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Military Intervention in Venezuela Would Be a Reckless, Dangerous Option

The push for intervention is no surprise, and it should be given no quarter.

|||Johnny Louis/JL/Sipa USA/NewscomJohnny Louis/JL/Sipa USA/NewscomPublic anger over appalling deprivation led to continued protests in Venezuela this past weekend, demonstrations that were brutally suppressed by the government of embattled President Nicolás Maduro. On Twitter, Sen. Marco Rubio seasoned his commentary on Venezuela's chaos with a triptych of wordless posts showing paired photos of dictators—Panama's Manuel Antonio Noriega, Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu, and Libya's Moammar Gaddafi—before and after they were deposed. The Gaddafi tweet, which showed the former strongman shortly before his brutal execution by rebels who had been aided by U.S. military force, made Rubio's meaning especially clear: Maduro needs to go, and the United States should make it happen.

This push for U.S.-orchestrated regime change is no surprise coming from Rubio. Regardless of its source, the proposal should be given no quarter. This is a humanitarian crisis, not a security threat. American military might is not the solution to Venezuela's woes, and even calling for this sort of intervention may exacerbate an already horrifying situation.

Recognizing this reality does not require denying or downplaying the desperate misery Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have caused their people. Though Maduro's present border closure to keep humanitarian aid out of the country is an escalation, severe shortages of food and other necessities have locked Venezuela in crisis for years. Infant mortality rates have spiked as children literally die of hunger. Inflation has reached catastrophic levels, and at every turn the Maduro government has responded with further corruption, irrationality, and abuse. It is no wonder that opposition leader and U.S.-recognized interim president Juan Guaidó has rallied so many to his cause, and it is only right to want Venezuela to look very different than it does now.

But recent history should make the hubris, futility, and risk of an American military intervention just as obvious.

Rubio's own example makes this point well. Is post-Gaddafi Libya a good future for Venezuela? Is that really a model to be emulated? Gaddafi, like Maduro, deserved not an ounce of power. But the 2011 NATO intervention cost much and accomplished little—or, at least, little we should want to repeat. U.S.-facilitated regime change in Libya was not a transformation from dictatorship to democracy but from regime to civil war. Libya remains plagued by violence today, split between competing forces including a branch of the Islamic State.

Venezuela will not fall prey to ISIS, of course, but the constancy of human nature when power is on the line makes a similar turmoil all too possible.

Of crucial concern to the situation in Venezuela, where many advocates of intervention have made their case on humanitarian grounds, there is good evidence that U.S. action in Libya made the humanitarian situation worse. "NATO's action magnified the conflict's duration about sixfold and its death toll at least sevenfold," estimates Alan Kuperman in a policy brief for Harvard's Belfer Center; it "also exacerbating human rights abuses, humanitarian suffering, Islamic radicalism, and weapons proliferation in Libya and its neighbors." Military intervention in Venezuela could likewise prolong and expand Venezuelans' troubles. It also makes the United States much more responsible for the long-term investments that Venezuela will surely need if it ever hopes to rebuild. The empathetic impulse that gives the humanitarian intervention argument its power should, informed by recent history, steer us to a more prudent path.

The mere discussion of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela is arguably risky, too, and Rubio's Gaddafi post is particularly reckless in this regard. Threatening him with a gory death is unlikely to coax Maduro from power. If anything, it will encourage him to fortify whatever grasp on power he has left.

The prospect of U.S. invasion could also be a boon to Maduro's cause, allowing him to rally support by pointing to past U.S. meddling in Latin America and painting himself as Venezuela's champion against American imperialists, as he has done before. Already Maduro has been able to turn U.S. humanitarian aid (the food he won't let across the border) into a political issue, precisely because American help has been paired with talk of regime change: On Monday, he accused Washington of "trying to fabricate a crisis to justify political escalation and a military intervention in Venezuela to bring a war to South America."

Unfortunately, Rubio has been an influential voice on Venezuela for the Trump administration. Despite Trump's campaign-trail invective against avoidable wars, his policy here may yet be swayed by Rubio's bluster. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to reject the use of military force when asked by Fox host Chris Wallace, affirming instead that "every option is on the table" and that Washington will "do the things that need to be done" to guarantee Venezuelan democracy and "put force behind the voice of the Venezuelan people."

The next day, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Colombia to meet with Guaidó, and senior administration officials told The Washington Post that military intervention was not immediately likely—which is not at all the same as saying a military intervention will not happen.

But that is exactly what Pence should say. As in Libya (to say nothing of other recent U.S. regime-change projects, such as Afghanistan and Iraq), there is no question the United States can toss out the dictator. Bringing peace and democracy to the country is another thing entirely, as our Mideast misadventures make all too clear. Rubio is right that Maduro is bad for Venezuela, but it would be folly and cruelty to wage war to force him out.

Photo Credit: Johnny Louis/JL/Sipa USA/Newscom

Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities and weekend editor at The Week. Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, Politico, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Relevant Magazine, The Hill, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.

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  • SIV||

    Little Marco?

  • Just Say'n||

    "NATO's action magnified the conflict's duration about sixfold and its death toll at least sevenfold,"

    But, NATO is important and it's an alliance of sunshine and gum drops and little puppies

  • JFree||

    Rubio and other Cuban emigres are a big reason the Castro model is still persuasive to many in Latin America. Every caudillo needs an enemy. The US has a pretty sordid history of being that enemy. And the Rubios are basically the clap - the gift that keeps giving

  • BigT||

    Golf clap.

    I finally get that meme.

  • Just Say'n||

    And he's doing regime change all wrong. Just start talking about how Maduro is allied with Putin and you'll have MSNBC screaming about the nefarious Russian plot to interfere in Venezuela's election or something stupid like that.

    That's how they got the US to arm Ukraine and put missiles back in eastern Europe

  • mtrueman||

    In 1812 American forces invade Upper Canada, not far from Detroit. They are welcomed as liberators until they burn Canadian crops.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Funny that you call the area near Detroit 'Upper Canada'. Shuoldn't that be 'Lower Canada'?

  • JFree||

    Upper is how you describe the upper river. The Great Lakes area being the upriver part of the St Lawrence River/Gulf where only river boats are needed. The Gulf of St Lawrence and the estuary/mouth/delta being where ocean ships port. (called Lower Canada - roughly Quebec)

  • Bubba Jones||

    We should invade and set Rubio up as our ambassador.

  • BigT||

    Marco should be leading the invasion force, in the first landing craft.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Rubio likes to imagine himself as a badass, ready to send your children into combat, for votes. I bet he would be afraid to mano a mano Maduro over a chess board, the 2D kind even. Deep inside, Marco knows he's an empty suit.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I would love to break Maduro's neck with my own hands.

    Sometimes you just gotta kill commie for mommy.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    To clarify, I am NOT in favor of invading Venezuela. I just wouldn't mind killing Maduro with my own hands.

  • ||

    We should invade and set Rubio up as our ambassadorviceroy.

  • ||

    I'm a big fan of the U.S military, but I am not a fan on intervening in other countries internal affairs.

    Let the Venezuelans sort things out themselves.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    Christ what an asshole.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Someone should accuse Rubio of culturally appropriating the Venezuelan crisis.

  • Jerry B.||

    "Trump wants to invade Venezuela" Is right up there with "Trump is a racist". It's spoken as revealed truth, and no corroboration is provided.

  • Heraclitus||

    The situation in Venezuela is very similar to what happened in Iraq in 2001. The media is failing in its role to be critical of anything. They eagerly spout the propaganda of US politicians and are overly critical of anything said in defense of the Venezuelan government. But the facts are that ever since Chavez won power we have marked Venezuela as an enemy even in times when their economy grew and hunger was drastically cut. Many elections have come and gone and in each instance international bodies have deemed them fair. They have a free press and a large private sector but one would never get past the Socialist label. Our sanctions and our support for the private importers who actively withhold food supplies plays a large role in causing hunger. Also, since when has hunger been a cause for regime change? Let's be honest, hunger and poverty are a pretext and nothing more. When countries play the US economic game and have hunger and poverty we are perfectly fine with their governments. I have extreme skepticism of the narrative that has been put out by the Bush/Obama/Trump administrations. I don't believe we would ever "invade" but I don't doubt for a minute that we are covertly supporting variances groups whose intent is to destabilize the country and make conditions ripe for a coup.

  • BigT||

    Free press????? Hahaha!!

    Have you forgotten that Madman has shuttered the courts, murdered newsmen, and devastated their oil industry??

    The other Latin American countries are all in agreement that Madman was falsely elected and must step down.

    Earth to Harryclitus!!

  • D-Pizzle||

    The Venezuelan people made their own bed. Lesson: Do not ever vote for socialists.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    We should be supportive of their efforts to rid themselves of the scourge of socialism, and Maduro in particular. We should NOT be sending in our military to make it happen.

  • Sikhotealinz||

    Has the author personally visited Venezuela to see her "horrors" first hand? What about Max Blumenthal's first hand videos that show quite normal conditions compared to other 3rd world Latin countries? What kind of MSM media event has taken over USA foreign policy since fake White Helmets poison gas and other fake atrocities while real atrocities in places like Yemen are blacked out of the news? Saudi Arabia-Israel-USA collusion leads to unquestioned human rights violations simultaneiously with Bolton and ex-con liar Elliot Abrams drumming up yet another foreign intervention. It is all caveat emptor as we pay for fake news with our purchases of advertised goods and services. It is time to boycott all good advertised in MSM media, TV, Newspapers, internet, film and magazines. Opt out and unplug from the war machine.

  • BigT||

    "Has the author personally visited Venezuela to see her "horrors" first hand? "

    Probably not. But there are about a million people in Columbia who left Venezuela who can attest to the facts as she reported.

    Fool.

  • IndependentTexan||

    Colombia is the threatened country here, not the US. There is nothing for us to do for Venezuelans except to pray for them, to advocate for a peaceful transition to an elected government, to provide humanitarian aid, and perhaps to give advice to Colombia to the extent they ask for it. Beyond that ... nada.

    If there is any need to fight and die for Venezuelan freedom, it is the Venezuelan people themselves who should do the fighting and dying.

  • Brandan||

    The author conveniently leaves out:
    1) A single US backed Coup in South America
    2) All countries that support non-interventionism and recognize Maduro (she only lists the ones viewed as the "baddies" in US society)
    3) That Venezuela is accepting aid, just not from the United States. And even the Red Cross won't assist US aid packages because as they have publicly stated, "the US's interest is politically motivated."

  • JohnSmith45||

    This article ignores the fact that Maduros regime is a real threat to the security and well being of the U.S. There are confirmed reports that Hezbollah terrorist are active in Venezuela. Diosdado Cabello, the No.2 of Maduro, is the new Pablo Escobar. Cabello and his asociates in the so called Cartel de los Soles have become a powerfull drug dealing organization that does business in the U.S. There are also members of the FARC and ELN that operate in Venezuela and affect Colombia, a strong ally of the U.S. And finally there are the Cubans of Castro that hate the U.S. The influence of all these negatives factors will only grow in nothing is done. Also, the argument that Venezuela will become another Lybia with military intervention is RUBBISH. In Lybia there are many tribes and are used to live in dictatorship and in violance. Maduro has 90% of the population united against him and Venezuela was a DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY for 54 years before Maduro. WITHOUT A MILITARY INTERVENTION, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. MADURO WILL STAY AND VENEZUELA WILL CONTINUE TO DECLINE, AND THE U.S WILL HAVE AN ENEMY IN ITS BACK YARD THAT SHOULD NOT BE UNDERVALUED.

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