May 1, 2019

Unrest in Venezuela

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Tuesday made his strongest call yet to the military to help him oust President Nicolas Maduro… Early on Tuesday, several dozen armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers supporting Maduro at a rally in Caracas, and large anti-government protests in the streets turned violent.” Reuters

President Donald Trump tweeted, “If Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba.” Twitter


Both sides agree that this is not a coup:

“Tuesday’s uprising is not a ‘coup attempt,’ as the Maduro regime, echoed by too many people abroad, calls it. Rather, it is the latest in a series of legitimate and, for the most part, nonviolent efforts by Venezuelans, both civilian and military, to throw off an oppressive, toxic regime so that they can freely elect a legitimate government. Supporters of freedom and democracy should stand in solidarity with Mr. Guaidó and the many thousands of Venezuelans now bravely asserting their rights.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Guaido and his supporters are… trying to save their country from Maduro’s misrule. If the military does indeed defect this week, forcing Maduro to leave, Guaido has pledged to quickly prepare Venezuela for real elections. That’s not an anti-democratic coup. It’s a democratic rescue mission.”
Eli Lake, Bloomberg

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports Guaidó but urges against US military intervention.

The Maduro regime has destroyed much of Venezuela. It didn't just crush its democratic institutions; it also devastated its economy and much of its social order. By now the problem is not about politics. It's about survival. For Venezuela's neighbors, the matter is also urgent. Conditions have become so desperate that Venezuelans are fleeing by the millions, straining other countries. The UN estimates there will be more than 5 million Venezuelan refugees by the end of this year, comparable to the exodus caused by the Syrian civil war…

“The United States should refrain from intervening militarily, but should continue providing decisive diplomatic, and even logistical, support. As for the public around the world, we should hope that the powerful in Venezuela will see the light, and either persuade Maduro to leave, or escort him out of office.”
Frida Ghitis, CNN

Many note that “while the Maduro government has arrested hundreds of opponents in recent weeks, it hasn’t touched Guaidó himself, recognizing the risks of detaining the man whom many world governments recognize as the legitimate president of Venezuela. Bolton has promised a ‘significant response’ if Guaidó is touched. Tuesday’s actions will raise pressure on the regime to take action to finally stop Guaidó, and raise pressure on his international backers to take action—peaceful or otherwise—on his behalf. Today may not be the final battle for control of Venezuela, but the odds just went up significantly that Guaidó will end up dead, in jail, or sitting in the presidential palace.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

“The key seems to be whether the military will abandon the regime, and the odds are against it because of the comparative risks of being on the losing side. Officers and soldiers who join the revolt will be as good as dead if the government prevails. But those who are loyal to Maduro can expect that if he falls, the new government will find it more urgent to bring them on board than to punish them…

The U.S. posturing is as likely to taint the opposition as it is to help it. Worse, the strong words may lead Guiado and his supporters to believe Washington will use force on their behalf. It’s dangerous to encourage that hope — because it may induce them to take unwise risks, and because it could lead us to plunge into another country where our interests, like our understanding, is minimal. Sometimes it’s helpful for the U.S. government to take a role when a foreign crisis erupts. This is one where the best course is to keep quiet and stay out.”
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune

“The Venezuelan people have international moral support for their cause and the promise of aid to rebuild, but they’re on their own against a regime backed by Cuba, Russia, China and Iran… And while the balance of arms and power seems like a David vs. Goliah contest, that may be a good thing for Venezuelans in the long run. It will be their fight to win or lose. My bet, despite the gunfire and smoke, is that Venezuelans will win if they continue to show up against the odds. They’ve already proven their country is worth fighting for.”
Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald

“The main question about the strike isn’t moral or even legal—it’s strategic. Soleimani was a supremely powerful leader of a state apparatus, with his own cult of personality, but he was not a terror kingpin. His death doesn’t decapitate anything. He had the blood of tens of thousands of people—overwhelmingly fellow Muslims—on his hands, but he was only the agent of a government policy that preceded him and will continue without him…The only reason to kill Soleimani is to enter a new war that the United States can win… [Yet] No one seems to have thought past the action itself…

“What would [a] war [with Iran] look like? How will Iran fight it? How will the U.S. respond? What credible allies will we have, after Trump’s trashing of the nuclear deal thoroughly alienated Europe? Who will believe any intelligence about Iran’s actions and intentions from an administration that can’t function without telling lies?…What is our war aim, and how can it be aligned with Trump’s obvious desire to be rid of any entanglement in the region? What will happen if Jerusalem becomes a target and Israel enters the conflict? What will the American people accept by way of sacrifice, when nothing has prepared them for this? There’s no sign that anyone in power, least of all the president, has even asked these questions, let alone knows how to answer them.”
George Packer, The Atlantic

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right urges support for Guaidó, including limited military support if necessary.

From the Right

The right urges support for Guaidó, including limited military support if necessary.

Trump’s “focus on Cuba is well-designed. The island nation's highly capable security forces are the primary mechanism by which Maduro has kept his power… By focusing pressure on Cuba with far greater purpose than previously shown, Trump offers a diplomatic off-ramp for Maduro and his cronies. Without Cuba, those officials cannot bribe their way into continued power. Similarly, if Cuba goes without Venezuelan oil, as Trump's threat of an ‘embargo’ suggests, its leaders will have to abandon Maduro… Cuba faces a moment of truth. Does it choose Maduro, or does it test American resolve?”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Many note that “U.S. efforts to strangle the regime financially by cutting off the oil trade may be having their desired effect on the Caracas coffers. But Mr. Maduro still gets weapons from Moscow and Cuban intelligence helps him promote fear in the officer ranks. The American left that claims to fear U.S. intervention in the country needs to admit that Cuba is already the imperial power in Caracas… Mr. Bolton said Mr. Trump wants to see a peaceful transfer of power, and that would be the best outcome. But U.S. military assistance to the Guaidó forces can’t be ruled out. A victory for Cuba, backed by Russia in the Western hemisphere, would be a great strategic setback for U.S. interests and stability in the region. The U.S. needs to do whatever it can to help people power succeed in Venezuela.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Guaidó has asked us to cut off Maduro's oil supply to Cuba's communist government… We recognize that stopping oil cargo ships on the high seas is no small step. Deploying U.S. Navy warships to seize Maduro's oil ships is an act of force… But we believe it would serve a critical strategic purpose: ensuring that Maduro and his military supporters recognize the U.S. won't abandon Guaidó. That would persuade generals around Maduro that their best decision would be to throw support behind Guaidó. It would also suggest to Maduro that he might be best advised to depart Venezuela now.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

Others point out that “this week, military members loyal to Maduro were seen deliberately running over unarmed pro-Guaidó demonstrators in the streets with heavy, armored vehicles. Less than a decade ago, regular everyday Venezuelans were forced to turn in their weapons, leaving them defenseless against the very government that continues to oppress and attack them today.”
Katie Pavlich, The Hill

“People in the US scoff at this argument from gun-rights advocates, mainly because we’re not Venezuela and the threat here is entirely theoretical. And that’s a fair point… However, it’s also a chicken-egg argument: do we have a responsive government which poses no threat in spite of gun ownership, or because of gun ownership? Most days it may seem like the former. On days like today, with Venezuelans unable to resist tyranny despite having a First World government and economy a little over a decade ago, it looks a little more like the latter.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.