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U.S. military action in Venezuela would be the wrong solution | Opinion

Trump says all options on table in Venezuela

President Donald Trump said on Jan. 23, 2019 that "all options are on the table" regarding Venezuela, saying "we're not considering anything," but "all options, always."
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President Donald Trump said on Jan. 23, 2019 that "all options are on the table" regarding Venezuela, saying "we're not considering anything," but "all options, always."

Sen. Rick Scott wants the U.S. military to deliver humanitarian aid to the starving people of Venezuela. “Maduro and his thugs have left us no choice,” he said.

Even though it remains critical to get aid to the millions of desperate Venezuelans who have been deprived of food and medicine for too long, military intervention to deliver that aid, currently blocked at the Colombian border, would be foolish, dangerously so.

First, not even President Trump has gone so far as to suggest military invention is a good idea. This despite past White House statements that, in order to subdue dictator Nicolás Maduro, “All options are on the table.”

Second, those same desperate Venezuelans should have the loudest voice in that decision — to say nothing of the U.S. military professionals who know the challenges that such action would present.

Third, even Maduro’s staunchest critics in Latin America, including Chile and Argentina, oppose military intervention. Going it alone only gives Maduro more propaganda and breaks vital hemispheric consensus.

Fourth, what’s the end game? Military action to deliver aid would bring the United States tantalizing close to moving ahead to topple Maduro himself, something few, if any, allies would support. As the so-called Powell Doctrine — used to determine if military action is warranted — asks: “Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?”

Scott was short on details when he too-casually invoked using military intervention in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., last week. He failed to specify whether he meant a shooting war or air drops of vital assistance. There’s a huge difference. Going up against Venezuela’s more than 350,000 troops would be costly, dangerous and, likely, an unending military action.

Scott added that military intervention is the only option left “to get aid to the people of Venezuela.” That’s not true, though the truth isn’t any prettier. Maduro is starving the people of his country. He has a chokehold on almost all the democratic institutions, except the opposition National Assembly. In January, its leader, Juan Guaidó, declared himself Venezuela’s president, a bold move allowed by the nation’s constitution. His goal is to call free elections.

However, despite the backing of at least 50 countries, including vigorous support by the United States, Guaidó has yet to break Maduro’s grip. Maduro has blocked the humanitarian aid from entering the country, and Guaidó’s efforts to get it released failed. Though there have been a few defections, Venezuela’s military continues to stand behind Maduro. The dictator still appears firmly ensconced.

In his call for military action, Scott has signaled his frustration with U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, which have not driven Maduro from power. However, impatience is no excuse for any premature invasion.

As reported by Tim Padgett, Americas editor for WLRN, an internal report by the United Nations estimates that one-quarter of the 30 million Venezuelans are in desperate straits. Maduro, who for years has refused to acknowledge the crisis, last month appeared to relent, giving the International Federation of the Red Cross permission to distribute humanitarian aid.

This breakthrough took patience and committed negotiation, which the United States and other countries should not abandon. The Powell Doctrine also asks: “Have all other nonviolent policy means been fully exhausted?”

Obviously, they haven’t.

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