Should our new Congress declare war on Venezuela?

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?

11 thoughts on “Should our new Congress declare war on Venezuela?

  1. Canada! Except Quebec, of course. Hope Mrs Streisand knows her French.

    Turning the former territories into new US states pronto, Trump is probably done, with the help of all the liberal former Canadians. So don’t tell him. Win-Win.

    • > Canada!

      This has been thought of before. In 1812 Thomas Jefferson said its conquest would be “a mere matter of marching” and many agreed with him.

      King George’s forces, though already occupied with the defeat of the Corsican tyrant, soon brought them disillusionment.

  2. Instead of getting bellicose, why don’t we try a win-win approach of trading Puerto Rico for venezuela?Venezuela sounds like it might have some upside in the right hands while Puerto Rico is pretty picked over.

  3. Phil, i guess i just have a fundamental disagreement with your view of moral obligations here. Your point seems in this post and others to be “the masses of people around the world are of equal value. Therefore, we have equal obligation to help (or equally *little* obligation to help) suffering Venezuelans in their home country as we do suffering Americans/ suffering immigrants here.”

    While “the masses” of people may be equal in value, yes,I would say that we *do* have certain obligations to the suffering people on our doorstep that we do not have to the suffering people in, say, Yemen. Think of it this way: You might read about a lost or suffering child in the news. You might reasonably think that you will not go out of your way to rescue or aid this child (because it is highly impractical, you don’t know where to start, etc). If, however, a suffering child showed up on your doorstep asking for help, it would be morally wrong to simply ignore this child in the same way you ignored the child on the news. (I would hope folks can see there’s a difference here!) Proximity, ability to help, and other relationships engender certain moral obligations to a person or a group of people, even if you hold that no group of people is more or less valuable than another group. (Sorry for the Phil 101 discourse)…

  4. @Karen:

    My next door neighbor was having some issues and I helped him clean his yard few times. He now no longer takes care of it himself expect me to do the job for him year after year. Before long, I was taking care of not just his yard, but his neighbor’s yard too!

    Many of those countries that we are helping and should help, we have been helping for generations and yet nothing changed, why? And many of those countries that we are helping and need help, are bordered by rich countries but yet the bordered rich countries don’t help, why?

  5. @Karen:

    If someone enters your house without your permission, not to rob, steal or harm, but to just live there because they don’t have a house, is that acceptable?

    Another aspect to consider is if the above mentioned person even needs your permission in the first place — you happen to have ownership documents of the house and they don’t, but that simply makes them undocumented homeowners …

  6. @George I actually agree that much of the aid the US has given to other countries has been misplaced or ineffective. My point is only that it is not inconsistent to push for humane treatment/integration of suffering illegal immigrants who arrive here while also not advocating that the US take drastic military action around the world to help the suffering!

    @Anonymous I don’t think any individual should have to give up their home to a stranger. I do think that a humane goverment (particularly in an obscenely wealthy country like the US!) should provide for a suffering group that crosses into its borders. In terms of the individual impact this would cause, I would say you should have to pay an extra 5 dollars in taxes if it means an illegal family can get housing and medical help after crossing the border.

  7. @Karen: you won’t have to give up your home! When people want undocumented immigrants to come to the US, they don’t mean current residents get out of the country. Similarly documented homeowners shouldn’t have to leave when the undocumented homeowners arrive. Alternatively, can also consider them undocumented guests in the house (i.e. lacking invitations, etc.) – and again original homeowners do not need to leave when guests arrive. In fact, they should stay and take care of the new permanent guests.

    And only $5 extra tax per tax-paying person! That would be few hundred million dollars per year. What fraction of the several million undocumented immigrants can get free housing, food and healthcare with that?

  8. Karen: You make a great argument. But I wonder if it makes sense given our massive investment in a mobile military. People almost anywhere in the world are effectively “on our doorstep.”

    The Gates Foundation seems to subscribe to this idea: “Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. ” (from https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Foundation-Factsheet )

    They are recognizing that it is just as practical for them to be do-gooders in Africa as in Seattle (which is why they step over the homeless in Seattle on their way to doing good in Africa?).

  9. As a point of clarity, Venezuela hasn’t had free and fair elections in many years. Maduro has no more been “elected” than Castro was. Indeed, Cuba is pulling all kinds of marionette strings in Venezuela. If Manuel Noriega deserved action, Venezuela deserves 10 times more given their regime’s level of narco criminality.

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