Wednesday, November 02, 2005

In the cross-hairs 

When President Chavez visited the United States in September he stated, in a televised interview, that Venezuela had to be concerned about the possibility of being invaded by the United States. The host, looking a little perplexed, asked how he could make such an assertion. Chavez responded by saying that Venezuela had first hand knowledge of U.S. military planning for a potential invasion of the United States. He later presented that evidence which was largely based on a war game scenario, Operation Balboa, in which the U.S. and Colombia seized the oil rich western part of Venezuela. Of course, the significance of this was played down by some.

However, today we see that those who dismiss the idea of the U.S. taking military action against Venezuela are once again wrong. William Arkin, a military analyst and Washington Post columnist wrote the following in the Washington Post blog:

Venezuela: Fumbling A Pop Up
The Pentagon has begun contingency planning for potential military conflict with Venezuela as part of a broad post-Iraq evaluation of strategic threats to the United States.
The planning has been precipitated by general and specific directives issued by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his civilian policy assistants.
Internal documents associated with the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and preparation of the fiscal year 2008-2013 future defense plan identify five specific "threat" countries in three groups requiring "full-spectrum" planning.
The first group includes North Korea and Iran, both justified for their involvement in the development of weapons of mass destruction. China is listed as a "growing peer competitor" and threat of tomorrow. Syria and Venezuela are listed as "rogue nations."

Military sources ascribe Venezuela's emergence on a list of actual military threats as a reflection of an important post 9/11 war reality: The events themselves of September 11 provide justification -- and perceived need -- to take risks in thinking about unanticipated threats. "The Global War on Terror is rightfully our near-term focus, but we certainly don’t want to be caught flat-footed by a series of other possibilities," says one Defense Department planning document.
Oil rich Venezuela provides approximately 15 percent of the oil imported to the United States.


Julia Sweig, director of the Council on Foreign Relations Latin America program and author of the forthcoming Friendly Fire: Anti-Americanism Gone Global and What to Do About It, thinks the two countries remain on a collision course. She particularly worries about "the Cubanization of American policy towards Venezuela."
This is characterized, she says, by Chavez's rise and popularity partly attributable to a Cold War legacy in the hemisphere, while his behavior plays into the hands of those who are intent on polarization and concoction of military threats.
The good news, Sweig says, is also that "the two countries are stuck with each other," joined by oil and trade.
That strength ironically could also become the core strategic justifications for future war.
For the under-employed war planner Venezuela has everything to get the juices flowing: it has oil; it is leftist; it is critical of the United States; it is buying from the bad guys; it is in our own back yard. Sound familiar? Only communism separates the new Cuba in simple minds.

So now we see Venezuela has been fully classified as a rogue nation, on a par with Syria. Considering that the U.S. press has been full of speculation over the past couple of months regarding possible military action against Syria this being categorized with them is no small thing. Sure, there has previously been talk of “regime change” in Venezuela by U.S. think tanks with very close ties to the Pentagon. But this makes it very clear that high level military planning regarding Venezuela has occurred and that military action against that country is very much on the table as an option.

Given the very pressing problems that the U.S. military is having in the Middle East I still believe there is very little possibility of military action against Venezuela at this time. Nevertheless, that can certainly change and if nothing else this shows that Venezuela is very much in the cross-hairs of U.S. military planners. The Venezuelan government would be remiss if it didn’t make sure its military was prepared, its militia trained and armed, and contingency plans of its own drawn up.


Apparently Mr. Arkin was asked to provide some backup to his assertions. So this is part of what he wrote today:

I have been asked to identify the document that specifically identified Venezuela: It is an internal military briefing titled "The FY08-13 POM" and dated October 2005. POM stands for Program Objective Memorandum. According to the Defense Department, the POM is the primary document used by the services to submit programming proposals, analyze missions and justify allocation of resources.
Is it possible that the characterization of Venezuela as a "pop up" threat and as a "rogue" state will turn into nothing? That this is just the work of over-zealous or opportunistic or lazy staff officers looking to justify their existence, their budgets, and their proposals? It is possible. That is why I wrote about the thoughtless inclusion of Venezuela in war planning in the first place: to make the point that such floundering about for new threats, and such opportunism, demands the intervention of cooler heads.


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