Are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and (farcically titled) Special Envoy for Restoring Democracy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams agents of influence for Russia and China? The idea has a lot more going for it than most of the ridiculous paranoia sweeping Washington over the past years.
If Russia and China really wanted to subvert the national security of the United States, they would seek to plunge Washington into a completely new, open-ended war with no practical resolution in sight on another continent far away from either of them where the United States itself had absolutely no major strategic interests at all, apart from fantasies of domination and greed.
Such a war would also serve the purpose of burning up an increasing share of the defense budget that otherwise could be spent on modernizing the US armed forces.
Repeated congressional testimony over the past two years by Service chiefs confirms that these forces remain woefully aging and out of date despite record size defense budgets. This is testimony to the incompetence, corruption and sheer wastefulness of the military-industrial-congressional-complex (MICC).
Most of all, such a war would weaken the US armed forces and distract them from what is now supposed to be their primary strategic goal, as set out by the Trump administration itself of focusing on great power competition, primarily with Russia and China.
The sudden obsession with provoking a full-scale military confrontation with Venezuela does not fit this ambitious agenda: Instead it subverts it and guarantees US failure and defeat.
Pompeo and Bolton appear to have successfully sold the Venezuela adventure to President Donald Trump on the grounds of eliminating Russia’s main friendly nation in the Western hemisphere that has hosted flights by Tuploev160 supersonic “White Swan” nuclear strike aircraft, the best strategic bombers in the world.
However, it is clear that Trump was sold a bill of goods and that Bolton and Pompeo are energetically pushing for mission creep to eventually insert major US military forces in Venezuela to topple legitimate President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with the farcical National Assembly Speaker Juan Guiado.
The US Fourth Fleet has been activated in the Caribbean and Bolton has been preparing to deploy thousands of US ground forces in neighboring Columbia – which incidentally continues to pose a far greater threat to US national security by its cocaine production and exports than Venezuela has ever done.
But why are they doing it? Venezuela’s vast oil supplies certainly make a tempting target. But previous US efforts at regime change, most notably in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven woefully incompetent in securing control of their victims’ strategic resources, much less organizing them for profit.
The British Empire – which seized and ran Iran’s oil resources for more than 40 years from 1911 to 1953 and Iraq’s from 1918 to 1958 – proved vastly more efficient in its day at arranging such matters.
On the other hand, the recklessness and indeed plain stupidity of charging into Venezuela and risking opening up an endless war in a tropical jungle environment for the first time in half a century since Vietnam ought to be obvious to the National Security Adviser of the United States.
US forces remain overstretched and exhausted, caught up in major unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and sucked into highly dangerous commitments in Georgia and Ukraine and the Baltic States any of which could escalate through recklessness or sheer incompetence into global war.
The US armed forces desperately need a time of peace and retrenchment such as they enjoyed under President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s and President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to rest, recover and re-equip themselves. But Bolton, with his usual explosive cocktail combination of recklessness, gambling and hard-charging ignorance is not giving them that.
Bolton and his neocon coconspirators have always narcissistically prided themselves on being strategic “geniuses” much as Wile E Coyote, the endlessly hapless comic buffoon of the classic Warner Brothers Road Runner cartoons always did. Instead, in reality they have always been catastrophic clowns who did not have a clue what they were stumbling into. Venezuela is repeating that classic nightmare pattern.
A quarter of a millennium ago, a real strategic genius King Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Gross) of Prussia cautioned, “He who tries to defend everything defends nothing.”
One hundred and twenty years ago, the masters of the British Empire preserved their far-flung domains by applying the same principle: They settled all their outstanding differences with Russia and Japan in order to focus on the one primary existential threat arising for them with Imperial Germany’s construction of a new High Seas Fleet.
However, Bolton, Pompeo and their minions are deaf to such precedents. They reckon themselves far wiser than old King Frederick or than Winston Churchill, who appealed in vain through the 1930s for Britain to forge an alliance with the Soviet Union and resolve its differences with Italy in order to focus on the one true threat to everyone – Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime in Germany.
Getting involved in Venezuela does much more to weaken US power in Afghanistan, Eastern Europe and the Middle East than anything the governments of Russia, China and Iran combined could come up with, even if they wanted to. It is a classic case of strategic overstretch and dissipation of effort.
Bolton and his friends have become victims of their own rhetoric, drunk on their own mad delusions. They really believe that the United States has become an eternal hyper-power, virtually omnipotent and inexhaustible – able to project limitless power in every direction simultaneously.
Friedrich Nietzsche was right: Those who the gods would destroy, they first make mad.