PARIS — Breaking with his predecessors, U.S. President Donald Trump has shown a consistent distaste for Middle Eastern wars. Complex, messy, tribal — it really makes a neocon long for the good old days of Latin America interventionism, which made regime change look relatively easy by comparison. As luck would have it, there just happens to be a country that has now been baked long enough by socialism and punishing economic sanctions that it’s ready to be served up hot: Venezuela. So long, jihadis … and buenos dias, amigos!
The shining light of perpetual interventionist war is growing dimmer across the Middle East. Absent any signs that Trump is shifting from an overt war footing to a covert one, warmongers hoping to cash in on the action — and the sweet taxpayer funding — have reason to be pessimistic.
Middle Eastern conflicts have been going on for so long that they’ve basically turned into ATMs for those involved. Trump keeps bragging that he’s breaking the bank on the military budget, which is an oddly inconsistent boast for someone who seems to pride himself on his tightfistedness when it comes to tax dollars. Why the discrepancy? Any U.S. president who cuts the military budget soon gets more side-eye from the establishment than someone who passes the collection plate on Sunday without coughing up an offering.
Fortunately for those looking to justify military spending, Venezuela is currently on the ropes. It has been in the final throes of socialism for a while. Apparently not enough, though, to have voted out Nicolas Maduro — the head socialist running the show — last May. Perhaps the locals really haven’t reached their breaking point yet. Or maybe they place more blame on the economic sanctions imposed on their country than they do on the socialist practices of their government.
Or maybe they blame the signs of foreign meddling. Maduro has accused the United States of training Colombian mercenaries who have subsequently been sent into Venezuela to foment regime change. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, given that Colombian mercenaries were reportedly already hired via American entities to serve as cannon fodder for the Emiratis in Yemen. If they can be sent halfway around the world, then they can certainly be sent next door.
In any case, here comes Uncle Sam now to give the situation a more overt shove. Venezuelan National Assembly President, Juan Guaido, who has been in the role for not even a month, has declared himself president of Venezuela.
Now where would a 35-year-old guy get an idea like that? Hey, I’m president of France (a country, which for the last couple of months, has also faced weekly tear-gassing of local protesters). Any takers? No? Well then why does this guy get away with it — and with the explicit backing of the U.S. and six American-allied U.S. and Latin American allies?
The same people who refuse to recognize last May’s election of Maduro as legitimate are now insisting that the world recognize the legitimacy of an individual who has never even been a candidate in a Venezuelan presidential election.
In the meantime, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, was seen at a press briefing this week with a yellow notepad on which was written the words: “5,000 troops to Colombia.” Hey, it’s the ’80s all over again. And guess who else is back? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also just announced the appointment of diplomat Elliott Abrams as special envoy for Venezuela. “This crisis in Venezuela is deep and difficult and dangerous, and I can’t wait to get to work on it,” Abrams said.
Abrams was last seen “at work” in the George W. Bush White House during a failed military coup to overthrow former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002 and, previously, pleading guilty to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra affair. Some have also accused Abrams of whitewashing a massacre of civilians by death squads in El Salvador.
Perhaps Trump figures that in order to properly drain the swamp, you first have to fill it with a bunch of recycled neocons? Venezuela was on the verge of toppling itself without the U.S. ever having to lift a finger. The remaining key element for any successful revolt is the loss of military support by the incumbent leader. There is no indication thus far that Maduro suffers from such a phenomenon.
If there’s one thing America has proven it can’t execute it is regime change — particularly with any sort of lasting stability. Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others should be more than enough proof. However, Venezuela represents a return to old stomping grounds for the neocons, who seem desperate not only for a military make-work/money project, but also to get a few scratches in the win column.
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host who writes regularly for major publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her website can be found at http://www.rachelmarsden.com.