The Bucknellian

We don’t need another Iraq

Griffin Perrault, Senior Writer

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In order to live in the United States for any lengthy period of time–or, at least long enough to cycle between a presidential cabinet or two–one must be willing to tolerate some degree of national déjà vu. Whether it be trade protectionism, lax banking regulation, or internment camps, the U.S. government has proven incapable of retaining its memory for more than a generation. But perhaps the most ephemeral of all lessons is that learned from ponderous foreign intervention “for the greater good.” Since the end of World War II, American regional – and near global – hegemony has favored meddling in the affairs of foreign nations in the purported interest of “spreading democracy,” a purpose statement nearly as insincere as “Christianizing the indigenous population.” We have failed to accomplish this heavy-handed endeavor in South Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and it appears we are marching towards another futile attempt in Venezuela now.

 

At the very least, such was the impression given by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his interview on CNN Feb. 24, when he stated that the American government was contemplating “further action” beyond the already-harsh economic sanctions imposed on the country by the United States. The comments came at the pinnacle of an internal conflict in the country between current Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly of Venezuela. Calling Maduro’s January 2019 inauguration “illegitimate,” Guaidó cited a provision of the Venezuelan Constitution allowing the president of the National Assembly to serve as interim president in the absence of a legal head of state. Guaidó’s claim has retained the support of upwards of 50 governments, including that of the admittedly mercurial Trump administration.

 

The comments by Pompeo, however, have pushed America’s support from detached blessing towards active intervention, the scourge which has cost so many dollars and lives for such meager gains. Naturally, it would be in the best ideological interest of the United States to depose a self-identified socialist in its own hemisphere and reassert the synthetic supremacy it held over Latin American governments in the previous century, whether or not it sacrifices American and Venezuelan lives in the process. This is likely why a predictably large number of war hawks in the American government were eager to express implicit and explicit support for a military solution in Venezuela on Feb. 24. One notable case is that of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who posted a tweet on Feb. 24 displaying two photos of former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi – one of a comfortable Gaddafi before the NATO-led intervention in 2011, the other of him beaten in the street after his abduction. From Rubio’s perspective, we are to assume the same popular revolt will occur against Maduro given appropriate international meddling (although, given that Libya’s current concerns are pervasive chattel slavery and extremist terrorism, the comparison does not exactly make the concept of intervention enviable). Other high-ranking individuals have expressed support for postures from limited bombing campaigns to full-on deployment of troops; any of these maneuvers begin to look increasingly likely in the face of a scuffle between pro-Maduro forces and opposition on Feb. 24, the violence of which spilled over onto Colombian soil. This technically constitutes an attack on Colombia, and under the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (think NATO for the Western hemisphere, including the “attack on one is an attack on all” provision), the United States would be legally justified in going to war with Venezuela. While there is no absolute certainty as to the American approach in this country – indeed, “further action” could mean any number of things–the fact that military action has not been taken off the table is genuinely worrying, even for those of us too young to feel this déjà vu.

 

It is important to note that this is, by no means, an endorsement of Maduro or his administration; his restrictions on free expression and subversions of democracy have wrought irreversible destruction on the Venezuelan constitution. But since the end of the Second World War, American military intervention has too often left foreign nations in a state of persistent, unassailable desolation. The world cannot afford another Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq.

 

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We don’t need another Iraq