Trump Suddenly Discovers Regime Change Is Hard

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Trump is grousing that regime change in Venezuela is harder than his ideological advisers promised him:

President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of a U.S.-backed effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman with a young opposition figure, according to administration officials and White House advisers.

The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around national security adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires.

The president’s frustration would be a lot easier to take seriously if he hadn’t essentially outsourced his Venezuela policy to a group of hard-liners from the very beginning. When you put Bolton, Pence, and Rubio in charge of something, you deserve the blame for trusting them. When you go along with everything they want, you don’t get to play the victim later. It is a measure of how gullible the president is that he could be so easily “misled” into thinking something as ambitious as ousting an entrenched regime would be easy. Of course the hawks told him it would be easy. They always claim that their cockamamie schemes will be easy! The problem here is that Trump keeps falling for their ridiculous sales pitches and endorsing the policies they want him to endorse.

It’s fine that he is getting dissatisfied with Bolton, but Trump has been the one talking about possible military intervention in Venezuela well before Bolton got there. Bolton didn’t make him do anything. He was already eager to meddle in Venezuela, and it didn’t take much to get him to do it. If Trump thinks “the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires,” he has a funny way of showing it by interfering in the internal affairs of a neighboring country. If he didn’t want to get pulled into a quagmire, he shouldn’t be playing at regime change by recognizing an alternative government. If he doesn’t like Bolton’s “interventionist stance,” he can fix that by getting rid of Bolton, but for some reason that never happens.

Trump’s grumbling continues:

Trump has said Maduro is a “tough cookie,” and that aides should not have led him to believe that the Venezuelan leader could be ousted last week, when Guaidó led mass street protests that turned deadly.

Did Trump not realize that Maduro was a “tough cookie” before last week? If he did, how were his aides able to convince him otherwise? If he didn’t, he is just trying to shift the blame for a stupid policy that he had no problems with until it very publicly blew up in his face. It’s all very well that Trump is now beginning to question the wisdom of his foolish Venezuela policy, but until this translates into something more than private muttering and complaints it doesn’t really matter. The report goes on to make clear that Trump will continue to let Bolton do whatever he wants:

Despite Trump’s grumbling that Bolton had gotten him out on a limb on Venezuela, Bolton’s job is safe, two senior administration officials said, and Trump has told his national security adviser to keep focusing on Venezuela.

It is not surprising that a president who fetishizes “strength” and looking “tough” is so remarkably weak when dealing with his own officials.

Trump should reverse course on his Venezuela policy, lift the sanctions that he imposed on their oil sector earlier this year, and back off from the aggressive policy that has proven to be such an embarrassing failure. I have no confidence that the president will do any of that, because that means admitting that the original decision to interfere was a mistake. It would also require him to remove the advisers that have given him such horrible advice on this and other issues, and it is already clear that he isn’t going to do that. That means that Bolton will get to run the administration’s foreign policy however he wants and all that Trump will do about it is have White House officials leak to the press that he is annoyed.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

19 thoughts on “Trump Suddenly Discovers Regime Change Is Hard”

  1. When Trump learns foreign policy , and/or develops some savvy, he will stop making stupid mistakes. Fat chance of that happening.

    1. Good one. He likes to keep a close eye on stuff and to monitor stuff but that’s it. Vigilant ineffectualness.


      1. Vigilant ineffectualness”. Well coined term, Ace! If he halved his Tweets and read something about the world instead, weèd all be better off. Cheers.

        1. Thank you, AH. I’d be happy if I could be sure he’s read through Art. II of the Constitution. Hah. And Art. IV, Sect. 4 pertaining to repelling invasion. But Trump studiously avoids mention of the latter and insists on tying his ability to act to some bleeping statute dealing with emergencies. He absolutely, positively, cross my heart refuses even to mention the word “invasion.” Rather, he wants to pitch our border crisis as something to do with humanitarianism and parent-child separation. Well, bottom line is that Trump approaches effective action on halting immigration like Superman approaches a Fedex shipment of Kryptonite.

          1. I stand corrected. He has mentioned the word “invasion” twice in his tweets. I have not heard him use that word at all and if invasion were the centerpiece of his approach to the illegal immigrant flood I think I would have heard him use the word night and day, which he does not do. It’s otherwise as I say about which legal authority he chooses as the justification for his actions, feeble as they are. He may occasionally refer to the invasion that’s taking place but the key to handling the invasion is Art. IV, Sect. 4. Trump refuses to mention that. I’d love for you to correct me on that point.

            The people who want to turn America into East Germany are those who are pushing for shutting down free speech. But libertarian views of whether a police state is in the offing can be safely dismissed as libertarians view the requirement to have a license to drive an auto as naked fascism.

          2. He can’t refer to “the invasion that’s taking place” because there is no invasion taking place. People moving to find jobs without your permission isn’t an “invasion,” it’s just people moving to find jobs without your permission.

          3. Forgive me for saying, Mr. Knapp, but libertarians can be counted on to fulfill two socially important functions:

            1. Say absolutely bonkers stuff about immigration and

            2. Perform in the spoiler role when there’s a close race between a patriot and a lunatic leftists, therebe throwing the election to the lunatic.

            I’ll hazard a guess that your personal residence is also far, far away from any areas of our land that are blessed by our wondrous diversity.

          4. Absent the Libertarian candidate in 2016, you’d almost certainly be having daily cows about whatever President Clinton was up to. You’re welcome.

            My current personal residence is in an ethnically mixed rural area a few miles outside a crazy lefty college town, in a state where one in five residents is an immigrant, another one in eight are second generation, and you can count on hearing AT LEAST two languages other than English in the grocery store. My wife’s employer has Americans, Indians, Chinese, Germans, Bosnians and probably a few other nationalities working in and around its offices (I work from home).

            My previous residence was in a 70%+ black neighborhood located adjacent to large concentrations of Latino immigrants, Indian immigrants, Pakistani immigrants, and the largest Muslim refugee population in the US.

            And of course I’ve spent plenty of time in Arizona, Nevada, and California.

            The “bonkers stuff about immigration” is what America was when it was founded and until 1882, and what it mostly was after that until 1947. Your nativist nonsense didn’t really come into vogue until the 1990s, after Reagan (who ran on “open borders”), when the Republicans started trying to out-Democrat the Democrats on that particular type of anti-American authoritarianism, finally succeeding in 2016 by giving their presidential nomination to a Democrat.

  2. Adelson picked Bolton. That is why his job is safe. Trump is Adelson’s bitch.

    1. It was known that Trump was friendly with Bolton before Trump was elected, unless my memory fails me.

    2. Bolton and Pompeo both appear to be members of the Cheney junta, which appears to have Trump’s balls in their pocket as surely as they had Obama’s.

  3. This reminds me of Trump’s quote about healthcare policy and replacing the ACA, something like “no one knew healthcare was so complicated.” Yes, you imbecile, WE all knew. Venezuelans will welcome an American-picked dictator as soon as the Iraqis begin showering us with flowers for getting rid of Hussein.

    1. I would employ him as Ambassador to the Iranian Resistance, and sneak him into Iran via submarine.

  4. One thing to let Bolton and Pompeo exercise their political regime change muscles. Quite another for President Trump to resist the military component.

    If the president can resist going the Venezuelan proxies and Academi route with US assistance, he may win some converts to an unrealized executive branch peace conversion.

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