Friday, July 28, 2017

The Administration Has No Positive Role to Play in Venezuela

Lots of discussion about the Trump administration's sanctions on Venezuelan officials and more generally what kind of role the administration can/should play.

I think what David Smilde recently wrote is characteristic of those who argue that the administration needs to be careful and that unilateral sanctions will likely be counterproductive:

The Trump administration can certainly do a lot to facilitate logistics and diplomacy around the negotiations. However, it must refrain from trying to lead and must resist adopting distracting unilateral actions.
Increasingly I am leaning toward the idea that the administration has no positive role to play at all. The idea that it could bring countries together, provide logistics, or talk to Nicolás Maduro in any sort of productive manner, seems silly. The Secretary of State has shown no ability to do any such thing, and in any case is peripheral to (or perhaps even absent from) decision-making. Indeed, the president undercuts him all the time. Lots of lower level positions are unfilled, and even qualified people need their instructions from above. There is no one above with the diplomatic skills to explain what's needed. For whatever reason, Secretary Tillerson himself seems to be avoiding the issue of Venezuela.

In short, the United States should and could be playing a role in bringing hemispheric partners together but it is simply unable. The Trump administration has alienated almost everyone, has no leverage anywhere, and tends to make things worse when it acts. Therefore it's preferable that it does nothing.


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