By Jacob G. Hornberger
In an editorial opposing a U.S.-supported coup in Venezuela, the New York Times gets it right, mostly. Unfortunately, the Times’s editorial board, like so many advocates of foreign interventionism, just cannot let go entirely of its interventionist mindset.
But let’s first give credit where credit is due. In its September 11 editorial “Stay Out of Venezuela, Mr. Trump,” the Times makes a good case for non-interventionism in Venezuela, notwithstanding the fact that Venezuela’s ruler, Nicolas Maduro, has developed into a brutal socialist dictator whose “election” was illegitimate. Maduro’s socialism has thrown the country into crisis, chaos, and violence, with Venezuelans on the verge of starvation. More than a million people have fled the country in an attempt to save their lives.
In opposing a U.S.-instigated coup, the Times points to the U.S. national-security state’s history of foreign interventionism in Latin America and the disastrous consequences of its interventions. Guatemala. Cuba. Brazil. Mexico. Nicaragua. Chile. Grenada. Panama. They have all suffered the consequences of U.S. interventionism, by both the CIA and the Pentagon, which have oftentimes left the citizenries of those countries suffering under brutal pro-U.S. dictatorships or even civil war, as what happened in Guatemala.
And then the Times goes off the rails, saying:
Here’s the right way to put pressure on Venezuela’s regime: Mr. Trump and other leaders need to keep trying to encourage a transition deal by tightening targeted sanctions on Mr. Maduro and his cronies who undergird an autocratic, corrupt system. Cuba, which is dependent on Venezuela for oil and has close relations with Mr. Maduro, should be encouraged to use its leverage. Mr. Trump and other leaders also need to coordinate and expand assistance for Venezuela’s suffering people.
That’s the thing about interventionists. They simply cannot let go of their interventionist mindset. It’s like it’s in the DNA. Notice that the Times fails to address the critically important question: Under what moral and legal authority does the U.S. government meddle in the internal affairs of Venezuela in any respect whatsoever, including both coups and sanctions, especially in an era when U.S. officials and the mainstream press are crying about supposed Russian meddling in America’s internal affairs?
By “transition deal” the Times is referring to regime change. The idea is to use sanctions to “pressure” Maduro into “voluntarily” relinquishing power so that he can be replaced with someone else. Not surprisingly, the Times forgets to mention how economic sanctions have proven to be such a dismal and deadly failure against other foreign rulers and regimes.
Recall Iraq. Eleven years of brutal U.S. sanctions whose aim was to “pressure” Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein into leaving office and being replaced by a pro-U.S. ruler. It didn’t work, and after 11 years of failure U.S. officials had to resort to using the 9/11 attacks to engender support for a U.S. military invasion to achieve what 11 years of sanctions had failed to achieve. That was after the sanctions had contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, which U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright told Sixty Minutes had been “worth it.”
It’s ironic that the Times recommends that U.S. officials encourage Cuba to join the “pressure” bandwagon, given that the U.S. has enforced a brutal system of economic sanctions against Cuba for almost 60 years, again with the aim of “pressuring” Cuban officials to abdicate in favor of a pro-U.S. regime or simply to acquiesce to U.S. orders and commands. As we all know, the embargo never succeeded in ousting Fidel Castro from power and it has still not succeeded in “pressuring” Cuba’s current regime to kowtow to U.S. officials. All that the embargo has done is increase the suffering of the Cuban people, on top of the suffering they already experience from their socialist economic system.
The Times naively believes that Maduro and his cronies will somehow abdicate or change their behavior with “targeted” sanctions against them. Instead, what Maduro and his cronies will do is use the sanctions to show that they are under siege by the great empire of the north, thereby necessitating that they exercise even more “emergency powers,” just as U.S. officials used the 9/11 attacks to do the same thing. That’s what national-security states always do, whether in Venezuela, the United States, North Korea, Cuba, China, Egypt, or Turkey.
But here’s the other naïve aspect of the Times’ position: Those “targeted sanctions” never remain targeted for long. That’s because U.S. officials inevitably get angry and frustrated that the targeted individuals are not responding in the way they are supposed to respond. That’s when U.S. officials begin expanding those “targeted sanctions” to the citizenry, as a way to “pressure” the citizenry into violently revolting against their ruler or, alternatively, to “pressure” the deep state within the government to initiate a coup.
Finally, a word about the Times’ statement, “Mr. Trump and other leaders also need to coordinate and expand assistance for Venezuela’s suffering people.”
While the Times doesn’t explain what it means by “assistance,” my hunch is that it doesn’t mean permitting Venezuelan refugees to freely come to the United States. In other words, “We’re concerned about you but don’t even think for a moment of coming here and living here among us!”
What the Times obviously means is government welfare, the system by which the IRS forcibly takes money from Americans in the form of income taxation and then U.S. officials give it to others. The idea then is that Americans will then be considered a good and caring people because their government has given their IRS-seized money to needy people.
I’ve got a better idea, a libertarian idea. The U.S. government should butt out of Venezuelan affairs entirely. No coups, no sanctions, no welfare, no meddling, and no interventionism whatsoever. Leave Venezuela to the Venezuelans. If private Americans, including the individual members of the New York Times editorial board, wish to help Venezuelans with their own money or in any other manner, they can do so on their own.
This article was originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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