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War with Venezuela Would Be Costly and Illegal

Frank Mora does a fine job considering the risks and potential pitfalls of different kinds of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela. He concludes:

But in this case, the social, economic, and security costs of intervening far outweigh the benefits. Whether the United States launched limited air strikes or a full ground invasion, it would almost certainly get sucked in to a long, difficult campaign to stabilize Venezuela after the initial fighting was over. Such an engagement would cost American lives and money and hurt the United States’ standing in Latin America. An extended occupation would reignite anti-Americanism in the region, particularly if U.S. soldiers committed real or perceived abuses, and it would damage U.S. relations with countries outside the region, too. Finally, a war-weary American public is unlikely to stand for yet another extended military campaign.

In addition to being a prolonged, costly undertaking, intervention in Venezuela would be illegal as well as unwise. Congress won’t authorize an air war or an invasion, and the president has no authority to initiate a war against another country on his own. A U.S. war against the Venezuelan government would rightly be considered a violation of the U.N. Charter by most U.N. members, and there would obviously be no Security Council resolution authorizing such action. Venezuela’s neighbors do not support military intervention and would not participate in it, and they would be the ones to suffer from the destabilizing effects of any war. The U.S. would be stuck with the burden of stabilizing the country and it would take most or all of the blame for continued violence and disorder, and it is doubtful that the U.S. could commit enough forces to do a proper job of providing security in a country as large as Venezuela. Above all, the war would be completely unnecessary and not make the United States the slightest bit more secure. There is no excuse for incurring the expense and losses of yet another war of choice for regime change.

Given all of the likely costs and dangers of a Venezuelan war, how can military action still be considered a legitimate and acceptable policy option? Every other government in the region has correctly ruled out military intervention as the wrong thing to do, and there is no good reason why the U.S. shouldn’t do the same. Congress and the public need to make clear that they don’t support and won’t tolerate war with Venezuela.

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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