We all know that President Trump considers plenty of unusual ideas, but sources are now reporting that he floated one trial balloon that could have carried some hefty consequences with it.
Now we’re hearing that last August, Trump spoke with advisors on at least one occasion about the idea of invading Venezuela or considering other military action against the South American nation.
Trump’s aides, including then-national security adviser HR McMaster, vigorously urged him against the notion of a military invasion of Venezuela, warning him it could backfire and explaining that US allies in the region were firmly opposed to such drastic action. Taking military action against Venezuela would be a dramatic escalation of the US’s so-far solely diplomatic and sanctions-focused response to the political and economic crisis roiling the South American country.
The president didn’t stop with discussions among his advisers. He spoke with other leaders from throughout Latin America about the idea of taking action against Venezuela, where socialist leaders continue to oppress the people and the economic situation is dire.
Sources who spoke to CNN say that ideas like this aren’t out of the ordinary for the president, who likes to talk about various ideas that may or may not become official policy.
Still, the official with knowledge of Trump’s private comments noted there was “no imminent plan for a military strike” and chalked the comments up to Trump thinking “out loud.”
“The President says and thinks a lot of different things,” the official said. “He just thinks out loud.”
Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has taken a particular interest in Venezuela. In May of this year, his administration played a key role in bringing home Joshua Holt, an American citizen who wound up in jail after traveling to Venezuela to meet a woman he met online.
Trump is not alone in his overtures toward potential regime change in Venezuela. Vice President Mike Pence has met on multiple occasions with opposition leaders, and the sanctions the United States has enacted against Venezuela are intended to press the government to reform.
Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro took the news of Trump’s consideration of action against his country with a certain amount of defensive bravado. CNN noted that Maduro has told his military to remain alert and not “lower their guard.”
“We need to defend our right for peace, dignity and for the right to chose our own destiny,” Maduro said during a military ceremony in Caracas. “No empire is going to choose for us!”
“A military invasion from the US empire will never be a solution for Venezuela’s problems, never,” he added. “The greatest right our people have is the right to live in peace.”
President Trump has mused about taking military action against other threats to American national security in the past, including North Korea, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn of this kind of bold talk about Venezuela.
It’s admirable to think that the president wanted to intervene in this way, but, as important as the freedom of the Venezuelan people is, the idea of military action against the country was a bad one. Any invasion or other action to oust the Maduro government could have proven costly and unpopular, conjuring images of the troubles we faced in Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the administration moved the idea off the table. President Trump once boasted about his ability to hire “the best people,” and in this case, it looks like his advisers did the right thing. Here’s hoping that his advisers can continue to steer the president away from his wildest ideas.