Venezuela

This 2008 Video Game Is an Oddly Prescient Cautionary Tale About Venezuelan Intervention

In Mercenaries 2, China and the U.S. fight over pieces of Venezuela, before the entire country is wrecked by a nuclear warhead.

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PlayStation promo art via MobyGames.com

After the events of the past week, Venezuela seems ready to combust. With National Security Advisor John Bolton declaring that "All options are on the table" and powerful international blocs forming behind President Nicolas Maduro and his newly inaugurated rival Juan Guaido, it now seems possible that the U.S. might find itself drawn into a Venezuelan civil war, perhaps even to the point of putting boots on the ground.

What happens next is anyone's guess. One set of predictions, which at this point is about as good as any other, can be found in the 2008 video game Mercenaries 2: World in Flames.

In Mercenaries 2, the player assumes control of a mercenary hired by Venezuelan gangster and businessman Ramon Solano to help him overthrow the government. Solano then double-crosses the mercenary and carries out his coup, installing himself as a president "for the people" and nationalizing the country's oil industry (which, although the game is set in present day, actually happened in 1976). The mercenary swears revenge.

Following Solano's takeover, armed conflict quickly breaks out between the Venezuelan army, the hard-left People's Liberation Army of Venezuela (PLAV), and private security forces hired by the American oil company Universal Petroleum to defend their assets from government takeover. The player is free to work with either of these factions to destabilize Solano's government.

Most missions involve blowing things up, frequently in the heavily populated capital city of Caracas. Killing a civilian costs the player $10,000, but the mission parameters often make it difficult to avoid, and in the in-game economy, $10,000 isn't really that much.

Over the course of a single playthrough, I'd guess I killed about 100 civilians, mostly with poorly aimed airstrikes, a favorite tool of foreign invaders hesitant to risk their own troops. In Iraq, American-led coalition forces killed over 14,000 civilians between 2003 and 2011, and just like in Mercenaries 2, a majority of those deaths were caused by airstrikes.

As Solano becomes more aggressive, the U.S. and China invade Venezuela in order to ensure a reliable supply of oil. In our world, I doubt there's any danger of the U.S. and China going to war over Venezuela, but the U.S. decision to support Guaido while China backs Maduro could place more stress on a diplomatic relationship already strained by an ongoing trade war.

In Mercenaries 2, the direct involvement of foreign superpowers introduces (or "unlocks") larger and deadlier vehicles and munitions that can make mincemeat of a skyscraper in seconds. In the same way, America's long war in Afghanistan has flooded that country with advanced weaponry, destroying infrastructure and all but guaranteeing that any post-withdrawal conflict will be, in the words of one analyst, "very bloody and very long."

The fictional Venezuelan crisis then reaches its apex when Solano uses a North Korean nuclear warhead to destroy either the American or Chinese headquarters (depending on which faction the player has chosen), after which the mercenary quickly tracks down and kills Solano. Maduro has no nuclear weapons, and even if he did, it is obviously unlikely that that he would risk irradiating his own country, but warfare often devastates the environment in other ways. In Iraq, for example, oil fires and other forms of "conflict pollution" have damaged air quality and led to shortages of clean water.

The game's masterstroke, though, comes in the final cutscene. Although Mercenaries 2 opens with a big-picture cinematic that sets the geopolitical scene, the story ends with the team of mercenaries congratulating each other. Nobody says a word about the future of Venezuela. Now that the country has been utterly destabilized, its cities bombed, its people slaughtered, and its land and water irradiated, nobody asks how the country they've so gleefully destroyed might be rebuilt. As with so many other wars of regime change, the foreign meddlers can leave, while the newly "liberated" Venezuelans are left picking up the pieces.

Regime change might seem like a good idea, but as Mercenaries 2 shows, it frequently leads to entanglement, destruction, and chaos. Would Venezuela be better off without Maduro? Certainly. But if America's leaders allow themselves to be drawn into a Venezuelan civil war, their decision to support Guaido could end with Venezuela in flames.

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  1. I know Reason is on the culture beat but this, seriously?

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    1. Not even with your dick.

  2. “if America’s leaders allow themselves to be drawn into a Venezuelan civil war”..

    …then they are idiots. Just park a hospital ship and a couple of destroyers off the coast and take care of the casualties and help the refugees escape to Columbia or Panama or Brazil or Chile or Argentina – just not to the US.

    1. help the refugees escape to Columbia or Panama or Brazil or Chile or Argentina – just not to the US.

      Wouldn’t that be as immoral as the people who are helping Mexicans illegally enter the US? Shouldn’t we, if we did anything, *prevent* refugees from fleeing Venezuela? ‘Because they need to fix their own country’?

      1. Colombia has already taken in a million Venezuelan refugees. Brazil, Argentins, Psnama and Chile also hundreds of thoussnds. Even Ecuador has 300,000 Venezuelans living there.

        The battleships are a great idea though. Just seeing them will give the Venezuelan military second thoughts

  3. Trump’s a blowhard, but unlike Obo, he’s yet to start any new wars, so the “if” here is a big one.

    1. At what point in his term was Obama’s first new war? Libya? Or was there something before that?

      1. 2001 – or roughly 3 years after he took office. Oh hey, look what year it is now.

          1. 2001 better theme song

  4. off topic but a Governor is now talking about after birth abortions. when they get this outlandish people who were on the fence about timing of abortions will only decide to not allow any abortions. I’m one of those people

  5. so not Zaxxon then?

  6. Wow, this is like an immersive bath in weirdness. We have :

    (1) The original post, which must be intentionally dumb. There’s no way that level of dumb is accidental.
    (2) One comment on the mutant love-child of Steve Buscemi & Jennifer Lawrence
    (3) One comment on the hazards of Driving While Canadian
    (4) One comment on abortion, God knows why (apparently it’s the go-to topic of the Deity)
    (5) One comment on affording a BMW by working at home (which looks pretty good about now)

    Reason dern’t get no more reasonable than all that… Going out on a limb, I hold the Venezuela situation does not require a nuclear strike – or any military intervention at all. Just patience, as the poor country is already on the verge of collapse. Right now there are few places on Earth more godforsaken than Venezuela. Maybe if the Big Guy spent less time worrying about abortion?

    1. Did you mean to post this here? Because I definitely want to see the Buscemi/JLaw post, and I’m missing it now.

      1. Man, I saw the video now. Nevermind.

        1. Kinda scary, huh?

          1. Mostly puzzling and weird.

    2. You must be new here. Silly posts get silly comments.

      1. Fairly new. Are there many posts this silly?

        1. They’re the best part. The rest of the site is arguing with John or Tony.

    3. so your okay with post birth abortion, thats what they are actively promoting now. I was hopeing someone at reason would question such a thing but i guess now its okay to kill your kids at any time

      1. Who are “they”? Are you suggesting this is becoming a mainstream position? How about a link, or at least a name?

        1. VA Democrat Governor Ralph Northam arguing in favor of the infanticide yesterday

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkTopSKo1xs

      2. Slade will probably do something on it. From her Twitter she is actively pursuing information on this. Doing journalistic activity rather than fast hot takes.

        Honestly, Slade is great.

  7. I really loved Mercs 2 in spite of being horribly buggy. What could have been…

  8. I think that old video game missed a real chance for synergy with a formerly popular other game.

    “You’ve destroyed this country? Now put it back together with SimCountry. Do you invest in oil fields? Infrastructure? The military? Do you align with the United States, or, with China? Your choices are endless.” 🙂

    1. That’s either Actraiser or Tropico basically.

  9. The author’s second to last paragraph completely contradicts his point about Afghanistan (and Iraq). One of the largest problems isn’t that we changed the regime and left. We changed the regime and then found out we couldn’t leave. Libua would have been a far better example.

    1. But wouldn’t Panama be a better example? Oh wait, Regime changed actually improved the situation for most Panamanians, who have had a fairly stable government since.

      1. In fact Panama and Costa Rica are considered by the State Department to be fairly safe for Americans and fairly stable. They are the out two countries in Central America to be rated a level one travel advisory.

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