Four vital, national interests form the backbone of our national security strategy: protect the homeland, promote American prosperity, preserve peace through strength and advance American influence.
A failed socialist state in South America threatens all four interests, and Russia is prolonging and deepening that disaster in order to harm the United States.
As Venezuela failed, like Syria, its citizens became refugees by the millions. The resulting humanitarian crisis is crippling its neighbors: 4 million fled to Brazil, Ecuador, Columbia and Panama. They are crushing the struggling economies of those countries, and will start to look farther north for sanctuary. Venezuelan refugees have begun to appear on our southern border, and it is only a matter of time before South America and Central America choose to relieve their burden by placing them in a caravan to here, like Syrians have fled to Germany. The American homeland will be faced with potentially millions of refugees, with no hope of returning until Venezuela becomes a functioning, wealthy nation again.
As Venezuela failed, so did its oil production, and our gas prices have risen in turn. As Venezuelan oil evaporated from the world market, OPEC has been reinvigorated, money has poured into the oil coffers of Iran and the banks of Russian natural gas. While our economy suffers, our allies become more reliant on our opponents.
As Venezuela failed in our backyard, America lost respect in the diplomatic world. China found influence where our forward diplomatic presence retreated, weakening our hand with the rest of the Americas. When America appears weak or disinterested, it becomes more difficult to build coalitions and catalyze opportunities in the stable democracies surrounding a failed state. Our allies will look to us only so long as we look back. The threat of sanctions only works if nations value their economic ties with the United States more than with our competitors. America must lead.
America is a positive force in the world for peace and prosperity. We have been an example since our founding and an agent of change for the last century. Europe is free because of us. Japan, South Korea and much of Asia is free because of us. Tens of millions of Muslims voted in Iraq and Afghanistan because of us.
American influence is at its zenith when we encourage aspiring democracies in fragile states to reform, especially when the forces of evil are content to make the innocent suffer. How can we fail them when the victims of socialism cry for fundamental individual liberties, freedoms of religion, speech, the press and assembly? Today, Venezuelans are fighting for their liberty, free enterprise, equal justice under the law and the dignity of human life. It is our vital national interest to advance American influence by supporting the dignity of individuals and reducing human suffering.
Why does Venezuela matter to us? Because acting to stabilize this failed state in our backyard will protect our homeland, our prosperity, our peace and our influence.
As President Donald Trump said in 2017 in Poland, “Above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are.” Steve Waugh, Lusby
The writer is a former state senator who represented St. Mary’s and Calvert counties as a Republican from 2014 to 2018.