Driving Venezuela Towards Famine

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Warnings of famine are increasing in Venezuela, and U.S. sanctions are responsible for driving the country over the edge:

In a new study, Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez at New York brokerage Torino Capital set out evidence that US financial sanctions are associated with a 797,000 b/d drop in oil production, worth about $16.9bn a year. He warned of disastrous consequences in a country which grows barely a third of the food it needs.

“We’re going to see a famine in Venezuela,” Mr. Rodriguez said [bold mine-DL]. “Total imports in April were only $303m and around half of those were oil-related. That is just 8 per cent of the 2012 figure… even if all the imports were of food, it would still be far off the amount needed to feed the country.”

Rodriguez has been warning for months that sanctions could cause a famine in Venezuela. It was clear months ago that strangling Venezuela’s oil sector would have devastating consequences for the population, which relies on the imports paid for by the government’s oil revenue. Rodriguez and Jeffrey Sachs warned back in February:

By commandeering Venezuela’s only lifeline to food supplies and oil field equipment, the United States has lit the fuse. By the Trump administration’s own estimates, sanctions will cost Venezuela’s economy $11 billion in lost oil revenue in the next year, which is equal to 94 percent of what the country spent last year in goods imports. The result is likely to be an economic and humanitarian catastrophe of a dimension never seen in our hemisphere.

US sanctions are supposed to strike at the Venezuelan government, but they have predictably bludgeoned the people as they always do. Modern famines are typically man-made, and this one would certainly qualify as that. Famines today are created by governments and other political actors that choose to put their agenda ahead of the welfare of suffering people. If there is mass starvation in Venezuela, it will be because the people have been made to starve.

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The House Rebukes Trump on Yemen Again

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The House passed two amendments to the defense authorization bill yesterday related to the war on Yemen. The first prohibited the administration from using funds to support the Saudi coalition:

But the most consequential amendments on Thursday continued Congress’s months-long effort to intervene in the Yemen conflict and punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of the dissident Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Lawmakers voted 236 to 193 to prohibit the administration from using funds to support the Saudi-led military operations – either with munitions or with intelligence – against the Houthis in Yemen, a conflict that has killed thousands of civilians and resulted in a widespread famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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Poll: Most Americans Say Arms Sales Make the US Less Secure

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs recently released the results of a new survey on U.S. public opinion on arms sales and the U.S.-Saudi relationship:

As Congress weighs the decision by the Trump Administration to sell additional weapons to Saudi Arabia, a newly completed survey of US public opinion finds that most Americans oppose the US sale of weapons in general, and they are fairly divided on whether the US relationship with Riyadh makes a positive or negative contribution to US national security.

The survey found that a large majority of Americans (70%) believes that arms sales to other governments makes the US less safe, and 50% believe that the relationship with the Saudis weakens US national security. Somewhat surprisingly, there were large majorities that said arms sales made the US less safe regardless of political affiliation. Republicans were a little less likely to give that answer and Democrats were a little more likely, but there is broad consensus among Americans that arms sales are bad for US security.

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Quincy Institute: A Think Tank Dedicated to Peace and Restraint

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Stephen Kinzer comments on the creation of a new think tank, The Quincy Institute, committed to promoting a foreign policy of restraint and non-interventionism:

Since peaceful foreign policy was a founding principle of the United States, it’s appropriate that the name of this think tank harken back to history. It will be called the Quincy Institute, an homage to John Quincy Adams, who in a seminal speech on Independence Day in 1821 declared that the United States “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” The Quincy Institute will promote a foreign policy based on that live-and-let-live principle.

The creation of a think tank dedicated to “an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing” is very welcome news. Other than the Cato Institute, there has been nothing like this in Washington, and this tank’s focus will be entirely on foreign policy. The lack of institutional support has put advocates of peace and restraint at a disadvantage for a very long time, so it is encouraging to see that there is an effort underway to change that. The Quincy Institute represents another example of how antiwar progressives and conservatives can and should work together to change U.S. foreign policy for the better. The coalition opposed to the war on Yemen showed what Americans opposed to illegal and unnecessary war can do when they work towards a shared goal of peace and non-intervention, and this institute promises to be an important part of such efforts in the future. Considering how long the US has been waging war without end, there couldn’t be a better time for this.

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Bolton Gets Ready To Kill New START

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

If Bolton gets his way, New START is not long for this world:

At the same time, the administration has signaled in recent days that it plans to let the New Start treaty, negotiated by Barack Obama, expire in February 2021 rather than renew it for another five years. John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, who met with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Jerusalem this week, said before leaving Washington that “there’s no decision, but I think it’s unlikely” the treaty would be renewed.

Mr. Bolton, a longtime skeptic of arms control agreements, said that New Start was flawed because it did not cover short-range tactical nuclear weapons or new Russian delivery systems. “So to extend for five years and not take these new delivery system threats into account would be malpractice,” he told The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative outlet.

Like all of his complaints about arms control agreements, Bolton’s criticisms of New START are made in bad faith. Opponents of New START have long pretended that they oppose the treaty because it did not cover everything imaginable, including tactical nuclear weapons, but this has always been an excuse for them to reject a treaty that they have never wanted ratified in the first place. If the concern about negotiating a treaty that covered tactical nuclear weapons were genuine, the smart thing to do would be to extend New START and then begin negotiations for a more comprehensive arms control agreement. Faulting New START for failing to include things that are by definition not going to be included in a strategic arms reduction treaty gives the game away. This is what die-hard opponents of the treaty have been doing for almost ten years, and they do it because they want to dismantle the last vestiges of arms control. The proposal to include China as part of a new treaty is another tell that the Trump administration just wants the treaty to die.

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Pompeo Shamefully Covers for the Saudis Again

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Pompeo has just proven once again that there is nothing the Trump administration won’t do to cover for Saudi Arabia as it prosecutes the atrocious U.S.-backed war on Yemen:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blocked the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on a U.S. list of countries that recruit child soldiers, dismissing his experts’ findings that a Saudi-led coalition has been using under-age fighters in Yemen’s civil war, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Pompeo has made a habit of overruling State Department experts when their recommendations don’t line up with the administration’s preference for giving the Saudis whatever they want. Last fall, he overruled them to make the bogus certification that the Saudi coalition was making an effort to reduce civilian casualties, and now he has overruled them to pretend that the Saudi coalition doesn’t use child soldiers when there is ample evidence that they have been doing that for years. All parties to the conflict have recruited child soldiers, and the Saudi coalition is no exception. There is no good reason to keep Saudi Arabia off the list of countries that engage in this awful practice, and so we are left to assume that Pompeo is doing it as a favor to a despotic regime because it happens to buy a lot of U.S.-made weapons.

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