The Quiet Diplomacy of “Peaceful Coexistence”

David Smilde

The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre has released a brief written by Argentinian international relations expert Juan Gabriel Tokatlian recommending that Washington follow a policy of “peaceful coexistence,” with Venezuela. The brief looks at the likely self-defeating consequences of policies of containment or regime change, and suggests instead carefully formulated demands and inducements combined “with respect for the genuine evolution of an imperfect democracy.”

Tokatlian suggests that “a balanced and thoughtful blend of pragmatism and principle instead of ideology and Cold War reflexes should be the general guidelines in dealing with post-Chávez Venezuela and aiding the transition in the country.” Indeed this could be a springboard for a Latin America policy based on actual dialogue.

The one passage I would take issue with in the piece is that “Politics should be handled by the State Department in Washington and not by the U.S. Southern Command in Miami.” Certainly the State Department rather than the Pentagon should take the lead on diplomacy. At the same time, some of the more pragmatic and realistic recent official assessments of Venezuela have come from the Southern Command, not Foggy Bottom. Tokatlian’s thoughtful recipe for more constructive U.S. engagement with Venezuela—and genuine political dialogue with Latin America—can only work if the White House, State Department and Pentagon are all on the same page.