Home/Daniel Larison/Blockading Venezuela Would Be Illegal and Wrong

Blockading Venezuela Would Be Illegal and Wrong

The president offhandedly mentioned that he may order an act of war against Venezuela:

President Donald Trump said he may order a blockade of Venezuela, where the U.S. has sought to depose President Nicolas Maduro.

“Yes, I am,” Trump told reporters Thursday after he was asked whether he was considering a blockade or quarantine. He didn’t elaborate in brief remarks as he departed the White House for a campaign rally in Cincinnati.

Blockading Venezuela would be an illegal act of war. Trump doesn’t have the authority to take such an action on his own. There is also no cause for imposing a blockade on the country. The economic war that the U.S. is already waging on Venezuela is contributing significantly to the worsening conditions there, and a blockade would add to the Venezuelan people’s woes. U.S. policy has already been driving Venezuela towards famine, and a blockade would make famine much more likely.

Enforcing a blockade would require a substantial military commitment for an extended period of time. This would not be the first time that Venezuela has been blockaded by foreign powers, but the goal in this case would be a much more ambitious one of seeking regime change. There would be no international support for such an action, and I doubt Venezuela’s neighbors would cooperate in further strangling their neighbor. U.S. forces would be put in the position of seizing and/or firing upon vessels and aircraft that tried to get through. That would almost certainly result in the unnecessary deaths of people who are simply trying to make a living.

The U.S. should not be using its military to help in starving an already destitute country in order to force a change in government. The fact that Trump is even considering something like this is disgraceful. If he were to attempt it, it would be a dangerous escalation and militarization of the crisis that serves no U.S. interests and would directly harm the Venezuelan people. Congress must make clear that they oppose blockading Venezuela and that they will refuse to fund any operations that support it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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