Friday, June 03, 2016

Barack Obama and Venezuela

Barack Obama is walking a fine line in the Venezuela crisis. He can push the OAS, but forcing a vote and losing weakens U.S. policy considerably. He can speak out, but too much will simply give Nicolás Maduro rhetorical ammunition for little gain. Rhetorical wars never work. His policy, then, is primarily to use the model already being followed in Colombia and get neutral outsiders to foster dialogue. Whether or not that will work is open to question, but Obama has few options.

On the left, he's criticized for doing too much and leading an imperialist plot to overthrow Maduro and take Venezuela's oil. This does not mention the fact that the U.S. already has ample access to Venezuelan oil.

On the right, he's criticized for not doing anything, when he should be leading a "rescue," which is defined as having the OAS give Venezuela a list of things it must do. This does not mention the fact that the OAS is simply not built for doing any of those things. Remember how George W. Bush outlined a comprehensive policy of everything Cuba should do, claiming it was a regional effort? If you want isolation, contempt, and failure, then go for it.

This is yet another example of how people overestimate what the U.S. realistically do. The U.S. can't just pull OAS strings. The U.S. cannot swoop in and save the day. And it shouldn't.


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