the promise of adding lucrative territory with oil fields. Or both, and let the regime collapse due to the failure to resist foreign military incursions and domestically due to a rival political movement.

    • There is a nice oil field relatively close to the Columbian border around Puerta Miranda. Arm Columbia and make sure they have some plausibly deniable U.S. military advisers, and let them at it.

  7. dirk says

    It’s quite useless for V. to look at options such as modern democratic states such as the US, Japan and EU, better look at the neighbours Colombia, Mexico, Peru Ecuador. Also, with Emmanuel, I really don’t hope for a Pinochet numero dos in Venezuela, neither for a Fidel or Che. BTW, what’s the role of nearby USA, behind the curtains??

    • Bill says

      I’m not sure the US can play a role. While there are some in the US who still view the US as the world police force and adjudicator of (their view) of justice and freedom, there are still others who do not and the current political climate makes it a damned if you do/damned if you don’t situation. If the US under Trump were to intervene, he’d be blasted for it as corrupt to get money for his buddies (as if it were the Clinton/Uranium thing). If he doesn’t, i’m sure the media will again blast him for being racist and not helping the poor Venezuelans.

      As an American who leans more toward the Rand Paul/Ron Paul camp on the intervention topic, i’d rather see neighboring states step into the vacuum since they are on the forefront of the refugee migration. Should the Colombians go in, for example, and ask the US for assistance financially, I have no problem providing some funding or even some logistical assistance parallel to when the Japanese provides non-military aid to otherwise military operations. I’m quite sure, for example, that there would be pretty broadbased support for the US to drop in supplies to Venezuela post-overthrow to help feed and care of the population the same as we do when there is a natural disaster. But direct, kinetic action? No thanks.

      • dirk says

        Yes, I think the times of direct interventions, like in Guatemala, Cuba and Panama are over, now it’s time for the indirect ones, sanctions , support, intelligence, as in Chile and Nicaragua. I would love to have been part of the intelligence services, what to do? and what not? what to hope for, and at what costs? all with knowledge of the local situation and latino feelings, of course. Alas, they never ask me!

      • The Western Hemisphere is our historical zone of concern. There should be no powers hostile to the interests of the United States in the Western Hemisphere, and if there are, they should be removed by any means necessary.

        • Bill says

          Very un-Originalist. We (the US) are not Southern Hemisphere, so what gives us the right to say that the Southern Hemisphere should have powers hostile to the interests of the US? We’re not under direct threat from any country in the Western Hemisphere whether their government is pro or anti-US. We are under threat from other countries in the Northern Hemisphere. So, by your view, shouldn’t we be seeking to remove all those Northern Hemisphere powers with hostile intents first? Real easy to say “get rid of them” when you can be the schoolyard bully picking on the underclass — not quite the same when you’re squaring off against someone of equal power. The Originalist view is that the US Gov’t should approach both cases the same since it is either in the vested interests of US security or it isn’t!

          • “For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences- either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us- and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” -Thucydides.

          • Read about the Monroe Doctrine, circa 1823:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monroe_Doctrine

            Obviously, the United States should encourage “liberal democracy” or regimes we hope that might become the cradle for “liberal democracy” in the Western Hemisphere, and remove the influence of any non-Western powers from the Western Hemisphere.

            Its much more difficult to project power across oceans, and we have a good navy, and all the great powers are in the Northern hemisphere, so I would leave it to another to look for hegemony in Eurasia, and would limit the US role to offshore balancing between would-be hegemons in Eurasia.

  8. AC Harper says

    Now here’s a real ethical conundrum sparked by the article. Is it more ethical to intervene militarily in a country, or is it more ethical to let ‘the experiment’ run to finality as an awful warning? Either option will cause deaths, but either option may also save lives in the future.

    An accounting in human lives is a terrible way of judging actions, but that appears to be where we are.

    • Law and Order make ethics possible. Where there is anarchy, there is no ethics, only interests. International relations are inherently anarchic, and there can be no moral considerations, only realism or stupidity.

      The question is whether regime change in Venezuela is in the national interests of the United States, and if so, the best means of accomplishing it.

      • Chip says

        At what point is regime change in the United States in the best interest of the world?

    • chumpai says

      Better to let the ‘experiment’ run to its natural conclusion. Military intervention would certainly result in supporters thinking the real reason the Revolution failed was due to Western Imperialism.

      • dirk says

        I fully agree chumpai, but how much chance is there on that? Thucydices (I just got it here on the comments), who lived more than 2000 yrs before us, knew the answer already. The mighty ones decide on what happens, whether good or wrong. Is it imaginable that the US does not interfere, in some way?? Even Obama thought that Venezuela was a serious threat for the national security (why? like in Irak?), so, with that Monroe doctrine as a menace, I can’t think the US is going to keep a low profile!

  9. Keith Stafford says

    Respectfully ….
    Nope!!!
    Ab–so—fuckin—lutely not!!
    They made their bed. Let them lie in it

    • TarsTarkas says

      The problem with gangrene and flesh-eating bacteria is that they spreads and destroy healthy tissue. ‘Teaching them a lesson’ by allowing the destruction to horribly damage (if not destroy) other countries isn’t exactly humanitarian, or even sensible. Maybe a less bloody Roman Punitive Expedition i(go in, destroy Maduro & his supporters, get out, let the locals rebuild) might be called for. I’m glad I’m not the one who would have to make the call.

  10. Andy says

    Despite it’s record of abject failure and misery, R2P lives on. These failures are dismissed in this piece with the usual “there will be risks” as if that wasn’t obvious. No one should be lured by a best-case scenario based on false assumptions and a complete lack of understand about the use of military force to achieve political ends.

  11. Chip says

    That anyone could write this essay, after the past 15 years of hapless failure in Iraq and Afghanistan is astounding.

    • Kathleen Lowrey says

      Shilling for “regime change”: whoops, I thought Quillette was not the same old shit. Too bad.

      • Wow! Shocked, shocked to discover Quillette and the radical voices of the “Dark Web” are mostly shilling for neocons? But the neocons are actually right about Venezuela, I would just advocate for more subtle means.

        • augustine says

          @ KD

          You do not sound like you are advocating for anything subtle at all.

  12. steve says

    Anyone that is for intervention should send their own sons and daughters. It is oh so easy to play war games with other peoples children.

  13. Nicholas Conrad says

    Any analysis of the downfall of Venezuela that lays the blame at the feet of Maduro alone, rather than also indicting Chavez and his socialism is lazy and intellectually bankrupt.

    Furthermore, the best – and most just – assistance we can provide is civil rights for Venezuelan (and other) refugees here in the US (and the rest of the developed world). Give them a place they can live and work with dignity; don’t mass-murder their countrymen.

    • dirk says

      Dignity, dignity? what hell are you talking about! People have nothing to eat and loose their homes and their job, it’s survival time, not dignity time, that’s something for the decadent West. A place outside their home land to live and work?? Why? Soon, the whole messed up world wants a place in the rich West! The socialism of Chavez is what the people have voted for there, and what was not bad at all ,for most, for some time, as long as it lasted at least. There is still something like sovereignty (though, neighbouring countries have a right to have some saying and influence) !

      • Nicholas Conrad says

        @dirk how is bombing what little infrastructure that reminds going to help the starving people? What will help is letting them move away from the tyranny. Stop trying to keep them out of productive countries for the color of their skin or their accents. Gains from trade are Perato optimal, xenophobia and bloodlust aren’t. If opening the borders doesn’t seem like enough to you, by all means, head down there and start moving people out by the boatload if you want, that would make you a real hero in my book. If you want to slaughter people instead, you should at least have the balls to go down there and do it yourself though. Put up or shut up. Amd that goes double for Jeffery.

    • petros says

      “the best – and most just – assistance we can provide is civil rights for Venezuelan (and other) refugees here in the US (and the rest of the developed world). Give them a place they can live and work with dignity”

      “Provide civil rights”? That seems wrongheaded to me.

      Civil rights are not provided by the government, like drinking water. They are *supported* by the government, like immunizations. Civil rights belong to a people who can keep them. A people must be willing to maintain civil rights at great cost, educate themselves and their children in respect for them, and sacrifice convenience when rule of law and civil rights conflict with their selfish interests. The government is only the tool.

      Why would we try to provide civil rights to people many of whom willfully threw out the civil rights they had in their own country when they didn’t get the outcomes they wanted? Wouldn’t that be like trying to “provide” democracy to Iraq? Does moving them here to my country magically make them change their attitudes en masse? How do I know they won’t become disgruntled again if dignity and the American dream don’t come in the time and manner they expect? As far as I can tell, many refugees in Europe are getting quite upset that they aren’t getting the dignity and outcomes they heard tell about. Many are lashing out in resentment.

      No. I will not support moving blocs of unexamined people here from self-destructive governments on the vague promise that they will take on American respect for civil rights and rule of law by osmosis. I do not trust large numbers of refugees to resist selling civil rights and freedoms out to the first politician who promises them equality of outcomes, just like they did in Venezuela.

      The United States is not a vending machine for dignity, civil rights, and just outcomes. Prove to me you understand and share the values that keep civil rights healthy, and then I am happy to have you move here–it matters not what country you come from. But I will not make the catastrophic mistake of assuming that someone from far away values the same institutions and attitudes I do. Any child who reads Aesop’s “The Frong and the Scorpion” knows better.

      • E. Olson says

        Petros – haven’t you heard of the “magic dirt” theory of immigration? You take people from failed cultures with no modern economy skills and bring them to a successful country (like the US, Germany, Australia, Canada, Sweden, etc.) with “magic dirt” and they immediately and automatically turn into productive, patriotic, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens. Furthermore, you can get even more magic results if you then give these new citizens affirmative action help so they can get the “magic dirt” from an Ivy League University and become Nobel Prize winners, Unicorn company entrepreneurs, etc. Magic dirt is the secret ingredient for “Diversity is our Strength”.

        • Jonny Sclerosis says

          E. Olson – have you heard of the magic birthplace theory? Every citizen of every country precisely matches their national stereotype as defined by all the other countries. No matter what they do or where they go, they can never be anything other than a caricature of their birthplace.

          This magic birthplace theory explains why all German-born immigrants wear lederhosen and eat nothing but bratwurst; all Brits are mal-toothed pantomime villains; all Venezualans are remorseless communist agitators in baseball shirts; all Americans are productive, patriotic, law-abiding taxpayers. In baseball shirts.

          Magic birthplaces are the secret ingredient for America being so incessantly Great.

          • E. Olson says

            Jonny, I know you are being sarcastic, but your magic birthplace theory actually is pretty accurate. European immigrants generally did bring with them above world-average IQs, Judeo-Christian traditions (including respect for law and education, decent worth ethic, and honesty), and very good skills and education (for their time) that proved to be useful and adaptable to the countries (i.e. US, Canada, Australia, S. Africa, etc.) where they emigrated in significant numbers. Their descendants to this day are still overwhelmingly productive contributors to the countries they live in while being relatively under-represented among the detractors of society (i.e. criminals, welfare recipients, school drop-outs, unemployed, terrorists). In contrast, immigrants from failed cultures/low IQ states tend to not assimilate well to advanced Western countries, and are therefore heavily represented among the criminals, welfare recipients, unemployed, terrorists, etc., while a much smaller relative portion prove to have the necessary skills, capacities, and values to be productive citizens in their adopted countries. In other words, Magic Dirt doesn’t work except in the minds of open-border/affirmative action Leftists.

        • TarsTarkas says

          ‘Magic dirt’ worked in this country for many years. ‘Give me your poor, your wretched’ wasn’t a slogan, it was reality in the US. Why? Because the US (in general) allowed the immigrants to keep the fruit of their labors, instead of making them beholden to landowners or the state. It didn’t start breaking down until the imposition of the welfare state in the 1960’s (the seeds were sowed in FDR times, but really didn’t sprout then), and even now many many immigrants work hard to better their lives instead of waiting for handouts. I should know, because my particular business constantly deals with many hard-working immigrants and minorities on a day-to-day business.

          • Daniel says

            Good heavens, people. Magic dirt, magic birthplace… The only important factor is individual choice. An immigrant is faced with completely assimilating, not assimilating at all, or some combination. Those that are most successful assimilate in the ways that are necessary, but also judiciously select which aspects of the host culture they want to make a part of their identity, and which aspects of their home culture they want to retain. Their wisdom in this determines the degree to which they will be successful.
            You can see this with people you know, who enter into a new situation; they may resist and resent it, and it may not work out. They will start to be successful when they buy in, though. And if hey retain the strengths and wisdom from their previous situation, they will be more so.

          • E. Olson says

            Sorry TarsTarkas, but you are wrong. The “poor and wretched” was a poem written by a school girl for a contest, and had little in common with the actual situation. Ellis island sent back anyone that was seriously sick and/or without a sponsor or cash to guarantee they would be able to support themselves. Later on they had to show they could read – in other words they weren’t poor and wretched. Also until the 1960s, almost all the immigrants to the US were from Europe, where they shared a common productive culture with the people they were joining. 50+ years ago there was also a lot of need for relatively unskilled labor and there was no welfare state, so those that came had to work or starve, but work was readily available. Finally, true mass assimilation didn’t occur until legal immigration was greatly restricted from the 1920s to the 1960s, and thus Italians, Irish, Greeks, etc. were forced to become “Americans” because there was no fresh supply of Italians, Irish, Greeks, etc. to reinforce the old traditions.

      • “Civil rights belong to a people who can keep them”

        Spot on. They also have to be able to *develop* them in the first place.

  14. Bill says

    When you compare the development of the US versus these recent situations you get a stark difference in the evolution of a country rich in local, natural resources. One hypothesis I draw the difference in national evolution is a result of resource use. Too many oil-rich states fail (in terms of societal welfare) because the money goes into the hands of the few. Why? Because the resource must be externally sold and the government claims the rights. The successful states are those where that underground resource is viewed as The People’s versus The Government’s.

    In the US, the natural resources were also locally consumed in the production chain (in no small part due to the time frame where international transport and “globalization” biased in favor of finished product transport versus raw material — bulk carriers just weren’t there/viable). As a result, an even greater number of The People received a direct or indirect benefit of the resource.

    The reason I prefaced with the above is that my theory based upon locality of production from raw material. Venezuela would be better served to NOT be an oil exporter but instead to focus on product development leveraging oil with an aim to export those products whatever they might be. Specific to oil, that might be direct production of things like plastics or indirect production such as cheap power — though oil is not the best for power production any longer. By pushing exports to higher in the production/supply chain a greater segment of the population benefits from the raw material. This isn’t to say that direct oil export is bad, but it requires a government structure free of corruption and any belief that you can replace a corrupt government with an non-corrupt by overthrow is as realistic as thinking any future SCOTUS nominee will ever be confirmed 98-0.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Australia is a very successful country, currently fighting it out with Russia for 12th biggest economy in the World. Australia’s success is based on the fact that it is a large exporter of minerals . Guess what, the Crown owns those minerals. But private enterprise digs them up and sells them i return for the payment of royalties to the Crown.
      That proves that the idea that ”the people” have to own a country’s resourses before that country will be a success is not correct.

  15. Agreeable Contrarian says

    I would never support my country getting involved in Venezuela, not even through the cutout of the UN. “Liberated Venezuela” would turn into yet another nation-state welfare black hole, in which the US pays their endless billions in bills while getting brow-beaten internationally for everything that must inevitably go wrong, as those inimical to the US fulminate problems in order to cause us problems.

    Venezuela doesn’t exist. It disappeared as a state a while ago, now held together by pseudo-state criminals, courtesy of socialism. I would suggest the contiguous states get together and divide the country in some mutually agreeable manner. In return for land, oil, etc., they agree to accept the citizens there and stabilize the region. Win-win-win.

    An alternative: the “moral superpowers” Sweden and/or Germany come over and do the job. That would be enormously entertaining to watch their high-mindedness meet third-world reality. “Erhmagerd. Vhere hast our budget surpluses get off to? Valking da valk hurts da feet.” I’d give it a year before Sweden’s cabinet is referring to Zuela as “that effing Schitholl country” (named, of course, after the Austrian economist F. Inge-Schitholl, who studied third-world monetary systems).

    Or maybe we can convince China to take on the task. After all, they are Marxist, too, so it would be a perfect fit. The world would get a case study in how the ChiComs operate, as China installs a Han overclass that siphons all their oil and turns Venezuelans into a explicit, permanent, dispossessed underclass. Maybe the giggling elite-ocrats at the UN would finally get a clue our president possesses more smarts than he lets on and has his priorities in better order than many realized.

    It would have the knock-on benefit of giving the Berkeley-knows-best crowd some real colonialism to protest (though I fear they’d find some way to style Chinese oppression of the Zuelans as the US’s fault, correctable by electing more black women to Congress and passing laws forbidding means words and plastic drinking straws).

    • ga gamba says

      Or maybe we can convince China to take on the task. After all, they are Marxist, too, so it would be a perfect fit. The world would get a case study in how the ChiComs operate, as China installs a Han overclass that siphons all their oil and turns Venezuelans into a explicit, permanent, dispossessed underclass.

      Fearing the risk of Beijing allowed to establish a naval and/or airbase base in Venezuela I doubt the US would allow such an intrusion near its soft underbelly. Further, Beijing might just be shrewd enough to subsidise prosperity in Venezuela for a couple of decades as an example of its enlightened rule in the hope other Latin American countries distance themselves from Washington in China’s favour. The goal being the US would have to devote attention and resources closer to home and further from mainland China, the South China Sea/Strait of Malacca, and East Asia.

  16. dirk says

    Uptil now, nobody mentioned the Monroe doctrine! In my students time, it would have been mentioned/shouted by somebody in the audience before anything else could have been argued!

  17. The US military should get out of the middle east. We should stop serving Israel’s interests by attacking their enemies. Instead, we should focus on the Americas.
    Invade Cuba and Venezuela, overthrow their regimes and give the Nuremberg trial for their ruling classes. Then we need to fight back the Mexican invasion at our southern border.

    • Contra. . . The point is to get someone else to shed their blood fighting the regime, and leave it to someone else to do the dirty “counter-insurgency” clean-up after that results in involuntary appearances before the Hague.

    • It is time the EVIL EMPIRE falls apart!!! Go kill eachother and split up into several smaller countries so humanity will finally progress!!!

  18. Sometimes what’s legal isn’t moral and sometimes what’s moral and fair isn’t practical. As much as I hate the Venezuelan regime, I don’t thing an military intervention is the solution. To start with, only the US has the means, there’s absolutely no change that an intervention would be sanction by the UN. This means the US would have to move alone. Can you guess what would happen next? Maybe, if Obama was still the president, there would be half a chance, but with Trump? It would be “death to America” festival all around the world. By the way, have you notice the total absence of “Americans go home” demonstrations since Trump was elected. It is a thankless job, to be the world police, and quite frankly you guys have bigger fish to fry at home. Don’t bother .

  19. Circuses and Bread says

    What I didn’t see explained in the article was how US or even European interests would be served by getting involved in yet another war to “liberate” people at great distance. Sure, the Venezuelan tale is a sad one. So is the tale of a lot of countries.

    Let’s maintain perspective. There are a lot more pressing issues to deal with closer to home. Such as the oppressive white male patriarchy. Or whether or not a court nominee groped another teenager 30 years ago.

  20. Darwin T of BC Humanists says

    Who inside Venezuela is calling for outside help? Anyone? Journalists, student dissidents or Indigenous groups perhaps? Venezuelan citizens living inside Venezuela must ask for outside help. The world is not hearing that now and without it they cannot win the narrative of change just yet.

    Until and unless Venezuelans demanding change are willing to risk their lives they cannot realistically expect the world to do that alone for them. Change sometimes requires physical courage and risk. This also means not only willing to die for change but willing to force change with violence. That’s right, organized and disciplined violence to effect change when no other options exist.

    Sad but necessary sometimes. Viva Venezuela libre?

  21. Most of the conversation in the article and comments is intellectual or economic. Mainly outsider views apparently. I’m more curious about the underlying social history that seems to pervade Latin American nations with a seemingly invariant cycle of right wing dictatorship to socialist disaster, and back again.

    My tentative idea is that there is something about Catholic culture that tends to generate a society with particular hallmarks that may be inimical to post-Enlightenment forms of government. In social terms, the Church values above all else the welfare and sanctity of the family. It is something I admire about Catholicism but it comes at an expense. Unless the families and individuals in a society are willing to sacrifice something of their home life in the interest of liberty, order and justice, there is little hope for peace and prosperity. Catholic precepts seem not to encourage this output sufficiently. An abstract (as opposed to partisan) personal responsibility and participation is needed to thwart organized powers that will otherwise only work in their own interest. Not making this investment means that the people expect someone else to run everything outside the sphere of family, often to their own detriment.

    As others have noted, Venezuela, as well as most other countries in the Americas, are blessed with abundant natural resources. By their history they also have ample opportunity to develop sound systems of governance and the means of fighting corruption. Could the Church be an impediment to the latter by its nearly exclusive emphasis on humanitarian and spiritual issues? The inertia in Latin American societies must be something beyond the economic and political dynamics that are visible on the surface.

    N.b.: Venezuela’s oil reserves are heavy crude and therefore costly to process. There is no refinery, hence no processing, in Venezuela. Both factors have a big impact on the reality of Venezuelan oil.

    • dirk says

      That’s an original thought, augustine, the church as scapegoat, because here on Quillette it’s mostly socialism and SJW targeted as the dirt. I lived 10 yrs in Mid and South America, the difference with Western nations is, I think, the patriarchal structure of society, started with the encomiendas, and now the haciendas with the big boss, his family, owning 1000s of acres where caretakers manage the estate (cattle mostly, easy, you don’t need to be on the farm). This system worked quite well for centuries, (and even now in most Latin American areas, far away from cities) for the estate owners as well as for the campesinos and workers, but, but, but…… there comes the wind of equality and human rights and international Manifests from the North, finish peace and comfort, the masses don’t take it no longer, sometimes they take over, initiated by a studied foreman, or priest, having read his Marx and Lenin in the libraries of the university where he was iinscripted , but ever so often, the former elite fights back and has its old privileges back for some time. Ad to this the local indigenous populations, the tribes, living by the millions in the mountains and hinterlands (los infieles, the untrustworthy thus), also all of ta sudden aware of their rights, and there you have the stage you depicted so eloquently. Latin America just hasn’t got the time to slowly come to terms with that equality we are so used to and feel comfortable in, like in a warm bath!

    • X. Citoyen says

      It’s a tempting hypothesis because of the predominance of Catholicism in South America, especially when contrasted with the very different fate of the seemingly Protestant North America and Western Europe. Yet there are good reasons to doubt that Catholicism is cause of South American woes. For one, Catholicism is a diverse faith, and different traditions dominate in different cultures. France and Italy have their problems, for example, but they do not have South American problems. Come to that, Spain and Portugal, the colonizers of South America, do not have Venezuelan troubles.

      Add to this that Catholics have more in common culturally and socially with their fellow citizens than they do with Catholics from other countries. Around 40% of the populations of nominally Protestant countries like Canada, Germany, and Switzerland are Catholic. Catholics also make up a quarter of the U.S. population, with large concentrations in both wealthy Massachusetts and poor Louisiana. Meanwhile, the very Protestant Deep South is poor by the standards of the very Catholic North East.

      None of this refutes the hypothesis. It’s possible there’s some local variation in Catholicism that has a malign influence or something in Protestantism (or some forms of it) that has a beneficial influence that has been picked up by local Catholics—or some combination of the two, plus a dozen other unknown factors. But even these few observations do speak against there being something inherent in Catholicism that has caused South America’s problems.

  22. This article is the world upside down!
    The criminal regime is the USA, a true FAKE democracy! It has virtualy a ONE party system, because both parties have the same warmongering policies and both make the rich even richer and are destroying the planet. Elections are COMPLETELY rigged, its citizens are FULLY brainwashed and kept stupid and ignorant. Only a small group of mostly rich people have the change to learn a bit more then the superficial lies that are spread by the poor education system and the biased media.

    • dirk says

      Harm, why not change to learn a bit more about English and spelling?

  23. ga gamba says

    No, it’s for the citizens of Venezuela to fight for their country. Send arms and equipment, provide training, nurture elements in the military to stage a coup, etc. If and when there’s a viable military force impose a naval blockage to prevent the regime’s re-arming, ensure no support coming from Cuba or elsewhere arrives, and end whatever trade it still conducted to finance itself.

    If the people aren’t willing to fight and make the sacrifices, it’s no one else’s responsibility to do so on their behalf.

  24. Jack B Nimble says

    I was amused by all the armchair generals in this thread, offering their various plans to overthrow the Maduro regime. I also thought of the message that some anti-communist crusaders sent to the Cuban people a few years ago–‘We have BIG PLANS for you, once you overthrow the Castro Bros.!’ Somehow I don’t think too many Cubans found that message appealing.

    And why has no one mentioned that H. Chavez, unlike most leftist rulers, came up through the military ranks? I’m pretty sure that his military background helped him anticipate and forestall coups subsequent to his own. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_career_of_Hugo_Ch%C3%A1vez

  25. The problem with doing free elections after toppling maduro, is that the political parties are all cutted under the same socialist ideas.

    There is no classical liberal thought at all in politics over there.

    • dirk says

      Of course, no classical liberal thought, Juegos, that’s not logical in Latin America. But a lot of other types of liberalism, yes, all those shop keepers, middle class citizens, teachers, medical service, estate owners and the workers there (who have seen that, whereever the lands were expropriated, production and jobs were gone too), and all those other productive hands and minds! The police and miltary forces probably will not vote for a change of regime, they are scared to death to lose their jobs and face mob justice.

  26. Did anyone pay attention in history class? Doesn’t matter what the intent, regime change by an external power just doesn’t work. Libya. Syria. Iraq. Afghanistan. Vietnam. The only one that might be counted as a partial success was the Balkans, and that was a separation, not a government replacement.

    Venezuelans have to resolve that situation. By themselves. It is not our place to decide what type of government any other country should have.

  27. dirk says

    In a former article in Q. on the Venezuelan Catastrophhe, early September, some clever Venezuelans that fled the country were mentioned, Ricardo Hausmann, of Harvard and IMF, and Carlos Arria, ambassador of the UN, there must be 100s of such intelligent, experienced and wise politicians/economists, their voice is missing here, but some here must know of them. Of course, they are the most knowledgeable ones and have to speak out on a shake-up, or potential regime change. Anybody who knows??
    What outsiders think or comment is not that important, of course!

  28. X. Citoyen says

    We in the West need an indefinite sabbatical from saving the world through military intervention for the simple reason that we lack the collective desire to do the things we’d need to do to “fix” broken regimes. Neoconservatives have persuaded many that a liberal democratic regime is just a government—fix the gov’t, fix the regime. This view made military intervention in the ME palatable because it only required toppling the gov’t in power—everything else would fall into place with, at most, a little adult supervision.

    It’s obvious now, however, that we should’ve listened to the older and wiser tradition that said liberal democratic gov’t is not the cause of liberal democratic regimes, but the effect of a robust civil society, which, in turn, is an effect of the population’s mores. Without these necessary conditions, you cannot set up a liberal democracy. And Western countries have never reached the broad, long-term consensus necessary to pay for, or, what’s perhaps more important, to do the things we’d need to do to change a regime at the foundational level.

    As an historical aside, the neocons aren’t completely to blame. The counterargument to the neocons was the rather obvious fact that those being helped lacked the social and cultural institutions needed for self-government. But our public discourse was and is crippled by (among other things) official cultural relativism. So anyone who dared to even intimate that such might be the case risked being driven from polite society.

    I’m not implicitly criticizing Westerners for going soft, by the way. Rebuilding regimes is a bloody business. That doesn’t come naturally to democratic people, even when they realize it’s necessary, and we’d be better off if such things didn’t come naturally to our militaries.

    As painful as it might be to watch from the sidelines, our half-measures would only stoke resentment among the population and provide fodder to domestic malcontents who’d turn failures and successes alike into evidence of our inherent villainy. We should follow Edward Luttwak’s advice about the ME and “let [the Venezuelans] have their history.”

    • Filius Roma says

      Please don’t bring the West into this. I am a Westerner and my country has had no part in regime building. This is strictly in the realm of Anglo-Saxon culture to do this, not the West.

  29. Filius Roma says

    Sovereign nations need to fight their own battles period. If this means millions are wiped out in the process, so be it. Venezuela will in the end be stronger for it. It does not need the help of outsiders to achieve this.

    • dirk says

      But Filius, how do you see that for Syria? Is it OK to annihilate whole sections of the (christian) population there? And in Birma, another case, the UN is not in the position to solve such problems any more. Of course, in V. no such annihilation, but what in case of a cruel civil war, like in Syria? Or in Bosnia? Tribal warfare in Africa?

      • Filius Roma says

        Then those people will be annihilated. Is that a good thing? No, of course not. Nor should it be endorsed, but it’s reality. Life isn’t fair. Life is hard, and it can be dangerous. It’s a cruel fate that some in the world might suffer, but the world will continue to spin regardless.

  30. AltagraciadeOrituco says

    As a Venezuelan (de pana que si, no es coba) the answer is a big NO. And this is coming from a guy who wants Maduro out ASAP. So why the apparent contradiction? Basically, because any foreign intervention will create a dangerous precedent and will be illegal. Anything else is wishful thinking at best.

    • dirk says

      At last, a real Venezuelan!! That”s most interesting! What”s that NO meaning, Orituco? Answer to whom? (not always clear at Quillette),No to an intervention of some sorts? And what about that illegal? International, or national laws? Don”t be silly, in such cases, law means nothing. As you yourself say, no es coba (for the audience here, a lie, just comforting, utopia, no strings or strength attached, no bombing back to justice, The Hague international justice not even enforced by USA).

    • Filius Roma says

      It’s not a contradiciton at all. Saying you want Maduro out but not wanting an intervention to do so is perfectly logical and reasonable. Intervention means that Venezuela no longer has sovereignty, and once intervention happens regaining that sovereignty is almost impossible. The Anglo appetite for meddling is ingrained in their culture. It’s part of the Protestant mentality that has woven into Anglo thought through the centuries that makes them believe intervention is the only option when it is in fact the worst option.

      • dirk says

        But what if you believe in universal truth, Filius, the islam does the same of course, but misses the bombs and the influence. In fact, I don’t believe it has much to do with religion, it has to do more with the power of the empire you belong to, thus with bombs and military presence. However, after Korea and Vietnam (and Iraq) this power is no longer purely material and boots on the lands, from now on, the struggle is one of other means, more subtle, education,propaganda, sanctions, fake news, just look at the old empire of Russia. So, no, I don’t believe it is just only Anglo Saxon mentality.

  31. dirk says

    Indeed, the dilemma foreign intervention- no intervention is not at all the dilemma here, instead- it is the form of the indirect ways, influence and support of the opposition, advice, training or financial support (the peaceful Dutch even paid the opposition forces in Syria and provided transport material, used to commit war crimes, and now feel compromitted very much, how could this has happened?, once?). It’s highly unlikely that in V.la no form of such indirect intervention will take place. What is likely–, that it happens, and is later denied in parlement. See examples Nicaragua, Salvador and Chile. Colonialism and military intervention is out, indirect intervention is in.

  32. Rich from Colorado says

    I’ll predict that US intervention into Venezuela would be a disaster and a huge quagmire. Don’t know how or why. But it would be. The only positive that might come out of it is that it might spark disengagement from the Middle East and Africa.

  33. An interesting argument against intervention: Venezuela serves as an example to the world of how dysfunctional far left socialist regimes are. Without such an example, there’s a greater risk of e.g. the United States adopting such a regime.

  34. An interesting argument for avoiding intervention: It’s better for Venezuela to continue existing so people know how dysfunctional a far left socialist government can get

  35. dirk says

    False hope, Joe, people will attribute the failure to other things as just that socialism (his forthcoming, busdriver, lack of financial experience, corruption, nepotism), and will maintain that Venezuela has/ never had no genuine socialism (which is partly true). Can you attribute the economic failures in Russia at the functioning of the new capitalist system/principles there? Where are you Gringo?

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