Not too long ago, President Donald Trump made headlines by suggesting a potential military option in Venezuela in the face of the country’s rapidly decaying political situation.
It’s undeniable that Venezuela is suffering a humanitarian and economic crisis of unprecedented proportions all thanks to the socialist policies that the country has experimented with over the past two decades. But a military intervention in Venezuela is likely to be costly and damaging to Americans, while disastrous for Venezuelans.
The Problems with Intervention
The harsh reality is that an intervention in Venezuela is no cure-all for its present dilemma. In fact, it has the potential to make matters worse.
The U.S. has already bungled its interventionist nation-building schemes in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending billions intervening in these countries and concocting every scheme possible to continue its failed nation-building fantasies.
The only situation in which a US military intervention in Venezuela would be justified is if Venezuela committed military aggression against the United States. But the chances of that scenario occurring are very low. The country is in such dire straits that it can barely even feed its own military, let alone coordinate a military invasion of a foreign country.
Even if an intervention consisted of removing Maduro from power, Maduro’s exit does not guarantee a stable atmosphere for future governments. In fact, the current crisis could devolve into a chaotic civil war, where U.S. troops could get caught in the crossfire between various factions taking advantage of the chaos.
And one must also ask why should U.S. taxpayers be on the hook for “fixing” problems caused by a regime endorsed by the voting majority of Venezuela?
That’s not to say that American citizens should not attempt to provide private humanitarian aid to Venezuelans. But the American state is not going to be the solution in Venezuela’s current crisis.
Potential Destabilization Factors
The potential for disaster is emphasized by the fact that Venezuela’s collapse has spread well beyond the economic sphere. It has infected the very social fabric of the country itself.
One example of how state institutions have spread disorder to the larger society is the group of prison chieftains known as “pranes.” These pranes effectively control Venezuelan prisons through massive drug and weapon trafficking schemes. But their reach goes beyond the prison, these criminal strongmen act as de facto warlords that run protection rackets and provide black market jobs to those in desperate need of work. These criminal elements have been the main drivers of Venezuela’s notoriously high crime rates and have morphed into a parallel state in times where traditional Venezuelan institutions have all but collapsed.
Any type of destabilizing intervention in Venezuela would likely allow the pranes to use the situation to further consolidate their power.
A Modest Proposal
If the US were to have any diplomatic role in how Venezuela transitions out of its current tyrannical regime, It should pledge to recognize and engage in unilateral free trade with any breakaway regions of Venezuela that seek to escape the current regime.
The state of Zulia, for example, in northwest Venezuela, is already known for its fiercely independent and regionalist culture that bucks popular social and political trends in Caracas. Indeed, Delcy Rodriguez, the president of Venezuela’s national assembly, recently felt it necessary to reiterate opposition to secessionist movements in the country:
Rodríguez warned that they will not allow any secessionist movement known as ‘the crescent moon’, a denomination that confers to the figure that form the states of Zulia, Táchira and Mérida, won by the opposition in the elections of the October 15th.
With coastline, a border with Colombia, and with the largest oil and gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere, Zulia has the potential to transform into a regional powerhouse with the right institutional underpinnings and serve as a competing political entity to the traditionally top-down Venezuelan state.
Under such circumstances, at least some Venezuelans would no longer have to be shackled by Caracas’s orbit; and the new independent region could also offer safety to many Venezuelan dissidents.
Instead of promoting a heavy-handed intervention, the U.S should look at diplomatic recognition and trade with movements that seek to break up the tyrannical grip of the current Venezuelan political order. Lending support to a Venezuelan version of Taiwan would certainly be a wiser choice rather than yet another costly and potentially disastrous military intervention.