The Venezuela Crisis
Source: NBC News
Venezuela is one of the great tragedies of the 21st century. With nearly 300 billion barrels worth in oil reserves, it leads the world in black gold, higher than even Saudi Arabia and Canada. Venezuela also has a GDP per capita of nearly 13,000 dollars, higher than its neighbors in Brazil and Columbia. Despite this, Venezuela is on the verge of becoming a failed state. Its economy is rapidly collapsing, and the fact that the price of oil is dropping doesn’t help. China has ceased lending money to Venezuela, leading to legitimate fears of a Venezuelan default on its debt. President Trump has imposed sanctions on Venezuela following a illegitimate election held by the Maduro government. Ordinary Venezuelans are starving, and being rationed out basic goods like toilet paper. Corruption runs rampant, making it effectively impossible for the government to function for the benefit of the people. Protestors are regularly killed by government forces.
The United States has a definitive strategic interest in the beleaguered South American nation -- oil. Any major move by the US, such as blocking oil imports from Venezuela, could cause gas prices to spike, perhaps from $2.30 a gallon to $2.60 a gallon. Additionally, the 750,000 barrels of oil imported daily from Venezuela are then refined and exported to countries around the world. While it would not wreak havoc on the US economy, any action taken by the US government against Venezuelan oil imports would be detrimental to the economy.
At the moment, Venezuela presents no national security threat to the United States. It does not sponsor terrorism or threaten to attack the US. The only real threat to the US is that Venezuela does not use US dollars in oil transactions, which would weaken the dollar. However, attempting regime change will not help, especially if the US fails. More likely, it will create another version of Iraq, but this time in the Western Hemisphere.
Rather, the US should attempt something that has worked numerous times in practice: diplomacy. Diplomatic pressure for democratic reform and free markets could work, in exchange for economic aid. The US shouldn’t sit idle as a state collapses, but it shouldn’t throw the military at the problem and expect it to be solved. In Venezuela, diplomacy is perhaps the only solution.