Venezuela, with its leftist dictator Nicolas Maduro, is already a basket-case. The country is in a state of economic meltdown, other Latin American countries are isolating his regime, and ordinary Venezuelans are rallying against their government. Now President Trump has said that he is considering a “military option.”
But why? And that threat has only made matters worse. Latin America–which had been on our side against Venezuela–is now rallying in its support, at this invocation of the old American “gun-boat diplomacy.” So are the people of Venezuela, including those opposed to Maduro but who do not want to see their country invaded.
The president told reporters, after issuing economic sanctions against the country, “We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”
This came at the worst possible time as Vice-President Pence just returned from meeting with South American leaders to organize the opposition to Maduro.
The United States has a long history of intervening in Latin American nations, sending troops and invading them to support American interests. The United States has long been trying to live down that reputation and has made progress in building more positive relationships with the countries of South and Central America.
And now President Trump threatens to invade Venezuela.
This, even though President Trump had promised during the election not to get into any more pointless wars that are not unrelated to the defense of the United States. This is why many of us voted for him!There is no conceivable American interest in invading Venezuela and overthrowing Maduro. Especially since he is clearly on his way out anyway!
But the world needs to understand this: President Trump is just talking. He is using words to intimidate Maduro. And the president is speaking off the top without thinking through what he is saying, as he does so often.
He is not going to invade Venezuela. He is clearly not a diplomat, for whom words always have to be carefully considered and nuanced.
But there is a good reason for that attention to words.
UPDATE: With the Venezuela statement, the president was more specific than he should have been. But in responding to the neo-Nazi who ran his truck into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring dozens, he was vaguer than he should have been. He condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” setting up a moral equivalency between the “many sides” rather than condemning the specific “hatred, bigotry and violence” of the white nationalists who were rallying in Charlottesville, one of whom killed the protesters.
This just fuels the narrative that President Trump, despite his denials, supports the white nationalists (who admittedly support him).
President Trump needs a 15-second delay before his words go public. He needs to start relying on speech-writers and staff members to compose and vet his statements, in line with what other presidents have done. He needs to stop tweeting, stop meeting with the press, and stop talking off the top of his head.
As it is, not only our diplomatic relationships with other countries are damaged, his political standing in this country is damaged and thus his ability to implement his agenda and “make America great again.”