Sunday, August 25, 2013

Venezuela Mirroring U.S. Middle East Policy

Like his predecessor, Nicolás Maduro is showing solidarity with the Syrian government, blaming the United States for the violence there. It becomes a weird mirror image of U.S. policy. Whatever the U.S. supports, Venezuela opposes, and vice versa. One problem, though, is that U.S. policy in the Middle East is very inconsistent, and therefore is Venezuela's:

El primer mandatario venezolano aseveró que las fuerzas imperialistas "temen al pueblo árabe y el pueblo islámico, porque cuando ese pueblo organice una rebelión popular y se ponga de pie, ese día nos encontraremos América Latina, el pueblo islámico, el pueblo árabe y haremos otro mundo, haremos la revolución mundial".

So Maduro believes the U.S. fears the Middle Eastern "pueblo" while simultaneously denouncing that pueblo as it overthrows (or tries to overthrow) governments in Syria and Libya. Obama denounced that pueblo as it fought in Egypt, while Chávez applauded it. If the Iranian pueblo rises up, you know what Maduro will say.

Neither government cares much about those people no matter what they claim. Both care about their own interests, which means supporting friendly governments and opposing those that are unfriendly. Both are deeply hypocritical.


Justin Delacour 11:03 PM  

"So Maduro believes the U.S. fears the Middle Eastern 'pueblo' while simultaneously denouncing that pueblo as it overthrows (or tries to overthrow) governments in Syria and Libya."

The question comes down to whether the insurgencies you mention genuinely represent "el pueblo." Unfortunately, that's not so easy to ascertain. Nevertheless, I agree with your general point that to simply assume that one's own side represents "el pueblo" is a route with all sorts of ethical pitfalls.

Anonymous,  9:01 AM  

One false impression left by your commentary is that the US cares very much what Venezuela thinks about Syria or Egypt. Iran, yes, but in a more limited way than is often understood by the far right in Congress and the anti-American left of the blogosphere.

The major policy difference between Venezuela and the US lies in power and influence. No country, except perhaps a powerless one, can maintain a perfectly consistent nor "moral" policy in the rapidly changing landscape of the Middle East. Every position, except perhaps the "saintly" isolationism, opens up charges of hypocrisy.

Non-intervention also comes with consequences though its supporters often refuse to admit as much. The US can not be a bystander without being complicit in an outcome that it chooses to ignore. Unlike Venezuela, it can choose to weaken the Assad regime through concerted diplomatic and military measures. Everything from air strikes to naval blockades to ground troops is on or off the table.

I hope the president is not bound by worrying about appearing hypocritical to his critics (or public opinion in general). Most of the critics would say the same things regardless of what direction US policy goes. The main thing that should guide policy at this time is trying to make genuinely bad situations less so while pursuing the US's general interests.

Justin Delacour 10:20 AM  

"Every position, except perhaps the 'saintly' isolationism, opens up charges of hypocrisy."

Why not deal in specifics? Do you consider U.S. equivocation in the face of events in Egypt to be a sound approach? Why or why not?

What is your opinion of the U.S. approach to Syria?

Anonymous,  8:32 AM  

I think the point is that non-intervention for a great power is a choice with consequences. Advocates of non-intervention weigh in with a moral patina that is unwarranted. The administration is wrestling with very difficult and consequential policy choices. I am satisfied that the president is cautious, deliberate and weighing all the relevant factors. I am sure that the charge of hypocrisy will be leveled at his administration no matter what decision he makes. For me, the ethical imperative lends itself toward intervention in Syria while my utilitarian analysis would suggest staying out and launching a new diplomatic offensive against Assad. At least for now. I don't think the US government will forfeit credibility on its willingness to use force due to the "red line." I accept that delaying intervention or not intervening at all makes our government somewhat complicit in the brutal murder of civilians. I remain troubled by that.

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