Washington’s Gunboat Diplomacy

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Written by Philip M. Giraldi; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

Great powers throughout history often become lazy. This translates into opting for easy solutions by force majeure to problems that might better be dealt with more constructively, a process once referred to as “gunboat diplomacy.” The United States has fallen into that trap, operating under the assumption that military power is ultimately the only thing that matters. It has done so since President George W. Bush announced to the world in the wake of 9/11 that “you are either with us or against us” and proceeded to invade Iraq, which had not been involved in the terrorist attack. President Barack Obama continued in that vein when he bombed Libya and increased involvement in Syria.

Washington’s Gunboat Diplomacy

Currently the wheel has turned somewhat more towards fully embracing reactionary responses to world events. Last week the media reported additional details regarding last August’s discussion in the Donald Trump White House over the desirability of mounting a military intervention in Venezuela to remove the admittedly dystopic and despotic government of President Nicolas Maduro. For those who are not following developments in the Southern Hemisphere closely, the Venezuelan “Bolivarian” government is an updated version of South American old-style communism promoting an aggressive populism that endorses class warfare.

Political demonstrations over the past two years protesting the deteriorating economy and the threat to what remains of the country’s democracy have been suppressed by violence initiated by heavily armed police in which dozens died. The National Assembly, which is controlled by the political opposition, is being ignored by Maduro, who is basically ruling by decree. Since he controls the security apparatus there is no one to tell him what he cannot do.

Venezuelans, sitting on an ocean of oil reserves, are starving, unemployed, plagued by hyperinflation not seen since post-World War I Germany, and fleeing the country in their hundreds of thousands. Credit both internationally and domestically has vanished and foreign companies that had set up shop in the country, which refuses to allow them any longer to repatriate their profits, have fled, meaning that consumer goods once readily available have disappeared from the shelves.

So Venezuela is indeed a basket case and a growing problem for neighbors in South America, but the ones who are suffering most are the Venezuelans themselves, who, one would think, should be the most likely candidates for removing their own government. Not so, according to President of the United States and Leader of the Free World Donald Trump, who, according to the reporting from advisers that actually sat in on the meeting, suggested that there might be a military solution to the problem, i.e. the United States should intervene to restore order and “democracy.” This discussion apparently took place nearly a year ago when the violence in Venezuela reached such a level that it appeared to be threatening to morph into civil war.

According to the Associated Press account, “As a meeting last August in the Oval Office to discuss sanctions on Venezuela was concluding, President Donald Trump turned to his top aides and asked them an unsettling question: With a fast unraveling Venezuela threatening regional security, why can’t the US just simply invade the troubled country? The suggestion stunned those present at the meeting…” Trump’s aides reportedly discussed with him the dangers inherent in such a proposal, mostly in terms of costing support of Venezuela’s neighbors, who are already behind punitive sanctions to isolate Maduro’s regime and have been swamped with a refugee crisis. Intervening would also revive unpalatable memories of American incursions in various Latin American countries during the twentieth century.

But Trump, who appears to have no Latin America policy apart from punishing “socialist” Cuba and Venezuela, persisted in his support of a military incursion as a possible option, citing relatively recent Reagan-era interventions in Panama and Grenada as success stories. He also mentioned the possibility of an armed response in a press conference on the following day, a comment was reported and predictably produced a wave of support inside Venezuela for Maduro.

Even in government circles, behavior should be conditioned by “reality checks” or even referral to one’s “moral compass” when planning potentially lethal operations, if only to restore some sense of what might be both practical and ethical. Apparently that pushback against executive branch adventurism has long since disappeared and there are few in Congress or the media that are willing to challenge runaway American imperialism. Invading Venezuela would have been a very bad idea, but the untrammeled growth of executive authority in the United States means that if Mr. Trump had pushed a little harder he might have obtained what he wanted. It is a reality that should worry every American.

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  • Rob

    These pots are trouble makers in the whole world for foothold.

  • Rob

    Any leadership or politician having relations with them will loose this world as well as the next world.

  • Harvey Swinestein

    The author of this piece seems to wantonly ignore the fact that a lot of the cause of the basket-case economy in Venezuela is the sanctions placed on it by the US itself. It’s a bit like blaming the recently raped victim for looking dishevelled . .

    • Gary Sellars

      ..not to mention the concerted and long-term effort of the wealthy elite compradors who are systematically sabotaging the national economy in an effort to have Maduro thrown out of office and for power to return to the owners of capital and real estate, a seditious process supported by, and cheered on, by the USA.

      • I-need-a-new-name

        The elite-compradors constitute a plague in latin-america. But they stand in their positions because large swathes of the population are retards, to say the least. The Venezuelan people that supports Maduro have achieved a milestone by keeping the retards and their masters in line.

        • Daniel Castro

          The only thing venezuelans achieved was a perpetual state of starvation eternally bowing to supreme leader Maduro which will never accept anyone else in power but himself.

    • chris chuba

      I’m glad that someone else has noticed Trump’s galling language. I wished the MSM called him out on it instead of covering ‘Stormy Daniels’ 24/7. Trump also cried over Iran’s ‘basket case’ economy crashing oil production but no one mentioned that it was Trump who is campaigning to drive Iran’s oil exports to Zero.

  • Gary Sellars

    This article seems to be little more than a thinly-veiled agitprop attack on Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution. Get your act together SF, no more stealth-neocon drivel pls….

  • Sinbad2

    The USA has always practiced gunboat diplomacy.
    The General Sherman attacked Korea in 1866, after Korea destroyed the attacking vessel, the US invaded Korea in 1871 killed a bunch of folks, and only left after Korea allowed American businessmen to rip them off.

    Has anything changed?

  • Veritas Vincit

    – “The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil…… Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands….. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society…..

    …….I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.” (Why Socialism? by Albert Einstein)

    • I-need-a-new-name

      You may start reading http://www.asynchronousexchange.com . It still a long way to complete the translation but will point you in the right direction.

    • Veritas Vincit

      p2. – “[the IMF] applies the mechanisms of capitalism, specifically those of credit. Its strategy is as simple as it is effective: When a country runs into financial difficulties, the IMF steps in and provides support in the form of loans. In return, it demands the enforcement of measures [‘structural reforms’ involving the sale of public assets to private interests that provides immediate funds but ends the revenue these assets generate, subsequently redirected to private hands] that serve to ensure the country’s solvency in order to enable it to repay these loans….. governments usually have no choice but to accept the IMF’s offer and submit to its terms thus getting caught in a web of debt [debt bondage]…. The resulting strain on the state budget and the domestic economy inevitably leads to a deterioration of their financial situation, which the IMF in turn uses as a pretext for demanding ever new concessions in the form of “austerity programs”.

      The consequences are disastrous for the ordinary people of the countries affected (which are mostly low-income) because their governments all follow the same pattern, passing the effects of austerity on to wage earners and the poor…. [Privatised former public services also increase poverty as profit is increasingly sought through price increases. The dismantling of public sector jobs contributes to unemployment and a resultant precariat class. The logic of capitalism results in larger businesses increasingly consolidating market share displacing smaller businesses]….. At the other end of the social scale, however, the policies of the IMF have helped a tiny layer of ultra-rich increase their vast fortunes even in times of crisis. Its measures have contributed decisively to the fact that global inequality has assumed historically unprecedented levels. (Pillaging the World. The History and Politics of the IMF, By Ernst Wolff, January 02, 2016)

      – “A major obligation is for member governments to effect privatization and a market economy. This basically means that countries practicing a planned economy or any form of socialism cannot apply for membership, since they do not support the profit agendas pushed by multinational corporations. Like the IMF, the World Bank exercises a powerful influence on developing nations, often at the expense of their sovereignty. It is important to keep in mind that the World Bank makes a very high profit with each loan….. The government of the country seeking a loan is required to reduce its role in controlling its economy. This weakens that country’s ability to provide the services and infra-structure needed by its citizens….. ” (Colonizing the World’s Economy, by Lenora Foerstel)

      The transfer of public wealth to private interests is counter to public interest. The privatisation/ acquisition of grossly undervalued public assets and ‘structural reforms’ (such as the applied economic “shock treatment” imposed on the Russian Federation subsequent to the dissolution of the Soviet Union resulting in a massive increase in poverty levels and the effective theft of public assets, a privatisation process that further increased poverty through ever increasing profit seeking) is a parasitic business model and a predatory form of neoliberal capitalism.

      Unfortunately the pursuit of profit (capitalism being an economic system motivated by greed) will generally prevail over the interests of society. The desire for ever increasing profit will logically progress to an increase in the exploitation of labour (as is occurring).

      The relationship between governments and business corrupts policy to favour such private interests over public interest (policies such as privatisation of public assets that transform these from serving the public interest to exploiting the public for ever more profit [profit being the objective of private business], tax structures that favour the investor/business class [of which governments are part of], housing converted into a Ponzi structured investment market [values distorted by speculative practices and maintained through the expansion of debt] creating a housing affordability crisis and a rental affordability crisis, etc.) as capitalism is structured to benefit the interests of private business.

      The promotion to attain obscene levels of wealth (as possessed by the 1 percent) blinds most to the reality of increasing levels of (unsustainable) debt and poverty.

      Nationalisation of a nation’s resources, assets and essential services is the only mechanism to ensure revenue generated from these remains in public hands (and ensures funding of necessary services), not private interests (the neoliberal model ensuring debt bondage to private banks and corporate monopolies destroying small business [concentration of wealth]). This is unlikely to occur in this era (privatisations to benefit investors and banking institutions being a fundamental policy of neoliberal capitalism) but it will likely occur in a following era (many not recognising that another world war is gradually developing).

    • Harvey Swinestein

      Some balance between benevolent capitalism and socialism would be better. The socialist system of the Soviet Union eventually collapsed because a purely socialist economy doesn’t work. The best economies harness the innate selfishness of human nature to want more, and connect it to a form of government that helps the poor to help themselves and prevents oligarchal control. Strange as it may seem, the best 20th Century example of this was the economic miracle of National Socialist Germany in the 1930’s, which has been counted by some as the greatest economic miracle of the 20th Century, and it was all done outside the Zionazi US bankster system (probably why they were so determined to destroy it) . .