On May 14, the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft published my column on the missteps of the Trump Administration in responding to the Venezuela crisis. As I note, the main failure of the White House has been to repeatedly deluded hardline elements of the Venezuelan opposition into thinking there is any possibility of a quick and easy military solution. The problem with this saber rattling is that, from the beginning, it has fooled the wrong audience. Rather than help peel away the armed forces or deepen cracks in Maduro’s inner circle, the Trump Administration’s rhetoric has only divided the opposition over a foolhardy debate. U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, in addition to being bloody, costly, and reckless, will almost certainly never happen.
In addition to the bluffs, the Trump National Security Council has repeatedly undermined U.S. diplomats working to advance a political solution. From Bolton’s poorly-timed bluster that undercut Guaido’s negotiation efforts in August 2019 to the decision to sandwich the unveiling of the Democratic Transition Framework in between SOUTHCOM deployments and the indictment of the head of every branch of government controlled by Chavismo, the best efforts of the State Department to present meaningful strategies for change have been dashed by the worst instincts of the White House.