Thursday, August 22, 2019

Is Trump's Venezuela Policy Inconsistent?

Cynthia Arnson of the Wilson Center has a post about the Trump administration's policy toward Venezuela, which she calls a "contradiction" and an "inconsistency." She details all the humanitarian problems U.S. policy exacerbates in the region and concludes:

For now, all the chest-thumping in the world cannot obscure the central inconsistency of Trump administration policy:  a gamble that inflicting maximum economic pain on the Maduro regime will make it cry ‘uncle,’ while leaving others to handle the human costs.
My immediate thought as I was reading was, as the saying goes, the cruelty is the point. Trump does not care about the humanitarian disaster and has no sympathy for what neighboring countries face. He has no reason to. He believes U.S. standing in the region is based on brute force, and that hard power protects our national interests. Why else punish Central America when doing so prompts more emigration?

Put another way, Trump likely sees the humanitarian disaster as part and parcel of forcing the Maduro regime to cry uncle. When refugees flood into other countries, that may well serve the purpose of making them push harder for regime change. Further, he does not want to grant TPS to Venezuelans because his xenophobic base won't like it. That base is more important than the hardline one in Florida, which in any case knows the Democratic candidates are likely to support easing off this policy.

In sum, if you were president and a) wanted regime change; and b) were not bothered by human suffering, this might seem to be a perfectly logical and internally consistent policy.


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