Every time Tucker Carlson annoys me with an isolationist rant against U.S. action to help people under siege by a cretin like Maduro, someone like Scott comes along cheerleading for another open-ended war. And so I end up thinking, “You know what? It’s not the worst thing to have a dove whispering in Trump’s ear through the TV set every night at 8 p.m. on Fox.”
Like Marco Rubio, Scott represents Florida in the Senate. Like Marco Rubio, he’s very much pro-intervention in this case. Both have to answer to large constituencies back home of Venezuelan and Cuban expats who are eager to see Maduro and his friend Raul deposed and humiliated — with force, perhaps. Scott’s first argument for military action (as part of an international coalition) cites “genocide” by Maduro as the grounds; he’s giving us the same “responsibility to protect” rationale that Team Obama offered in defense of intervening in Libya, in other words. “R2P,” as it’s known, tends to be invoked selectively, though. For instance, although Syria’s Sunnis faced a risk of sectarian cleansing from Assad that was at least the equal of what Libyans faced from Qaddafi, no international coalition arose in that case to protect them. Scott’s “genocide” argument also feels selective: The UN defines genocide as lethal measures taken with the intent of depopulating “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” As loathsome as he is, is that Maduro’s goal in Venezuela? If the oppression of restive civilians by an authoritarian regime to protect its hold on power amounts to genocide then there should be a multinational military force ready to move on Iran tomorrow.
His other argument is a less humanitarian and more Trump-friendly one, that allowing Venezuela to sink into civil war will ignite a refugee crisis that will create logistical nightmares for the U.S. at the southern border. It’s a fair point but there’s an isolationist counterpoint which Carlson made a few nights ago in his critique of intervention: How do we know military intervention won’t make things worse? It would be lovely if the choice facing us was leaving Maduro in place and triggering a long war or acting militarily to depose him and bringing about rapid stability. What if, though, the choice is actually leaving Maduro in place to quickly crush Guaido and the opposition or acting militarily and triggering a long war, possibly with a troop build-up on the other side by Cuba and Russia? If Scott points to Syria as evidence of how a refugee crisis can develop when the U.S. doesn’t act, Carlson can point to Iraq. I’m not sure why interventionists are confident that sending in the troops, or at least the planes, is less likely to create a wave of refugees than standing pat is.
As for the Democrats’ view of all of this, essentially there is no view. They can’t defend Maduro forcefully; he’s too awful. But they can’t attack him either. To do so would defy progressive orthodoxy that all U.S. meddling abroad is bad and would reinforce Trump’s 2020 talking point that the socialist scumbag in Caracas really *is* pretty terrible. So instead they’re punting:
So far, Omar hasn’t been joined even by other members of the far-left wing of the Democratic party, many of whom have offered a muted response to the Venezuelan uprising. “Violence is horrible,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tells NR when asked to comment on the situation. When pressed on whether the Maduro government is legitimate or Guaidó deserves U.S. support, she adds that she’ll “defer to caucus leadership on how we navigate this.”
Bernie Sanders, much like Ocasio-Cortez, had no words of condemnation for the Venezuelan dictator nor words of support for the Venezuelan people who are risking their lives by taking to the streets. The Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont senator, who refused to say in February whether Maduro should step down, has not yet even commented on Venezuela this week. New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker similarly says that he has “nothing right now” in the way of comment on the crisis.
Other Democrats running for president in 2020 have been more forthcoming, if not particularly unified in their views.
To their credit, Trump and his natsec deputies don’t appear to be contemplating military action. The plan to this point, apparently, has been to try to convince members of Maduro’s inner circle to turn on him. Tuesday seems to have been chosen as the day those officials would defect to Team Guaido and hopefully inspire the military to come with them — but it didn’t happen, for reasons that are unclear. No doubt Maduro and his Cuban and Russian minders are now closely scrutinizing his advisors with an eye to purging any would-be turncoats. The opportunity for a bloodless coup may have passed. What now?