Is History Doomed to Repeat Itself in Venezuela?

The crisis in Venezuela is one that has been building for a while and has now come to a head. The rising conflict is between the Chavistas, a group of socialists, and the immense build up has caught international attention. In line with American tradition and fashion, President Trump feels the need to get involved.

The Venezuelan crisis has all the qualities of a well written drama. Falling oil prices have meant less money in the regime to be invested in the social programs that Venezuelans have grown to expect from a socialist government. The opposition believes that such economic problems are due to the mismanagement of the budget by the socialists. Each side is quick to point fingers and exchange the blame. Additionally, President Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s chosen successor, has struggled to react appropriately to the situation. Protestors outside his doorstep made him aware about a lack of food, money, and sanitary conditions in which to live. Most importantly, they attempted to make him aware of their desire for a new presidential election. They were unhappy and desired a change. Maduro decided to ignore their requests and make a constituent assembly. While this may have been a move which he felt would help the situation, it seemed the other side felt it only hindered it, giving the impression that he was consolidating power. Typically, both history and democratic states frown upon consolidating power in a one-man rule. Venezuelans seem to agree.

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons, © 2016, some rights reserved.
Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons, © 2016, some rights reserved.

What would any great drama be though without the meddling neighbor? The one that feels the need to get involved in a crisis that’s not its own? The one with good intentions but a penchant for making everything worse in the end? Good thing President Donald Trump was there to answer the call and fulfill the role.

It is impossible to argue against the fact that Venezuelans need help. With inflation running rampant in the triple digits, the debt well over anything that the government could ever hope to repay, food scarce, living conditions are deplorable and growing worse by the day, this is undoubtedly a situation that needs international help. However, while at his golf course answering press questions, Trump addressed the crisis with an idea that it seemed, based on Nikki Haley, his UN representative next to him, was not one that anyone had really considered. After all, the Cold War has ended and the U.S. has lost the need to prop up terrible men in South America or elsewhere in a desperate attempt to stave off Communism from its borders. Yet, falling back into the old pattern of U.S. intervention, Trump proposed that if the situation arose, the U.S. would take military action against the Venezuelan government.

The plot thickens further as an examination of his cabinet brings to light the fact that most members are leaning more towards sanctions. However, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson serve as exceptions to this support of sanctions, proposing self-protection and military intervention instead, respectively.  The sanctioning of Venezuela has been taken personally by Maduro, greatly upsetting him.

On the one hand, U.S. intervention may not a catastrophe and could be supported if it did not have a track record to look at. The idea is an innocent one, the U.S. could go in, remove Maduro, the diagnosed problem, and replace him with a democratic leader that would allow the country to run smoothly. Since, if asked, the U.S. will always say that democracy runs smoothly. However, there is a problem here: sometimes democracies simply do not work. Maduro himself was, after all, democratically elected in 2013. This has not stopped the requests for his removal. More importantly, if democracies do not always work when they are set up by the people themselves, they almost never do when they are imposed by someone else. It defeats the entire idea that the people chose the leaders if one is put in front of them. Venezuelans are not asking America to get involved and “get rid of the bad guy”, they are asking for food and reduced inflation. Throwing the country into chaos by attempting to impose a new leader, that they the Venezuelan people did not choose, will not improve the situation.

This notion of, let us call it democratic imposition, resting on the many times that the U.S. has attempted such a solution to any whisper of communism or socialism all throughout the Cold War only to leave and have the country descend into a crisis even worse than before, is going to be on the minds of most of the members of Trump’s cabinet. Especially those that advocate sanctions over military intervention. If the Cold War is too far back to remember for some reason then it’s recent stint in Iraq or Afghanistan should do the trick.

Military intervention is costly. It is risky and could reflect badly if it fails. A new Venezuelan leader would have to be vetted and chosen. Furthermore, the U.S. must address it’s already growing “caseload” regarding North Korea, Russia, and domestic matters. Trump has more than enough to worry about, a fact that, no doubt, his cabinet will remind him of.

These are just some of the reasons that Trump choosing a military intervention policy in Venezuela over that of the sanctions advocated for by his cabinet, no matter what Twitter rants he goes on, is simply unlikely. His advisors are against it. History is against it. Other world leaders would be against it. Trump is most definitely an erratic Twitter user who enjoys causing drama worthy of a TV show, but he loses focus quickly, especially when his attentions are directed elsewhere. His cabinet may attempt to steer him towards a problem where his involvement is more necessary but then the old adage is that history is doomed to repeat itself.

Leave a Reply