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Graham’s Venezuela Madness

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham during the Kavanaugh hearings last week. (CSPAN)

Lindsey Graham is predictably agitating for another military intervention in Venezuela:

In the 1980s, confronted with Cuban intervention in Grenada, President Reagan intervened militarily, ensuring Grenada didn’t become a satellite state of Cuba. The U.S. must be willing to intervene in Venezuela the way we did in Grenada. Mr. Trump should tell Cuba to withdraw all security forces from Venezuela immediately. If Cuba doesn’t comply, the U.S. should move military assets to the region.

A show of resolve in the face of Cuban intervention will encourage the Venezuelan military to abandon Mr. Maduro and side with the people of Venezuela. A strong American response would force the Venezuelan military leadership’s hand. While no one wants a military conflict, this nightmare in Venezuela must end for the good of the region and for the sake of democracy. If Mr. Trump put Cuba and Mr. Maduro on notice, it would send a clear message to dictators and despots that America means what it says.

The comparison with Grenada is preposterous, but it shows how deluded interventionists are about how easy it would be to force Maduro to give up. Even if an intervention in Venezuela were successful in forcing Maduro from power, it would not be quick, easy, or cheap. The effect that a war would have on the civilian population would be disastrous in the near term. The nightmare in Venezuela probably wouldn’t end, but would simply take a different form, and our forces would be caught in the middle of it. No one should be willing to intervene militarily in Venezuela. Not only is there no regional support for doing this, but there is absolutely no vital U.S. interest at stake that warrants such action. If the U.S. threatened Venezuela with an attack, it would not be for the sake of regional or American security but simply to vindicate a reckless regime change policy that Trump embarked on four months ago without thinking things through.

Graham keeps repeating the phrase “the world is watching,” as if that were a reason to start an unnecessary and illegal war. If the world is watching, the U.S. shouldn’t attack one of its neighbors without just cause. He claims that “no one” wants a conflict, and in the next breath he is urging the U.S. to initiate a conflict. The senator is ridiculously hard-line in his foreign policy views, and he is a reliably bad judge of which conflicts the U.S. should start and join. The fact that he is jumping on the pro-war bandwagon for Venezuela is a compelling reason by itself to oppose such action.

Graham’s talk of threatening a war with Venezuela is notable in that the senator was reportedly less hawkish on Venezuela than the president just a few months ago. Whatever his reservations may have been in the past, it didn’t take much to get him back into full-blown warmongering. Now he has no problem urging Trump to threaten attacks on Cuban forces in Venezuela and, one assumes, on the Venezuelan military as well. Hawks assume that the only variable that matters in any crisis is our government’s resolve or lack thereof, as if other governments rise and fall according to our will. When the “show of resolve” doesn’t have the desired effect, hawks then inevitably demand escalation to back up the unwise threats that they insisted that our government make.

If the U.S. shouldn’t go to war in Venezuela, it shouldn’t make ultimatums that threaten to use force against Cuban and Venezuelan soldiers. The fact that Graham is clamoring for an ultimatum proves that he very much wants a war with Venezuela. We have to hope that the president has abandoned his earlier enthusiasm for invading the country, because if he hasn’t there is a chance that Graham will end up getting at least one of the many wars he wants.

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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