We’ve all viewed the scenes from Venezuela with disgust. A corrupt socialist dictator is abusing his people and violently hanging on to power with help from the Cubans and Russians. The nation is starving and in chaos. President Trump has better info than us on this and no doubt is even more disgusted.
Yet respectfully, sir, it does not warrant boots on the ground in any significant number. Do not pull a Da Nang 65. You, and we, will regret it.
One of the best parts of the Trump campaign was that he recognized the folly of the Iraq War. There too was a corrupt socialist dictator, as he was a Baath Party member, treating his people like animals and reducing his country to thralldom. He was propped up by Russia. On this noble pretext and basic humanitarianism (I’ll get to WMDs in a moment), we went in and accomplished what? We neutered Iraq as a counterweight to Iran, the real foe, and the government now there plays both sides of the fence with the Islamists and us. They have to, as they knew eventually most of our forces would leave.
WMDs? They were probably there. However, we telegraphed our punch so long they were moved and the missiles didn’t have the range to hit us anyway. They could have hit the Straits of Hormuz and interrupted oil transport. Just once. There wouldn’t be a weapon standing after we responded to that. They could have hit Israel. They would have soon found out Israel had the best Anti-tactical Ballistic Missile (ABM) system in the world, even then. Then the Israelis would have turned Iraq into a charred lifeless hole in Asia Minor.
I am no pacifist. As Jack Kemp used to say, “I’m a dove. An extremely well-armed dove.” When American interests are at stake, as they are in Venezuela, I have no problem acting. Though large numbers of ground troops are not the answer here. A coordinated multinational alliance-backed coup (think Operation Ajax) is the way to go. Perhaps even covert operators in small numbers on the ground and air support. The troops, if any, must be Venezuelan. Or, if they won’t rebel, then Colombians and Brazilians, all under the Organization of American States (OAS). Both national leaders, to relieve the regional migrant crisis, may be amenable to the idea.
These types of plans are likely percolating at the NSC.
What we don’t want is an overwhelming quick victory followed by a recurring insurgency and then responsibility for the joint. As Colin Powell tried to point out, before we went in, regarding Iraq in his Pottery Barn Doctrine, “If you break it. You buy it.”
So sure. Topple Maduro. Rid the nation of his noxious rule. But put American interests first, which are not served with another fully committed Iraq-like quagmire.