Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Do Not Invade Venezuela

I don't have answers for Venezuela. I do know, however, that there are some options that will make things worse. Invasion is one example. Ricardo Hausmann is now making that case. Here is the crux of his plan:

As solutions go, why not consider the following one: the National Assembly could impeach Maduro and the OFAC-sanctioned, narco-trafficking vice president, Tareck El Aissami, who has had more than $500 million in assets seized by the United States government. The Assembly could constitutionally appoint a new government, which in turn could request military assistance from a coalition of the willing, including Latin American, North American, and European countries. This force would free Venezuela, in the same way Canadians, Australians, Brits, and Americans liberated Europe in 1944-1945. Closer to home, it would be akin to the US liberating Panama from the oppression of Manuel Noriega, ushering in democracy and the fastest economic growth in Latin America.

For starters, this is not Panama and should not be compared to it. Manuel Noriega was far more brutal and despised than Nicolás Maduro. Panama was also a country with a history of U.S. presence, occupation, and intervention. Venezuela is the opposite and so the dynamics will be far more combustible. And this sure as hell isn't World War II so stop with those comparisons already.

But back to Venezuela. Who is going to be proclaimed supreme leader of this new government? Obviously he or she won't be elected and the opposition is not popular. Venezuelans have shown no signs that they want someone Hausmann would approve of. This leader will immediately be illegitimate.

Next, the idea that a Latin American country would send its military into Venezuela is problematic. The long-term diplomatic damage would be huge. Right now, leaders can barely be coaxed to condemn Maduro, much less call for violent overthrow. Which European countries would want to be a part of this? Really? And I have to wonder whether Donald Trump is even crazy enough to send U.S. troops.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this would be civil war. Many Chavistas want change but it is dangerous to assume this is the change they want. Many will likely see this as an oil grab, Maduro's conspiracy theories in real life. Foreign soldiers invited by an unelected government will not be received kindly. Venezuela is awash in weapons, and a lot of people will die.

So I don't claim to have answers, but this is one we should reject.


Noctis 10:10 AM  

This wouldn't be a surefire way of ending the dictatorship, I concede that, but your analysis is problematic.

First, it is clear that Hausmann is just pointing out that some interventions work, that interventions aren't inherently negative. He does not draw parallels between Venezuela and other conflicts. Is Venezuela different? Yes. It is also different from Afghanistan and Iraq. Parallels (or the lack thereof) are not an argument for or against intervention.

You go on to state that someone will be proclaimed Supreme Leader. Of course, it's just a bit of hyperbole, but it assumes that someone will rule alone. Venezuela has a long history of transitional juntas that do little more than organize elections, couldn't that be an alternative?

Yeah, building a coalition to do this is difficult, but not impossible. That difficulty is not a reason to stop calling for an intervention, it's a reason to target and louden the call (if you believe in intervention).

Finally. This might be seen as a confirmation of Chavez's conspiracies, and that would be problematic, true. What's not true is that a) the National Assembly is an unelected government--they were elected on December 2015, through regular procedure and b) that this would spark a civil war--the army is being deliberately weakened to keep them from rising up and armed criminals are a problem that any opposition government, regardless of how they access power, will have to deal with.

Noctis 10:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg Weeks 1:39 PM  

On #1 I disagree because he clearly drew parallels with Panama.

On #2, the 2002 experience was not that of a transitional junta. It was more like a Supreme Leader.

On #3, I think it is impossible to believe that Latin American countries will help invade.

On #4, I never said the National Assembly was unelected. But it is clearly not the executive branch. Proclaiming someone as the new executive would mean unelected.

Also #4, I do think it would mean civil war.

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