Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Get Your War On: Venezuela Edition

You would think that with the United States already bogged down in two unwinnable military engagements (Iraq and Afghanistan) the punditocracy wouldn't be advocating for a third, yet the sabre-rattling towards Iran, and occasionally North Korea, would indicate that two conflicts just aren't enough for some people. Now you can add Venezuela to that list, which as Rizwan Ladha alleges in the Huffington Post, is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program in partnership with that other nuclear bogeyman, Iran.

Ladha's post is heavy on the rhetoric, light on facts and is largely a rehash of an earlier column written by Roger Noriega, whose own motives in raising allegations against Venezuela must be carefully scrutinized given Noriega's association with the Neoconservative movement and his long history in battling Leftist governments in Latin America (Noriega was an Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under President George W. Bush and is currently a fellow with the conservative American Enterprise Institute). Among the flaws in Ladha's article are his misidentifying Venezuela as a Southern Hemisphere nation (it's north of the equator) and his implication that the southern half of the globe has always been a nuclear-free zone – South Africa developed their own nuclear weapons, which they gave up at the end of the country's Apartheid regime. Ladha's biggest flaw though is failing to offer up any truly compelling evidence that Venezuela and Iran are collaborating on building nukes. Iran insists that their nuclear program is designed for the peaceful generation of electrical power only; while the world may have its doubts on the Iranian claims, there's no definitive proof to refute them. So right now it's a stretch to say that Iran is developing nukes, it's an even bigger stretch to say that Iran has reached such an advanced level of expertise that they are in a position to help another country establish a nuclear weapons program of their own.

Ladha ends his piece by saying that even if Venezuela is trying to build a nuclear bomb, there's really nothing we can do about it. While this may be correct, talking about a leader like Hugo Chavez – widely regarded in the United States as someone who is both erratic and staunchly anti-American – getting a nuclear bomb is something political leaders in the US aren't going to stand for, recall how the most-effective bit of agitprop used by the Bush administration to build the dubious case for war with Iraq were the claims that Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing his own nuclear weapons program. You can't just raise the spectre of the nuclear genie in the hands of one of America's “enemies” and then tell people to live with it, something I suspect that deep down Ladha and Noriega know all too well.
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