“[O]verall my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.
Obama didn’t ignore Venezuela’s ties to Iran, but he correctly refused to blow them out of proportion or pretend that they pose a major threat to U.S. security when they don’t. For his part, Rubio insists on blowing the Venezuelan-Iranian relationship out of proportion, and treating his inflation of the threat as the reality. Rubio accuses Obama of “living under a rock,” but it couldn’t be more clear that Rubio inhabits a hawkish bubble in which even the most minor annoyances such as Chavez are imagined to be region-wide menaces. Once Santorum lost in the primaries, I had hoped that we wouldn’t have to keep hearing about the growing Venezuelan threat. It seems that Rubio intends to carry on Santorum’s work of mistakenly seeing enormous threats behind every corner.
If you’re Hugo Chavez – whose rhetoric do you prefer? One that makes you out to be an impressive figure challenging a superpower, or the other that dismisses you as ineffectual?
Chavez probably enjoys being portrayed as the regional power-broker that some Republicans make him out to be. Then again, the gap between this imaginary Chavez and the much more pitiful reality of Chavez’s current international reach is so large that all of these warnings about Venezuelan power must be a bit embarrassing. The threat-inflating rhetoric from some American politicians doesn’t change the fact that Chavez’s influence has been waning for years.
Another question comes to mind. Whose rhetoric should Americans prefer? Should they want the President publicly engaging in alarmism over the virtually non-existent threat from an extremely weak state, or should they want their leaders to be able to distinguish between major and minor threats and respond accordingly? One reason that the public incorrectly believes that we are living in a more dangerous world than during the Cold War is that our political class consistently overstates minor irritants as huge, alarming threats. Politicians that engage in this threat inflation are doing the public a disservice.