I am not interested in “nation-building.” And as a Navy veteran, I am very cautious when it comes to the idea of using military force. I hate to disappoint those who want the U.S. to right all the world’s wrongs, but long ago I came to terms with the fact that we cannot do that.
I do want the U.S. to continue to be a beacon of hope and freedom, but we simply cannot commit military forces unless we absolutely must.
Which brings me to Venezuela. I was at the border between Colombia and Venezuela a few weeks ago. What is happening in Venezuela is a human tragedy. Let’s look at the facts:
The United Nations estimates that 3.4 million refugees have fled the country. Almost 90% of the population lives in poverty, and shortages of food and medicine are becoming desperate.
This is a man-made crisis. Nicolas Maduro, the ruthless dictator of Venezuela, is killing his own citizens, including women and children. Venezuela has a legitimate constitutional leader: Juan Guaido, who, as president of the National Assembly, the last democratically elected body in the country, is constitutionally required to serve as interim president until new free and fair elections take place. President Donald Trump has skillfully called the world’s attention to the situation, and has amassed the support of more than 50 countries that recognize Guaido as the legitimate president.
As an aside, Democrats would do well to study Venezuela as they contemplate their current flirtation with the most discredited idea from the 20th century: socialism.
But, as I said, it is not the United States’ job to send our young men and women into harm’s way to right all of the world’s wrongs. So even if you conclude that the above list of facts does not justify the intervention of the U.S., there is a massive and far-reaching problem I haven’t mentioned yet: our own self-interest.
Venezuela is in our hemisphere. Russian troops are already in Venezuela.
Do you think it would be in our national interest to allow the Russians — or the Cubans, the Iranians or Chinese — to install military bases there? Naval ports? Should we allow Hezbollah to roam free?
We must do all in our power to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Similarly, we don’t want a Syria in our hemisphere — a place where foreign powers and terrorist groups can set up camp and sow discord throughout the continent. Consider the ramifications this would have for our southern border and for the stability of the U.S. This is not complicated.
There used to be a thing called the Monroe Doctrine; it was taught in history classes. President James Monroe made it clear in 1823 in his annual speech to Congress that the Western Hemisphere was closed to future colonization, and any attempt by a foreign power to oppress or control any nation in the Western Hemisphere would be viewed as a hostile act against the U.S.
To that I say: amen. I have no interest in dictating anything to the people of Venezuela. But I absolutely do believe we should dictate a few things to the Russians, the Cubans and the Chinese. No, we will not allow you to set up shop in Venezuela. We will not allow you to take over that country, and we will not allow you to establish any military presence in our hemisphere. We should never allow another Cuba, and we must not stick our heads in the sand and pretend we don’t know what is going on.
When it comes to our security, the current migration crisis from Central America on our southern border will pale in comparison with the mass exodus the Maduro regime will unleash under the direction of Russia and Cuba. Dictators in Latin America have effectively used mass migration against the U.S. time and time again.
To be clear — I respect those who are cautious about the dangers of military intervention. I am generally among them. But it’s time to also acknowledge that inaction can be an equally dangerous course, if not more so. Doing nothing always seems safe, though it can be the most reckless and irresponsible course.
If the cause of freedom is crushed in Venezuela, and it results in foreign powers establishing a launchpad and outpost there for their hostility against the U.S., we will look back on the spring of 2019 and wonder how it is that we were so shortsighted, how we ignored the wisdom of President Monroe. I pray that is not the case.
Rick Scott, a Republican, represents Florida in the Senate. He wrote this article for the Washington Post.