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Ro Khanna’s Case for Restraint and Peace

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) speaks at The American Conservative’s 5th Annual Foreign Policy Conference on Nov. 15, 2018. Danny Delgado/Delgado Photos   

On Wednesday of this week, Rep. Ro Khanna introduced a new version of his antiwar resolution on Yemen, and Sen. Sanders did the same with a new Sanders-Lee-Murphy resolution in the Senate. Rep. Khanna has been one of the leading opponents of U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen, and his resolution is very likely to pass the House when it comes up next month. More broadly, he has been articulating a foreign policy of non-intervention and human rights. Rep. Khanna has applied the same principles that have guided him in his rejection of illegal U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen to the crisis in Venezuela:

The Trump administration’s embrace of the self-proclaimed new leader of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, reeks of the highly ambitious social engineering that has been at the cornerstone of neoconservative thinking for a century. The old gang is back at it.

Vice President Pence has teamed up with national security adviser John Bolton and new special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams to argue that it is our moral responsibility to stand up to Nicolás Maduro’s regime and support a new government that will be friendlier to us. Sound familiar? This is the same argument that led to U.S. blunders in Iraq, Honduras, Syria, Libya and elsewhere. Again and again, there is no respect for the United Nations Charter that makes it illegal under international law to seek regime change.

Khanna’s op-ed is written primarily as an appeal to progressives and Democrats, but as we have seen in the debate over Yemen policy there are many points of agreement between progressive critics of interventionism and conservative and libertarian advocates of peace and restraint. These can form the basis for a coalition that consistently opposes illegal presidential wars, unwarranted meddling in the affairs of other countries, and arrogant attempts to topple foreign governments.

Outside intervention greatly worsened conditions inside Yemen, and it is the intervening governments that bear most of the responsibility for causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. After almost four years of catastrophic interventionist failure in Yemen, who could honestly believe that outside governments can interfere in Venezuela’s political crisis without making things much worse for the civilian population? The Trump administration’s cruel use of sanctions in Venezuela is just the start of the harm that outside interference is very likely to do.

Khanna also makes a point of calling attention to the constitutional issue surrounding any possible military intervention in Venezuela:

Congress must also make it clear to the Trump administration that military action in Venezuela requires congressional authorization. If Trump does take military action without congressional authorization, I am prepared to invoke the War Powers Act to remove our troops from the conflict as I have done in the case of Yemen.

The president has no lawful authority to involve the U.S. in foreign wars on his own, and he has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Khanna and his colleagues in Congress are outlining the principled antiwar and non-interventionist case against Trump’s misadventures, and advocates of restraint should be doing what they can to encourage and support those efforts.

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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