Shannon O’Neil explains why military intervention in Venezuela is a horrible idea. She pours cold water on using a so-called “coalition of the willing” to launch the attack:
In response to these risks, some have called for a multilateral force, which could spread the burden and mitigate charges of Yankee overreach. But Venezuela’s neighbors will not answer a military call.
Public opinion in these democracies is against intervention. Their foreign policy elites, steeped in a doctrine of non-intervention, also stand in opposition. And Latin American militaries are just not set up to invade other countries: Activity abroad has been mostly limited to a few thousand peacekeepers in Haiti and the Congo, and 400 Salvadoran soldiers that joined the Iraqi “coalition of the willing” in 2003. And the political fallout from Iraq in the United States provides a cautionary tale for any elected Latin American leader considering a kinetic response.
There is understandably no appetite for starting a war against Venezuela. Venezuela’s neighbors have good reason to oppose armed conflict that would further destabilize the region for years to come. Attacking Venezuela would be a war of choice for the explicit purpose of regime change over the public protestations of the region’s governments. In addition to being illegal and unnecessary, attacking Venezuela would be a profoundly unpopular action for the U.S. to take. As if to prove O’Neil’s point, the Lima Group specifically rejected military intervention as an option for Venezuela:
Eleven of the 14 governments that are part of the Lima Group have rejected the possibility of military intervention against Venezuela’s government and defended a peaceful outcome of the migration crisis.
Talking about an invasion achieves nothing except to bolster Maduro and his allies and to divide the opposition. If maintaining a united front against Maduro’s government is the best thing that the U.S. can do, careless rhetoric about military action already damages that consensus even if no attack ever takes place.
O’Neil mentions something that rarely seems to figure into our foreign policy debates, namely the views of the people in the country that would be most affected by an attack. She notes that there is strong opposition to an invasion:
A February poll shows a majority of Venezuelans, including a plurality of those in Venezuela’s opposition, oppose an invasion.
According to that poll, just 28% favor a coup, military intervention, or rebellion. A mere 16% chose military intervention as their preferred “solution.” Unsurprisingly, most of the people who are enduring the disaster in Venezuela want no part of the violent “solutions” that outsiders want to force upon them.