Issues & Insights

Venezuela: Not Grenada But Still A Crucial U.S. Test

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), longtime proponent of the aggressive assertion of American military power, is arguing that President Trump “must be willing to intervene in Venezuela the way we did in Grenada,” a reference to Ronald Reagan’s 1983 liberation of a strategically important Caribbean island where a Cuban-backed Marxist government had just violently taken power.

Graham is being accused of warmongering, but he didn’t call for invasion, either in his Wall Street Journal op-ed last week or in his appearance on Fox News Sunday; he said the U.S. must “be willing” to step in.

Just as for many decades we were willing to wage nuclear war, after building a large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S.’s being willing, for over four decades, to use thermo-nuclear bombs resulted in neither the Soviet Union or the U.S. actually using them, or Moscow using the threat of the bomb to add new conquests to the vast territory already under its direct or indirect rule.

The Monroe Doctrine may in many quarters in the 21st century be considered quaint, but it is an obvious fact that if the U.S. tolerates its enemies – whatever their geographic origin — ruling large parts of the Western Hemisphere, especially a country with Venezuela’s matchless oil resources, we will have little credibility exerting influence elsewhere in the world.

Nicolás Maduro, though still in power, has no legitimacy as Venezuela’s ruler, according to the country’s own laws. Legislative chief Juan Guaidó lawfully belongs in charge, and can be expected to honor his commitment to stage new elections as interim president. As with Grenada 35 years ago, the Organization of American States recognizes the Marxist threat, including a large presence of at least 6,000 Cuban personnel, and the OAS strongly supports Guaidó. In the meantime, Venezuelans are starving and fleeing their country in desperation as its economy collapses.

Graham called Cuba, which President Obama thought he had successfully appeased, “a Western Hemisphere version of Iran – a rogue nation sowing discord and damaging America’s long-term interests.”

Certainly the analogies may be overblown. The Cold War against the Soviet empire that sponsored Cuba’s mischief was won long ago, Venezuela is many times bigger and a lot tougher to quell than a small island in the West Indies, and there aren’t close to 1,000 American students in jeopardy as in Grenada. Still, Graham’s point is well taken. A blurry memory to most, Reagan’s bold action in the island, though admittedly small-scale, was the first successful American military confrontation since the demoralizing failures of Vietnam and Jimmy Carter’s Desert One fiasco that sought to rescue the U.S. hostages in Tehran.

America’s Will To Act Militarily

Operation Urgent Fury was of enormous significance in the eyes of Moscow, our allies, the American public, and even our military themselves as proof that America was not in decline as a superpower. It proved we had both the ability and the will to act in defense of threats to our own interests, and to win in doing so.

A pro-Communist coup had just left Grenada’s prime minister dead and its people under martial law. Soviet and Cuban personnel – apparently dozens of Russian advisers and hundreds of Cuban military and paramilitary – were constructing a long military airstrip that could be used by Moscow to supply arms to guerrillas seeking the overthrow of democratic regimes in El Salvador, Guatemala and elsewhere, or even accommodate Soviet-built bombers.

As Reagan told the nation afterwards, the island was “a Soviet-Cuban colony, being readied as a major military bastion to export terror and undermine democracy. We got there just in time.”

Graham is calling on Trump not to invade, but to demand that Cuba withdraw all its forces from Venezuela immediately, and “move military assets to the region” if Havana fails to comply.” The senator believes this “show of resolve” will be the catalyst that forces Venezuela’s military to ditch Maduro.

And Graham is convinced that one way or another the ripples will be felt around the world – and throughout Trump’s foreign policy agenda. On Sunday Graham told Fox News, “we are being tested in North Korea, Iran, Syria … there’s a lot of pressure on the Trump administration.” His advice: “I would do exactly what Reagan did. I would give Cuba an ultimatum to get out of Venezuela. If they don’t, I would let the Venezuelan military know, you got to choose between democracy and Maduro, and if you choose Maduro and Cuba we are coming after you. This is in our backyard.”

‘The World Is Going To Think He’s Weak’

According to Graham, Trump “has drawn a red line when it comes to Maduro. If he doesn’t act, everybody in the world is going to think he’s weak. If he does act, it helps us with North Korea, Iran, Russia, and everybody else.”

Reuters reports that, according to Columbia, over 1,400 Venezuelan national guard and other armed forces members have entered that country since Maduro had troops block food and aid convoys. The wire service also reports that an ex-army sergeant is organizing some of them in the border region and that they have contacted garrisons within Venezuela, many of them prepared to fight once armed force against Maduro begins.

The carnage of a prison uprising killing 29, and a riot at a nearby police station in reaction to it, is another indication of the breakdown of the Venezuelan government’s abilities. Amnesty International blamed Maduro as being “principally responsible for these deaths.”

The conditions are obviously ripe for Venezeulans themselves to bring change for the better in Venezuela, with huge effects felt in the rest of Latin America. The United States doesn’t have to mimic the past in Iraq or Afghanistan to help engineer new hope in this large, important nation in our hemisphere. We just have to show our strength and resolve. The cost to us of exercising leadership on this challenge is little, but the price for failing to do so will be steep and longstanding.

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Thomas McArdle

Tom McArdle @MacArdghail, longtime Senior Writer for Investor's Business Daily, was a White House Speechwriter for President George W. Bush, National Political Reporter for Washington political columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, Managing Editor of Human Events, and has worked as a writer for CNN and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His work has appeared in National Review, the American Spectator, The Hill, the Washington Examiner, Newsmax, and the National Catholic Register. He has appeared on Fox News and numerous talk radio programs. He is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, M. Stanton Evans' National Journalism Center in Washington, Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, and at 17 was one of Curtis Sliwa's original "Magnificent 13" Guardian Angels.

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