Walter Russell Mead’s analysis of Trump administration policies remains as unimpressive as ever:
Mr. Maduro’s downfall would also be a major political victory for the Trump administration. Russia, however, hopes to repeat in Venezuela the humiliation it inflicted on the West in Syria. It has increased its support for Mr. Maduro, sending him military personnel and equipment and helping Venezuela evade U.S. sanctions. An American “win” in Venezuela would send a clear message around the world. So would a loss.
Hawks are deeply invested in the idea that “the West” was “humiliated” in Syria because some Western governments failed to topple the Syrian government. It never occurs to them that the goal of regime change in Syria was a misguided one and should never have been attempted. They don’t care whether that outcome was actually the right one. What matters to them is being the recognized “winner” of a contest with another major power. They want to even the score, and they think Venezuela is their chance. That should remind us that these people couldn’t care less what happens to Venezuela and its people just as they didn’t care what happened to Syria. What matters to them is getting the better of the other major power, which in both cases means Russia, and everything else is a distant second.
A “win” for Trump in Venezuela would send a message, but I am guessing it isn’t the message that Mead has in mind. Toppling Maduro would send the message that the U.S. can’t stop itself from interfering in other countries’ affairs, and it would tell the world once again that the current administration doesn’t care about the consequences of regime change as long as it thinks it has something it can brag about. An American “win” in Venezuela would not be a win for the people of Venezuela, and if the results of previous regime change policies are anything to go by it would mean a long period of upheaval, violence, and disorder.
The political future of other countries is not something that our government should be toying with. The presumption that the U.S. has the right to interfere in the affairs of our neighbors is one of the main flaws of our foreign policy. Whatever happens in Venezuela, it will reflect poorly on an administration that chose to take sides in a crisis that was none of our business. Their stated policy is much more likely to fail than it is to “work” as intended, but the truth is that the U.S. should have stayed out of the crisis from the start.
No U.S. president before Mr. Trump has been willing to impose sanctions that alienate powerful allies to this degree over Caribbean policy.
As usual, Mead fails to grasp that this is proof that Trump’s aggressive policies are reckless and harmful to U.S. interests. Whatever one may think about U.S. policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, they are not worth alienating longstanding allies. Much like the administration’s destructive Iran policy, they are picking fights over Venezuela and Cuba that cannot possibly be worth the cost. Trump’s predecessors didn’t risk alienating major allies over these issues because they understood it wasn’t worth doing. Like Mead, Trump can’t understand that, and so he blunders ahead blindly.