Sunday, November 17, 2019
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Trump suggests military action in Venezuela

The arms race between the US and North Korea is beyond our scope here, but President Donald Trump suggested yesterday that the US might leave the possibility of military action in Venezuela open, the Reuters News Agency reports.

“The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary,” Mr Trump told reporters in an impromptu question-and-answer session from his golf course in New Jersey.

The Venezuelan defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, called the threat “an act of craziness.” But people in Venezuela are suffering; Mr Trump was right about that. Moves by socialist leader Nicolas Maduro have left many people hungry and the country in a state of economic crisis.

Schools in Venezuela, once some of the best in South America, have fallen into a state of crisis as well. Classes are often cancelled for weeks at a time because buildings have no electricity, and dropout rates have doubled since 2011. There aren’t nearly enough teachers, and sometimes teachers just don’t show up because they’re standing in a food line waiting for bread to feed their own families. More than one-fourth of teenagers aren’t even enrolled in any type of school.

Any idea that the US would actually send troops to the South American county seems absurd, though. “Congress obviously isn’t authorizing war in Venezuela,” Reuters quoted Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, as saying in a statement. “Nicolas Maduro is a horrible human being, but Congress doesn’t vote to spill Nebraskans’ blood based on who the Executive lashes out at today.”

Lately, Mr Maduro has been looking to Russia for help, just to keep his socialist government operating or to establish a dictatorship there, but some leaders in Venezuela characterize Russia’s part in the country’s affairs more like those of a predator than an ally, Business Insider reported last week. Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft, has been secretly meddling in Venezuelan affairs.

“Cash from Russia and Rosneft has been crucial in helping the strapped government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro avoid a sovereign-debt default or a political coup,” the Insider wrote. It’s possible the crisis in Venezuela can be traced all the way back to Saudi Arabia’s oil dealings.

As a result of these connections with the oil-rich Middle East, some historians can’t help but notice the previous strong bond between the American Left and Mr Maduro’s current political thinking. One such historian, Niall Ferguson, wrote in the Boston Globe:

The regime of Hugo Chavez [Venezuela’s last dictator] and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, in Venezuela, used to be the toast of such darlings of the American Left as Naomi Klein, whose 2007 book The Shock Doctrine praised Venezuela as “a zone of relative economic calm” in a world dominated by marauding free market economists. Today (as was eminently foreseeable 10 years back), Venezuela is in a state of economic collapse, its opposition leaders are in jail, and its constitution is about to be rewritten yet again to keep the Chavista dictatorship in power. …

Mark my words, while I can still publish them with impunity: The real tyrants, when they come, will be for diversity (except of opinion) and against hate speech (except their own).

In some ways, then, an attack from the US president against Venezuela, either a military one or a political one, strikes a hard blow against left-leaning thinkers who want all speech categorized as hate speech that doesn’t agree with their own views.

I am happy to say I’m not one such thinker, but they’re out there: While right-leaning thinkers tend to dismiss opposing viewpoints as elitist, left-leaning thinkers tend to dismiss opposing viewpoints as hate speech. It would be best, since there are certainly ideas worth discussing on all sides, not to dismiss any views.

For example, when talking about creationism, we scientists must engage in the debate, and creationists must engage as well. Religion has a great value in our lives and in our world, as does science, but I believe the biggest difference between faith and fact is that fact relies on evidence and tries to make it mean something to justify its existence while faith relies on meaning and tries to fabricate evidence to support its moral judgment.

Evidence is no more a part of religion than meaning is of science. So why can’t we just knock it off on both sides?

When both sides of any debate start engaging, we might be able to get something accomplished in terms of making lives better—Venezuelan lives, American lives, Korean lives, whatever. As we remain polarized and fail to engage in constructive dialog, we can only hurt each other and ultimately ourselves.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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