Foreign Policy

Trump to Venezuela: All Options Are on the Table

His supposedly "controversial" statements on the crisis in Venezuela aren't actually controversial.

Thomas Gallatin · Aug. 14, 2017

Vacationing at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Donald Trump spoke with reporters on Friday and responded to a question on Nicolas Maduro’s power grab in Venezuela. Trump said, “We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option. A military operation and military option is certainly something that we could pursue.” The Leftmedia immediately headed for the fainting couches.

First let’s step back and interpret what Trump’s intent was. Trump was clearly not calling for a military intervention but was rather conveying the message that he would not unequivocally rule it out entirely. In other words, Trump was communicating the same message that all previous U.S. presidents have, albeit in a less nuanced manner — that all options are on the table.

Why would Trump feel the need to bring up the “all options are available” rhetoric regarding Venezuela now? Venezuela is not a national security threat at this point. It has become largely isolated on the world scene, and has a minimal military presence. It’s economy is in a state of collapse, which is sure to get worse with the newly imposed sanctions. Is Trump seeking to further press Maduro? Is he offering encouragement to Venezuelan groups opposed to Maduro? What does seem utmost in Trump’s mind is to further isolate the burgeoning tyrant. As Trump further stated, “The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”

But it can’t be ignored that Trump’s suggesting a military option has ruffled feathers. Vice President Mike Pence was in Colombia on Sunday meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos to seek to further economic relations with regional allies, and to join together in a show of solidarity against Maduro. Santos took the opportunity to push back against Trump’s military option remark, stating, “Every country in Latin America would not favor any form of military intervention, and that is why we are saying we are intent on looking into other measures, some of which are already underway and others to be implemented in the future.”

The truth is that it’s highly unlikely that the U.S. will need to become militarily involved with Venezuela, but the U.S. needs to continue to put the squeeze on Maduro as it seeks to limit the damage of his tyranny.

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