As the political situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate, there are growing calls in Washington from both sides of the aisle for the Trump administration to provide greater American support for acting Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently telling ABC News that the United States was preparing for potential military action against Venezuela.
Perhaps one of the most prominent Washington insiders calling for greater American action against the Venezuelan government of Nicholas Maduro, is National Security Advisor John Bolton, who was made famous for accidentally showing his notepad to media during a press conference with the words “5,000 U.S troops to Columbia” in plain sight for the world to see.
In a recent interview with CNN regarding the future of the Maduro government, Bolton said “..sometimes one kick at the door and the whole rotten edifice falls down”. Bolton’s words clearly illustrated that he believed it was likely that the days of the Maduro government were numbered should sufficient force be applied.
There was another man who once said a remarkably similar thing before beginning one of the bloodiest and costliest conflicts in the history of mankind, that man was Adolf Hitler. Shortly before Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of the Soviet Union) Hitler was convinced that the U.S.S.R would quickly collapse under the weight of German arms, telling his generals “You only have to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down,”
Bolton believes that the Maduro government can be quickly and easily swept aside without serious long term costs, with the U.S friendly government of Juan Guaidó ready to step in and take power, but like the German invasion of the Soviet Union any sort of American military action against Venezuela will likely have a series of unintended consequences.
While the case for action against the Maduro government may seem like an open and shut affair, there is a series of likely complications that could seriously impact the global geopolitical landscape and undermine the stability of not only Venezuela, but potentially neighbouring countries.
Unlike past American led efforts against nations like Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, the Maduro government has some extremely powerful friends in the form of Russia and China, both of whom have major strategic and economic interests intertwined with the future of the Maduro government.
For Moscow, Venezuela represents one of its most important allies both militarily and economically, with Russian companies owning large interests in the Venezuelan oil industry and the Russian armed forces using Venezuelan air and naval bases for their visiting troops. Russian military action to support an ally is also not unprecedented in recent history, as illustrated by the Russian military’s ongoing deployment in Syria in defence of the government of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Meanwhile for Beijing, Venezuela is seen as a “natural extension” of its multi-billion dollar ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, with China pumping $63 billion into Venezuela over the past decade in an attempt to expand Chinese influence and gain an important ally in the Western Hemisphere. Predicting China’s response to any attempt to “kick in” Venezuela’s door is at best problematic, as the U.S – China relationship continue to be strained by the ongoing trade war.
In neighbouring Columbia, Marxist guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN) have pledged to fight alongside the Maduro government against any American military action, with Columbian revolutionary group FARC and other leftist groups already working to arm civilian paramilitaries in area’s near the Columbian border.
While some of the more hawkish members of the nation’s leadership may believe they can simply “kick the door in” and have the Maduro government collapse without further costs for the United States, there is a high likelihood that any attempt to use force against Venezuela could have a series of unintended consequences that could have serious effects for years to come.
John Bolton and the hawkish members of Washington’s leadership may see short military campaigns as a prime option to secure and further the interests of the United States, but if America continues to wage wars with poorly planned long term strategies for their aftermath, the United States may once again find itself in another Afghanistan or Iraq like quagmire it cannot easily escape.