Home/Daniel Larison/The U.S. Can’t ‘Fix’ Venezuela

The U.S. Can’t ‘Fix’ Venezuela

Jonathan Swan reports on the roots of Trump’s interest in meddling in Venezuela:

“The president sees this country with extraordinary economic potential, which has been run into the ground,” Rubio told me. “I think he believes some of these issues in the Middle East are intractable and just can’t be fixed. But he actually thinks Venezuela and the western hemisphere can [be fixed].”

Decades of destructive U.S. meddling in Latin America tell us that the U.S. has a terrible track record when it comes to “fixing” the problems of our neighbors. In almost every case, the more directly and forcefully the U.S. has interfered in the political affairs of another country in our hemisphere, the worse it has been for the affected country. Interventionism doesn’t suddenly become successful and wise because it takes place closer to home. Our government doesn’t suddenly become more competent and knowledgeable about how to address another country’s political and economic problems because the country in question happens to be on this side of the prime meridian. If neighboring countries are more important to U.S. interests because of their proximity and connections to America, our misguided interventionism will be more damaging to our security when it blows up in our face than failed interventions on the far side of the world are.

What we’re seeing with the administration’s Venezuela policy is depressingly familiar. Hawkish politicians and exiles agitated for an aggressive policy to depose an abusive regime, and an ignorant and incurious president went along with their recommendations without having considered any of the pitfalls and possible negative consequences of interfering in another country’s affairs. Before we knew it, the U.S. was committed to a policy of regime change without any debate or approval from Congress or the public. It looks as if that policy is now dragging us towards another unnecessary war.

The last month confirms that the Trump administration is every bit as unprepared for their regime change misadventure as the Bush administration was in Iraq, if not more so. They have rallied international support behind a would-be government that doesn’t actually control anything. They have recognized the authority of a president who has no power:

[Guaido] holds virtually no power inside Venezuela, and is now in Colombia and faces a challenge to return after Maduro banned him from travel.

The Trump administration thought they had a ready-made foreign policy win on their hands, and they are discovering too late that they don’t understand the first thing about the country they are proposing to “fix.”

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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