Thursday, January 24, 2019

When in Doubt, Start a War

Popularity dwindling at home?  Start a war - and you will surely be re-elected!

It worked for Margaret Thatcher.  It worked for Saddam Hussein (for a while, at least).   It worked for Argentina.  It worked for George Bush.  It worked for so many others throughout history.  Whenever someone challenges your authority or your popularity goes down the toilet, start a war, and see your poll numbers skyrocket.

Sometimes, you may even need a pretext.  Other times, not so much.

It seems that we are poised to start another war, which would work out just fine for Donald Trump.  By recognizing the opposition (now the majority) party in Venezuela, we are triggering a confrontation with the illegitimate Maduro government, and possibly Russia itself (who now owns leases on most of Venezuela's oil fields and much of the offshore natural gas - not to mention billions in loan debt).

And it would be a much easier war to fight - only a three hour flight from Miami - the soldiers could be home on weekends!   None of this flying halfway across the world nonsense.   Better still would be to declare war on Canada (since they are already the enemy, right?).   I could just see it now, two reserve members talking:
"Oh, we've declared war on Canada, we'd better get ready to mobilize!" 
"OK, are we taking a plane or what?" 
"Nah, we'll just take my car, it's only a two-hour drive!"
That would be a convenient war, no?

Of course, one problem with these messy little wars is that the tiny countries we invade are rarely better off when all is said and done.  In fact, usually what happens is they become festering wounds that refuse to heal over time.   Even though we "won" in Korea, or at least achieved a stalemate (in a war that is technically still going on) the situation there has hardly settled down over time.  Iraq and Afghanistan will likely never return to any form of normalcy - if there ever was such at thing in either place.  Of course, the British could have told us of the perils of invading Afghanistan.  And the Russians, too.

You can see how the next war is playing out already.  We have refused to remove our diplomats, arguing that any order by Maduro is illegitimate (as indeed they are).   Maduro will do something stupid like breach the sanctity of the diplomatic compound, and that will give us a pretext to invade to "rescue" our diplomats in a Republican do-over of Benghazi.

Of course, there are flies in the ointment.   Russia has sold billions of dollars of arms to Maduro and has landed bombers there - which may or may not be carrying nuclear weapons.   Do we invade if Russian soldiers are on Venezuelan soil?   Or do we back down under the threat of nuclear annihilation from Putin?

If Trump plays his cards right, a precisely timed war could be the nexus to put him over the top for re-election in 2020.   Everybody loves a good old patriotic war to fight, particularly if we are going after "the bad guys."  And surely with all the opposition to Maduro, we will be welcomed as conquering heroes, right?

Maybe.  Maybe not.   The problem is, all the anti-Maduro people have fled the country to find things like food and jobs.   Maybe they will come flooding back in to support the new government.  Maybe not.   The other problem is, some people in Venezuela actually believe this Commie shit, particularly when it meant a better life for them personally.   If you grew up in a slum, picking garbage for a living, while enriched elites looted the economy, you might not view a return to capitalism as such a great deal.  And if you are drawing a comfortable salary (and maybe even more comfortable bribe money) as a government official or soldier, maybe the status quo, as bad as it is, is pretty good for you.

Because like a lot of countries in Latin America and South America (or indeed, the Middle East) it isn't as simple as a struggle between Democracy and Communism, but a more nuanced problem, involving entrenched interests on both sides, rampant corruption on both sides, and huge income inequality - no matter who is in power.  We may be thinking we are going to "restore Democracy" in Venezuela, but some military strong-man probably has other ideas (along with various special interest groups).

As I said, timing is everything.  Start the war too early, and it may go horribly wrong (or be over) before November 2020.  Start it too late, well, you won't be in office.

But time it just right - and its a brilliant political move, sad as that is to say.