Trump Pressed Aides On Venezuela Invasion, US Official Says

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 an unsettling question: With a fast unraveling Venezuela threatening regional security, why can’t the U.S. just simply invade the troubled country? The suggestion stunned those present at the meeting, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, both of whom have since left the administration. This account of the previously undisclosed conversation comes from a senior administration official familiar with what was said. In an exchange that lasted around five minutes, McMaster and others took turns explaining to Trump how military action could backfire and risk losing hard-won support among Latin American governments to punish President Nicolas Maduro for taking Venezuela down the path of dictatorship, according to the official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions. But Trump pushed back. Although he gave no indication he was about to order up military plans, he pointed to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region, according to the official, like the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s. The White House declined to comment on the private conversations. But a National Security Council spokesman reiterated that the U.S. will consider all options at its disposal to help restore Venezuela’s democracy and bring stability. Under Trump’s leadership, the U.S., Canada and European Union have levied sanctions on dozens of top Venezuelan officials, including Maduro himself, over allegations of corruption, drug trafficking and human rights abuses. The U.S. has also distributed more than $30 million to help Venezuela’s neighbors absorb an influx of more than 1 million migrants who have fled the country.
 

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An article is closer to tabloid than investigate journalism, based on "sources familiar with the conversation". OK. Sometimes it's a only way to publish some "hot things"...but, after trade war with EU, Canada ,Mexico, I'm not sure that WH thinks to open new crisis in South America

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1 minute ago, damirUSBiH said:

An article is closer to tabloid than investigate journalism, based on "sources familiar with the conversation". OK. Sometimes it's a only way to publish some "hot things"...but, after trade war with EU, Canada ,Mexico, I'm not sure that WH thinks to open new crisis in South America

I, for one, am a bit tired with the sloppy "sources close to the matter" line. You're right in that once in a while, it perhaps is the only way. But it seems to be gaining popularity as a lazy replacement for conducting due diligence in journalism. 

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13 minutes ago, rainman said:

As a meeting last August in the Oval Office...   < snip werdz

... This account of the previously undisclosed conversation comes from a senior administration official familiar with what was said.

Uh huh, yup, sure... 

An "anonymous source" suddenly sez a surprise secret, that was supposedly kept under wraps for a year.

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(edited)

Moving away from the "who said what to whom in secret" titillation, let's go back and focus on the underlying theme:  is "invading"  Venezuela a good idea?  Would a take-over bring peace and stability?   And if it would, then how would you do it?   And what would be the implications for the pricing and supply of oil  [since this is Oilprice, after all]?  

For openers, who now runs Venezuela, and how is the State operated?  The country is, at least on paper, run by the Chavez acolyte, Maduro.  His credentials to the job is that he drove a transit bus. And that's it. 

(Now the immediate problem to "invading" is that the credentials of the man doing the invading is that he bankrupted casinos.  That is hardly a ringing endorsement.)

But in reality, Venezuela is still in greater part run by some 20% of the population, the merchant class that has capital and has property.  For them, the goods they need are still available, although the shelves are spectacularly bare for everybody else. Maduro is waging war on the capital class, mostly by the printing press, grotesquely inflating the currency, to the incalculable harm to the working folks and the entire country.  In his obsession to take down that "landed gentry," he uses inflation as the weapon of destruction. Now, is that tactic going to work?  Will Maduro's obsessions with the capitalists produce a better, more just, Venezuela?

And the answer is No.  You see the results of Maduro's obsessions: a completely wrecked economy, people dying of disease and starvation, a wrecked professional class, with lots having left, and some 1.5 million refugees fleeing on foot, some one million into Colombia (which has its own problems), another 500,000 walking the 130 miles to Brasil (which also has its own problems).  And here's the kicker: the people fleeing are exactly the ones you need to rebuild the place. 

The net result is that the oilfields are being destroyed, with the workers paid in inflating currency to the extent that their pay no longer covers the cost of bus fare to get back and forth.  To no surprise, the workers quit, and also steal parts in revenge.  If there is anything that will wreck an oilfield fast, it is an angry, abused, sullen workforce. 

So what are the bottom lines, the irreducible truths?  First, Maduro has to go.  But he has no exit strategy, and neither do any of the lieutenants around him. They know that arrest and death awaits.  Traditionally, these ridiculous despots flee to Spain, where they can take what is in effect a sort of expulsion and asylum, as did the despots of the old Belgian Congo flee to the South of France.  I don't see that happening here; Mr. Maduro has made himself radioactive all over the planet, except possibly Cuba. So the reality is, he will be arrested and go to the hanging. Oh, well. 

And after he is deposed from his anarchic throne, then who takes over?  Some other ragtag from the gangs in the slums?  Well, that is not promising.  So the reality is, some power from outside has to "invade," basically send in an army to take over, and bring in an Administrator, hopefully of better quality and not as tone-deaf as Paul Bremer,  the product of upper-crust Connecticut and a Yalie (he actually did not meet George there; having left in '63, George arriving in '64 as a frosh), a sliver-spoon kid who was clueless about the world, and was appointed by George as Administrator of Iraq and led that place into oblivion.  That country has to have an army that is capable of something as complex as take-over and administration, and there are very few candidates for that job:  basically, the Americans.  

And to do that, you cannot go marching in into downtown Caracas and shoot it out with the slum gangs and the remnants of the Maduroistas, that is also headed for chaos.  So you take over the oil fields at gunpoint, start paying the workers in US Dollars  (nothing like the US DOllar to sway allegiances in a big hurry) ,  and set up a distribution wharf at the harbor where the US Navy fast-transport supply fleet can unload, and start bringing in vast supplies of food, including milk, and meats, and vegetables, and even fruits, for totally free distribution to the suffering people of Caracas.  And you bring in a ship set up as a giant bakery, and deliver vast supplies of fresh bread. 

Now once you get that rolling, and the US military is good at that, then the Chavez-Maduro "revolution" collapses overnight.  Nothing like fresh bread and sausage and milk and baked beans to collapse the ideology of the Chavistas who have brought you starvation and chaos. It was once calculated that, for the amount of money spent on the VietNam war, the US could have handed one million dollars to each Viet Cong soldier and converted them all over to capitalists, and it would have cost less.  So handing out free hot bread is the cheap solution. 

And from there, let the Venezuelans re-establish their own democracy, and elections, and Administration.  If it takes the US Marines patrolling the streets to maintain order, then fine you go do that.  But with the oil flowing and cash coming in, it gets a lot easier to re-establish public services and security.  Expensive?  Not really.  You can be paid in oil.  Plus, it will keep the oil markets from roiling further, and the supplies flowing - to the USA, of course.  

Edited by Jan van Eck
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Brilliant in its simplicity.  So will the administration be able to grasp.......any of it?

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5 minutes ago, Dan Warnick said:

Brilliant in its simplicity.  So will the administration be able to grasp.......any of it?

Of course not.  Mr. Trump's "let's invade the place" will never be done in any way other than brute force, analogous to and a lot worse than the Iraq fiasco.  And one big reason is that the supplemental leadership, the equivalents of the Paul Brennans, will be morons.  Nobody any good is going to get involved in some Trump invasion, you already know it is head on the rocks.  Trump will totally screw that up. SOmebody criticizes him and he shuts down the Bread Trucks in some sulk rage.  Brilliant.

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I came across and was re-watching "The Mother of all Press Conferences" with General Norman Schwarzkopf last night (hey, it's our birthday today) and found it fascinating.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&amp;v=wKi3NwLFkX4

At one point in the video (start at 37:30 for the press question, followed by the General's answer) the General said, and I quote: "A great deal of the capability of an army is its dedication to its cause and its will to fight."  He goes on and it is worth listening to.  But it made me think about whether or not we would be capable of leading such an effort again?  I laughed at myself because the answer that screamed back in my head was (yes, I know, voices in my head.  I have to get back on my meds!) we would not be able to assemble the coalition, would go it alone and it would be one more of our usual messes.  

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3 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

So what are the bottom lines, the irreducible truths?  First, Maduro has to go.  But he has no exit strategy, and neither do any of the lieutenants around him.

Maduro HAD the perfect exit strategy, he could have held free and fair elections which he would have lost. He could then have turned over power to his successor and fled with his Billions of stolen money. 

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Dear Jan, why does your plan to democratize Venezuela bring back memories of G. B.and all the hype and build up to us invading Iraq and rebuilding it and getting their oil to pay for it all. What a brilliant, successful plan that turned out to be. Haven't we learned yet that our system is not the be all have all for the rest of the world?

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(edited)

1 hour ago, Jim Pace said:

Dear Jan, why does your plan to democratize Venezuela bring back memories of G. B.and all the hype and build up to us invading Iraq and rebuilding it and getting their oil to pay for it all. What a brilliant, successful plan that turned out to be. Haven't we learned yet that our system is not the be all have all for the rest of the world?

Not at all.  Perhaps I have not enunciated fully or properly.  It is not up to me, the USA, Great Britain, the Chinese, or anybody else to determine the future construct of the Venezuelan government - that is solely up to the people of Venezuela.  If they want to have a Monarchial form of government, fine by me  (I remind you that I am personally a committed Monarchist, not a democrat).  What they have now is the quasi-government of a tyrant dictator ruling over a starving population.  That is not exactly inspiring.    What I would suggest is a workable plan to stabilize the country and avoid starvation and collapse - which it is perilously close to. 

And I do not propose "invading Iraq" ideas.  I suggest that the oil fields, which lie in more remote areas and in Lake Maracaibo, be taken over by military force.  Right now they produce very little, cannot ship the product out, and are being constantly invaded by armed gangs of 15 or so with guns who steal important supplies and parts, and unpaid workers (the effective pay rate of an oilfield worker in Venezuela today is about $2 a month) also taking home parts and supplies to go sell to feed their families.  All that is a recipe for disaster, so unless you move quickly to staunch the bleeding it will be worthless to everybody. 

And I do not suggest that the oil sales "pay the USA for the invasion."  That is silly.  The oil sales have to be used to, at least in the very short term, pay for the physical survival of the people - and that includes running the hospitals, paying the police force (in US Dollars), paying for the generators for electricity, and operating the ports and airports.  You also have to bring in large amounts of food.  Now the costs of running the Navy are being paid by the US taxpayers, and they pay that whether the personnel are stationed in Newport or on the scene in the field, so no real change there.  The US can afford, and has a vested interest in, a stable Venezuela, one where the government officials are not running drugs and guns and hiring their own private murder armies.  And if that costs a few bucks, then that is the price of peace. 

The other thing is, George made the error of doing a take-over by force of an entire country, one that had huge religious and ethnic divisions and was an artifice flowing out of the Treaty of Sevres a century ago, and then hiring someone who was not a competent manager to run it. I would propose only taking over the oilfields (and a port) and then you move from there, but at least you can start selling oil, to provide a capital cushion for whatever government comes out of it, and you have a port, and you need that to move in critical supplies including food for the population.  It is not realistic to move five divisions of army troops into Caracas overnight, that will be a mess. But eventually, as it becomes apparent that the USA is prepared to step up to the plate and provide foodstuffs (and fresh bread) to the starving populace, I suspect it will be quite popular fast enough. You then move forward block by block, in a "win the hearts and minds" style. 

And if it fails, then you can pull out quickly enough with little losses, and at least you can say the West tried.  If it then goes into the apocalypse, hey we gave it our best shot.  About all you can hope for.  (But I don't think that would be the result; I suspect the Venezuelans will be delighted to see Maduro out the door). 

Edited by Jan van Eck

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1 hour ago, Refman said:

Maduro HAD the perfect exit strategy, he could have held free and fair elections which he would have lost. He could then have turned over power to his successor and fled with his Billions of stolen money. 

Possibly, but I sense that it would not have ended up that way.  I suspect that, had Maduro lost the election, he would have been arrested the next day and found himself in chains.  And he certainly thought so.  If he thought that was a good strategy, he could have organized the elections and fled the country the night before, together with his gunmen.  The bigger problem for him was and is:  where to?  Who wants him?  He is a man who has run out of options, and no place to go.  Incidentally that is the same dilemma that faces Mr. Putin, another autocrat who has no options other than to be President for Life.  He loses, he is dead - his opponents will kill him.  And he knows it.

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4 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

I came across and was re-watching "The Mother of all Press Conferences" with General Norman Schwarzkopf last night (hey, it's our birthday today) and found it fascinating.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&amp;v=wKi3NwLFkX4

At one point in the video (start at 37:30 for the press question, followed by the General's answer) the General said, and I quote: "A great deal of the capability of an army is its dedication to its cause and its will to fight."  He goes on and it is worth listening to.  But it made me think about whether or not we would be capable of leading such an effort again?  I laughed at myself because the answer that screamed back in my head was (yes, I know, voices in my head.  I have to get back on my meds!) we would not be able to assemble the coalition, would go it alone and it would be one more of our usual messes.  

There is one irreducible reality:  the USA cannot assemble any coalition under the leadership of Trump.

But, if the military could pull it off, and I think that with Venezuela they can do that easily enough, it would be a spectacular gain for the Venezuelan people.  I cannot imagine any other country or group of countries that has the capability and management expertise of the US military to undertake this successfully.   Poissilby the French, but I don't picture them as motivated to do so, too many problems at home dealing with the waves of African immigrants.  Not realistic. 

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The bigger thought is that I don't think Trump is into doing humanitarian missions, coalition or no.

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18 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

But in reality, Venezuela is still in greater part run by some 20% of the population, the merchant class that has capital and has property

Not really, Venezuela is run probably by 20 people that control everrything, advised by a group of Cuban intellegece. What they have done though, is allowing some "freedom" to some market partricipants as:
1) they need someone that run they show, as they do in Cuba
2) gives to the world that there are still "vestiges" of democracy in Venezuela.

13 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

But, if the military could pull it off, and I think that with Venezuela they can do that easily enough, it would be a spectacular gain for the Venezuelan people.

Military in Venezuela sold its soul to Maduro's regime. He made them sign a "loyalty agreement" prior to rise their salaries, around ten times average the others professionals media.Venezuelan are now in a kind of deep social depression where the most important thing is to find food for today. The so-called "Opposition" has been unable to assemble a real strategy to fight the regime. Only very few of them have laid out some plans but they have found struggles with the old politician establishment, as the latest want a "negotiated" transition. The fact is Venezuela is so broken that "transition", "negotiable", and even "pacific" are no words to have in the dictionary these days

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I am astounded....

"yes, I know, voices in my head.  I have to get back on my meds! "

Jan, I really want to respond but cannot find the words.

However, I for one, am really hoping that the good people of Venezuela can find some support ( rather than sanctions )  to get their industry back up and running and reap the benefits of being the country in the world with the largest oil reserves.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, GERARDO URDANETA said:

Military in Venezuela sold its soul to Maduro's regime. He made them sign a "loyalty agreement" prior to rise their salaries, around ten times average the others professionals media.Venezuelan are now in a kind of deep social depression where the most important thing is to find food for today. The so-called "Opposition" has been unable to assemble a real strategy to fight the regime. Only very few of them have laid out some plans but they have found struggles with the old politician establishment, as the latest want a "negotiated" transition. The fact is Venezuela is so broken that "transition", "negotiable", and even "pacific" are no words to have in the dictionary these days

Gerardo, thank you for this.  It is a sad situation. 

Perhaps I was not clear.  When I said "If the military could pull it off,"  I meant to refer to the U.S> military, not the Venezuelan.  My approach would be to have the Commander of the take-over units simply inform the local security soldiers that, henceforth, they would be working for the Americans and paid a salary in dollars - which at say $100 a week would be much more than they are paid today.  With that kind of incentive, there would be no shooting, those guys would simply switch allegiances.  You could fine-tune the approach, but that was the proposal generally.

All the best, Jan

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3 hours ago, Wally said:

I am astounded....

"yes, I know, voices in my head.  I have to get back on my meds! "

Jan, I really want to respond but cannot find the words.

However, I for one, am really hoping that the good people of Venezuela can find some support ( rather than sanctions )  to get their industry back up and running and reap the benefits of being the country in the world with the largest oil reserves.

 

 

 

 

Sarcasm, Wally.  :)

 

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(edited)

"The Venezuelan crisis is moving relentlessly from catastrophic to unimaginable. Harvard University Professor Ricardo Hausmann proposes an audacious solution to end the suffering: impeach President Nicolás Maduro and, with the support of a regional military force, install a new government. "

 https://youtu.be/IPoT8VHVy6g

Edited by PeterfromCalgary
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I worry about the potential in Cuba now that Fidel Castro has died. The US have a golden opportunity to add a very important ally in the Western Hemisphere and at the same time many US corporation a chance at expanding the virtues of a free enterprise drives nation by establishing new investments and joint ventures with Cuba based firms.  If successful this would be a help in perhaps returning other Latin American nations to become an improved trading partner while  becoming a political ally.  Venezuela is the next nation after Cuba who sits at an important crossroad as well.  Sadly either they will be given free US in terms of Money or products at give away prices.   Thus encouraging Venezuela to once again nationalize most of their industries as they did in the1960 when as a nation they joined OPEC!  The US is within 30 years facing shortages in many areas!

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SADLY,   Venezuela   had a stable democracy from 1948 to the election of CHAVEZ.

CHAVEZ was deposed once, for three days. Then the military backed him right into the presidential palace.

MADURO his clone, is no better/worse than CHAVEZ.

RAMIREZ, guarding cash registers in Monaco, will likely let PDVSA further decline.

Unless/until the people of Venezuela rise up to throw out the current administration it will only get worse.

Propped up by the Chinese, and with some support from the FIDELISTAS in CUBA,

MADURO  and his henchmen care nothing for the common people.

May we see a free Havana and Caracas once more.

Global Oil can play a part, but the U S government needs to keep its hands off.

The OAS still exists, and we are bound by treaty, to defend all countries from aggression.

Even former Secretary of State "TEX DRILLERSON" realized the futility of an invasion.

WE cannot be the aggressor. If we do invade, then TRUMP is just another banana dictator himself.

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On an even sadder note the people of PUERTO RICO are doing without.

American citizens treated like a third world country ~ for almost a year.

Our solution is to invade VENEZUELA?

We need to set PUERTO RICO back on its feet ~

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(edited)

My very good friend a historian  once told me his refletion - the better you know history of Latin America  in last 2  centuries  the more you dislike US establishment. 

So sorry USA thankfully Monroe doctrine doesnt exist anymore and people from this continent really doesnt like Gringos from North for their total activity so now its  really not your bussiness.

 

And yes Venezuela was a very stable democracy. So  now wake up and check their gini index before Chavez election. That was really a paradise for  vast majority of poor people like most Latin American countries and reason why Castro Che Guevara and Chavez were authentically so popular. And this is simple in big part heritage of  US domination in last 2 centuries.

Edited by Tomasz
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