There is too much magical thinking--and not enough practical planning--going on with respect to what comes next in Venezuela's deepening humanitarian and political disaster.
The President of the United States reportedly has entertained U.S. armed intervention to bring regime change. In Washington, Bogota, and Miami, there have been calls for a "good coup" by the Venezuelan military. And early August saw what appears to have been an assassination attempt against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro.
All three approaches have clear practical shortcomings and none is likely to succeed. A U.S. armed intervention is a high-risk, high-cost proposition with extremely uncertain outcomes.
The last regime change-driven U.S. military intervention--the 2003 invasion of Iraq--cost the United States more than $2 trillion, claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 U.S. soldiers and marines and of perhaps as many as 400,000 civilians, and helped destabilize an entire region.
There are those who point to previous U.S. interventions in the Americas--the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983, and Panama in 1989--to argue that things are different in the region. Venezuela fundamentally broken, eight times more populous and 12 times larger--is none of those countries.
As for the "good coup," it is difficult to believe that there are democratic elements powerful enough within the ranks of the Bolivarian Revolutionary Armed Forces to not only remove Maduro, but to also finish the job and eliminate those with a vested interest in maintaining the anti-democratic, criminal status quo.
The Maduro assassination route suffers a similar shortcoming. Although repugnant and illegitimate, Maduro is only part of Venezuela's problem. His removal is necessary, but woefully insufficient to bring about democratic change. The biggest downside to belief in these magical paths, however, is that they distract from two essential steps that must occur, regardless of how the current power structure is fractured. First, the Americas need to prepare for the near certainty of an intensified Venezuelan migratory crisis. When the current power balance fractures, it will, almost by definition, mean that significant armed groups with vested interest in preserving as much of...