Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region may steal more headlines, but it is Latin America that, historically, has played perhaps the most outsized role in American foreign affairs. Every high school student learns about the Monroe Doctrine, the creed promulgated by our fifth president by which the nascent American republic would view European geopolitical meddling in the Western Hemisphere as indicative of hostility toward American interests.
To be sure, the United States will always have a role to play in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific — countering global Sunni jihadism, Shiite supremacist Iranian hegemony, and imperialistic Chinese hegemony alike represent three of our most acute forward-looking geopolitical concerns.
But in the year 2019, we would be remiss if we failed to pay equivalently close attention to what is going on in our own proverbial backyard. Americans would do well to reflect carefully upon the strategic importance of Latin America.
In perhaps the most damning piece of investigative journalism ever produced about the extent to which pro-Tehran sycophancy corrupted the Obama administration’s menagerie of foreign policy jackals, Politico in December 2017 wrote about the sordid history of Iranian-backed Shiite terror group Hezbollah’s presence in the West. Politico described the intelligence community’s underlying “Operation Cassandra,” which was railroaded by Obama’s Iran “echo chamber” in the myopic pursuit of appeasing at all costs the jihad-exporting mullocracy: Operation Cassandra was “launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.”
Hold aside the Obama administration’s duplicity and flagrant trampling of the threats posed to American national security by the incestuous relationship between Western Hemisphere Iranian/Hezbollah operations and the sundry transnational drug cartels that now have “operational control” of America’s Southern border. The fact remains that Hezbollah is a major backyard threat to the American homeland. In October, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions took the laudable first step of categorizing Hezbollah, alongside MS-13, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, Sinaloa Cartel, and Clan del Golfo alike as transnational organized crime threats for which a new Department of Justice “Transnational Organized Crime Task Force” was created.
But the Latin American security threat is hardly limited to the tentacles of the Iranian regime and its proxies, such as Hezbollah. The inestimable Todd Bensman recently visited Panama and Costa Rica, where he spent two weeks on the ground investigating the mainstream media’s casual dismissal of President Trump’s claimed presence of dangerous Islamists mixed amidst the transnational trafficking rings. In an eye-opening piece at The Federalist following his sojourn in Central America, Bensman concluded:
American, Panamanian, and Costa Rican law enforcement and intelligence officials are engaged in actual programs here to hunt, investigate, and deport real terrorist suspects who are, in fact, discovered among the thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and South Asia funneling through this section of Latin America — as President Trump said and as I saw and heard on the ground.
Which brings us to the crisis in Venezuela. Longtime Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez had famously warm ties with the terrorist Iranian regime, and warm bilateral relations have continued between the two OPEC states in the era of leaders Nicolás Maduro and Hassan Rouhani. Which is to say that, not only did Venezuela under Maduro become an economically collapsed state (but don’t tell Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez!) with an estimated 1,000,000% inflation rate in 2018, but it was also a state fully in bed with the world’s absolute worst of all geopolitical actors. Caracas and Tehran first implemented a direct flight in 2007, and personal travel and economic exchange between the two nations are quite strong. It is unclear how exactly this abundance of Iranians gallivanting off to Caracas has further metastasized the terror threat within the broader humanitarian crisis of Venezuelans fleeing their disintegrated country — but the bottleneck of Middle Easterners that Bensman described in Panama and Costa Rica surely features no small trace of this lamentable phenomenon.
Venezuela is, of course, not merely dealing with a full-on economic crisis — it is also dealing with a political crisis of the highest caliber. Maduro was “reelected” on January 5, but the United States was among many countries deeming the election illegitimate. And as The Daily Wire reported, President Trump yesterday “recognized Juan Guaido, 35, the president of the Venezuela National Assembly who is in opposition to socialist President Nicolás Maduro, as the interim president of Venezuela just minutes after Guaido announced himself as the head of state.” The White House’s strong statement released yesterday reads, in relevant part:
I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy. We encourage other Western Hemisphere governments to recognize National Assembly President Guaido as the Interim President of Venezuela, and we will work constructively with them in support of his efforts to restore constitutional legitimacy. We continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people.
Bravo, Mr. President. Bravo, indeed.
Trump’s recognition of Guaido was quick and decisive. It was morally righteous. It sent a powerful message of standing in lockstep solidarity with the oppressed and worn-down Venezuelan people. In many ways, it is the perfect form of “foreign intervention” — it costs us nothing whatsoever in tangible blood or treasure, stands up for American values in the midst of an acute political crisis, and upholds the broader Monroe Doctrine spirit of American predominance in our own hemisphere.
It is true that we candidly know very little about Guaido, and in fact he likely harbors socialistic proclivites himself. But Guaido is still not the humanitarian and Marxist atrocity that is Nicolás Maduro. And as a rule of thumb, when America is on the opposite side of Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority, she is probably doing something right.
How exactly ascendant nationalistic sentiment within the conservative movement ought to cause a foreign policy recalibration is an ongoing topic of intensive debate. Conservatives ought to begin to slowly and soberly begin the process of reassessing why exactly it is we feel compelled to dawdle around refereeing many Islamic tribal civil wars overseas, whilst we lackadaisically rest on our laurels in our own hemisphere when it comes to the increasingly dastardly nexus of Islamist terrorism and transnational organized crime syndicates. Surely, in any forward-looking conservative movement buoyed by a renewed respect for sovereignty and the nation-state, a cost-free symbolic standing up for our own values in our own hemisphere is precisely the kind of move we ought to be striving for.
In other words, it is time to make the Monroe Doctrine great again. And it is time for Americans to care about Latin American affairs again. Good for President Trump in immediately supporting Juan Guaido in Venezuela.