We have a new (better?) Congress as of today.
The Uber driver who picked me up recently in “North Bethesda” (Rockville!) happened to be an immigrant from Venezuela. His parents and siblings remain in Venezuela’s “second city”, as he phrased it, of Maracaibo. They are short of food and medicine, both of which he ships to them monthly. “Sometimes it gets through. Sometimes it gets stolen by the army or police.”
I asked him what, in an ideal world, the U.S. government would do to help his family and their fellow Venezuelans. He wanted to see a U.S. military invasion that would remove the current government.
On the one hand, our most recent invasions-followed-by-nation-building efforts haven’t worked out so well. On the other hand, we invaded the Dominican Republic in 1965 and managed to get back out (Wikipedia).
We claim to be humanitarians, which is why we provide free housing, health care, food, and smartphones to low-income immigrants and their children. But, in theory, we could help all 32 million people in Venezuela to a much greater extent at a much lower cost than what we’re providing to tens of millions of welfare-dependent immigrants (at least one million in New York City alone, according to the nytimes).
If we don’t care about helping the vulnerable then obviously there is no need for us to bother. But then why do we spend $1.2 trillion on welfare? If we do care about helping the vulnerable, why don’t we set Venezuela back on its feet? How much resistance would current members of the Venezuelan military and police put up if we said “Staring Monday you’ll all be getting paychecks in dollars”? Are these folks truly fanatically devoted to their current way of doing things?
Plainly we couldn’t promise “free elections” since Venezuelans did freely vote for the current government (see Hugo Chavez: Great politician; poor administrator).
And probably we wouldn’t be successful in meeting expectations. Foreign Policy says “Venezuela was considered rich in the early 1960s: It produced more than 10 percent of the world’s crude and had a per capita GDP many times bigger than that of its neighbors Brazil and Colombia — and not far behind that of the United States.” The author is a brilliant “geoeconomics” expert, but apparently economists aren’t interested in long division because the article doesn’t include the word “population.” The population of Venezuela was 7.6 million in 1960 and dividing oil revenue by 7.6 million resulted in “per capita rich”. The same oil reserves divided by 32 million, of course, yield a disappointingly smaller number.
So of course we probably don’t want to invade Venezuela. But if we don’t, why do we say that our government acts in a humanitarian manner? Who needs help right now more than Venezuelans?
And if we don’t want to use our military for this, why do we need such a huge military? What other country would our new Congress want to invade?