Scott Olson | Getty Images
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at a press conference where he addressed issues related to the city’s murder rate and the city’s Sanctuary City policy on January 25, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.
Foreign policy experts in both parties share Emanuel’s skepticism. Military action would pose myriad challenges: ousting Maduro, restoring order under a new government, stanching the exodus of refugees, securing the flow of Venezuelan oil.
“There’s a strong case for setting up humanitarian assistance aid across the borders, but not to intervene,” said Kori Schake, a National Security Council aide to President George W. Bush.
“What could go wrong is not the appropriate question,” added Jake Sullivan, an Obama State Department aide. “What could go right?”
But not all national security professionals dismiss the idea.
“I understand all the pitfalls of intervention, but I also understand the pitfalls of allowing this situation to unfold,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and another former Bush advisor. Given the extent of suffering in Venezuela, he said the White House and Congress should consider assisting, though not leading, an intervention.
Haass acknowledged that the president’s inattention to policy and reputation for impulsivity brings “a bit of baggage” to the debate. But “just because it’s Trump,” he concluded, “it ought not to be ruled out.”
Emanuel sees a lot of baggage. Trump has shrugged off advice of top aides on numerous national security issues, from Russia’s attack on 2016 elections to relations with North Korea to the Iran nuclear deal. Bob Woodward’s new book describes the Trump White House as suffering a “nervous breakdown.”
That’s why Emanuel, who recently announced he won’t seek a third mayoral term next year, wants Congress to ensure any action Trump might take has a national security rather than political justification.
“He has crossed so many lines,” Emanuel cautioned. “I’ve never seen anything constrain him before.”