Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s Reckless Venezuela Bluster Was Worse Than We Thought

Trump’s Reckless Venezuela Bluster Was Worse Than We Thought

Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro is an evil man, but President Trump has no business threatening him with military action (Marcos Salgado/Shutterstock)

The AP reports that Trump’s reckless Venezuela bluster about military intervention last August was not an isolated episode, but was one of several times that the president kept bringing up the possibility of ordering an invasion of the country:

The next day, Aug. 11, Trump alarmed friends and foes alike with talk of a “military option” to remove Maduro from power. The public remarks were initially dismissed in U.S. policy circles as the sort of martial bluster people have come to expect from the reality TV star turned commander in chief.

But shortly afterward, he raised the issue with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to the U.S. official. Two high-ranking Colombian officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing Trump confirmed the report.

Then in September, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump discussed it again, this time at greater length, in a private dinner with leaders from four Latin American allies that included Santos, the same three people said and Politico reported in February.

The U.S. official said Trump was specifically briefed not to raise the issue and told it wouldn’t play well, but the first thing the president said at the dinner was, “My staff told me not to say this.” Trump then went around asking each leader if they were sure they didn’t want a military solution, according to the official, who added that each leader told Trump in clear terms they were sure.

Trump was eventually talked out of it, but it took persistent opposition from his advisers, Cabinet members, and regional leaders to convince him to drop the bizarre idea of launching an illegal war on Venezuela. The report makes clear that Trump’s first instinct was to resort to military action, and he kept coming back to it on the foolish assumption it would be like the invasions of Panama and Grenada. He was not opposed to starting an unprovoked and unnecessary war against a country that posed no threat to the United States, and it was only because he encountered overwhelming opposition from everyone he talked to about it that he appears to have given up on the idea for now.

The story confirms what we have seen elsewhere: Trump has bad instincts and bad judgment especially when it comes to foreign policy, he has no problem with using force as a first resort, and it takes the concerted effort of everyone around him to stop him from doing exceptionally stupid and dangerous things. That suggests he is likely to start a war somewhere else when his advisers and Cabinet members are urging him to do it, and he is surrounded by Iran hawks that have publicly advocated attacking Iran. As U.S. policy keeps stoking tensions with Iran, the risk of a new and very costly war is growing.

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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