Venezuela crisis: Will the US opt for military intervention?

Written By: Wajahat Qazi
Srinagar Updated: Feb 08, 2019, 01:50 PM(IST)

File photo of US President Donald Trump. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Venezuela’s warning to the United States that there will be “irregular warfare” if the country intervenes militarily is rich and gratuitous.

In the world of states, there is no such thing as “humanitarian intervention”. But, there is a military intervention which states only take recourse to when their interests are at stake. In the general schema of state interest(s), there is a hierarchy of these and it is only when a given state’s fundamental interests are at stake, that it opts for military intervention.  

From this perspective, Venezuela’s warning to the United States that there will be “irregular warfare” if the country intervenes militarily is rich and gratuitous.

It may be recalled that Venezuela is in the midst of a severe political and economic crisis, where the charismatic former president of the country, Hugo Chavez’ successor’s legitimacy and thereby the country’s future is at stake. But, the Venezuelan crisis, as important it is from a humanitarian angle, is a “low stakes game”. It is low stakes because Venezuela, even though an important oil producer and exporter, is neither a significant state in the region nor a swing one. 

This is not to detract from the country’s intrinsic importance (because all nations and countries are important in their own right) but to put matters into perspective.

Moreover, the drift, thrust and tenor of international politics and relations is such that Venezuela, in the schema of powers that be constitute a lower order interest, perhaps because of oil and its politics thereof. But, there appears to be a humanitarian crisis brewing in the country. Given all this, will the international community led by the United States opt for military intervention?

No is the flat answer.

Besides the reasons delineated in this essay, other factors that militate against a full-blown military intervention pertain to the United States itself. The country, under Trump, has and is retreated inward into a quasi-isolationist and protectionist posture. 

It has exited from Syria, is considering a retreat from Afghanistan and is confrontational toward China in trade matters. Against this backdrop, and the general aversion toward military intervention after the second Gulf War, it is well nigh impossible that the country will put “ boots on the ground” in Venezuela.  

Even if these reasons and factors were to be discounted, the United States, at this point in time, does not have the absorptive capacity for the military option even of a limited and sort.

All this then rules out the military instrument.  But, the international community along with the United States is not staying silent. It is doing something. The nature of the international community’s commission with respect to Venezuela lies in denying Nicolas Maduro and his government legitimacy. 

This is a form of pressure that accrues from the very nature of international relations and politics. The state as a unit in international relations and in the international system derives legitimacy from two sides: internally and externally. It is upon the latter that the international community is focusing on. The hope here appears to be that if the Venezuelan state, in its current form and avatar, is denied legitimacy externally and with sufficient unrest, protests and perhaps even anarchy within, implied and even tacit support for the opposition forces, Maduro’s regime will collapse. 

But, there are a plethora of assumptions involved in this approach. That is, there are too many if’s and but’s in it.

But, whatever be the case and howsoever, conditions in Venezuela will pan out and denoue, there will be no military intervention. Venezuela will be in the nature of a split and divided country and too conflicted for its own good. 

The international community, by employing the tools and instruments it is taking recourse to, is essentially banking upon a scenario, which might or might not come to pass.  But, it is the people of Venezuela that will suffer on a range of levels. However, all said and done, it is the people of Venezuela, not some distant politicians or technocratic experts, sitting in foreign capitals, that must choose and determine their future, how they want to live and be governed, and what system they adopt in a fair and a transparent manner. This choice must then be respected by all. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

Wajahat Qazi

Wajahat Qazi is particularly interested in politics, global security and political economy. He is a wanderer and fancies himself to be a wannabe writer.
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