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Lindsey Graham Still Hankering for War With Venezuela

John McCain's former sidekick is channelling his late master

Lindsey Graham was beating the war drums for attacking Venezuela again over the weekend:

GRAHAM: Yes, really. So here’s the deal. We are being tested in North Korea, Iran, Syria, Assad is going into it Idlib now. There’s a lot of pressure on the Trump administration. And Trump said rightly, Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela, the entire region supports the Trump approach that Guaido is the legitimate leader. He wouldn’t be in power without 6,000 or 7,000 Cuban security forces in Venezuela.

I would do exactly what Reagan did. I would give Cuba an ultimatum to get out of Venezuela. If they don’t, I would let the Venezuelan military know, you got to choose between democracy and Maduro, and if you choose Maduro and Cuba, we are coming after you. This is in our backyard.

Trump said that he was for democracy, against socialism —

WALLACE: Right.

GRAHAM: — and he has drawn a red line when it comes to Maduro. If he doesn’t [act], everybody in the world is going to think he’s weak. If he does act, it helps us with North Korea, Iran, Russia, and everybody else.

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Graham is an incorrigible warmonger, so it isn’t news that he wants to threaten other countries this way. We should still pay attention to Graham’s belligerent rhetoric because he is a close ally of the president and is clearly trying to goad him into taking the reckless action that he wants. He just might succeed. It is significant that Graham is relying on a version of the bogus “credibility” argument to sell war with Venezuela. He doesn’t claim that attacking Venezuela will do anything for U.S. security or advance any American interests in the region. Instead, he tries to sell war as a way to avoid appearing “weak” in the eyes of adversaries elsewhere, and he claims that attacking Venezuela will “help” with various other foreign policy problems. None of this is true, but this is what Graham is reducing to saying because he has no other argument.

Graham knows that Trump detests appearing weak, and so he needs to make Trump believe that “the world” will perceive him this way if he doesn’t back up his stupid regime change rhetoric with an insane and illegal military intervention. The truth is that “the world” won’t care that Trump is “weak,” but Venezuela’s neighbors and the people of Venezuela will be relieved if the U.S. refuses to intervene militarily. Attacking Venezuela won’t “help” the U.S. one bit with North Korea or Iran or any other government, and if the U.S. did attack it would just give North Korea one more reason to be glad that they acquired a nuclear deterrent before it was their turn to be attacked. Hard-liners routinely make the mistake that their preferred policies intimidate other governments, but the reality is that these policies just make other governments more preoccupied with their own security and survival. Every other government learns from the “demonstrations” that the U.S. makes of other regimes, and the chief lesson is to find a way to discourage the U.S. from doing the same thing to them. Wars for regime change may instill fear in other regimes, but that just makes the rest of them much harder to deal with later. Attacking Venezuela would be another in a series of colossal U.S. blunders that haunt America and the affected countries for decades to come.

Attacking Venezuela would be much more difficult than the invasion of Grenada, and the senator’s comparison of the two shows just how careless and indifferent to the consequences of war Graham and others like him are. For the sake of both Venezuela and the U.S., I hope no one is listening to anything Graham has to say. The fact that such a deranged and irresponsible character continues to be taken seriously after all these years is a damning indictment of our political class and our foreign policy debates.

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