So, John Bolton’s ‘troika of terror’ — Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba — is the new ‘axis of evil’. Bolton’s belligerence will out, as we Brits used to say, and, with his Iran strategy somewhat stymied in recent weeks, the National Security Council Advisor’s hawk eyes must look for fresh places to menace.
America will not tolerate these ‘dictators and despots’, he said. ‘These tyrants fancy themselves strongmen and revolutionaries, icons and luminaries. In reality, they are clownish pitiful figures more akin to Larry, Curly and Moe,’ he said. ‘The three stooges of socialism are true believers, but they worship a false God.’
The Trump administration is therefore ramping up sanctions. But will that work? Sanctions rarely do. And if sanctions fail, then what? A military strike is not necessarily out the question; certainly not in Bolton’s mind.
Doubling down, and perhaps more with Iran in mind, the President tweeted a spoof Game of Thrones picture of himself saying ‘sanctions are coming’. That is a hilarious way to talk about imposing measures which will, we can be sure, end up hurting the poorest Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Cubans and Iranians. But the lollification of American grand strategy does not stop it being destructive, even bellicose.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2018
The Trump administration has avoided starting a war so far, mercifully. He has not yet come unstuck in the Middle East, as his predecessors did. But Trump has already made noises about a military intervention in Venezuela. Bolton wanted to take action against Cuba for developing biological weapons.
In many ways Latin America is a far more natural target for Trumpian aggression than Iran, say, or North Korea. It is closer to US national interests, and therefore compatible with an ‘America First’ policy.
Trump’s pre-occupation with the immigration issue makes military action south of the border more likely, too. The failing states of Venezuela and Nicaragua pose a threat to American borders, through immigration, as President Trump never fails to point out. Could we see John Bolton soon making the case for enforced regime change in Venezuela? Or Cuba?
In fact, Trump is already militarizing the border with Mexico. His strategic focus is more Latin-orientated than any president since Reagan. Moreover, he now has powerful regional allies especially in Brazil’s new president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, and Columbia’s Ivan Duque, who are determined to talk tough against Venezuela. Could we see a new ‘coalition of the willing’ forming in the next two years of the Trump presidency?