I keep watching the videos from Venezuela, hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for an end to the Chavez-Maduro era. And I ask myself, why is this manifestly failed regime still in place? People are starving. The stores are empty. Doesn’t revolution ensue when misery reaches a turning point? So how come there’s no evidence that
–Because misery doesn’t cause revolution, whatever you may have been taught. Not in Venezuela, not in Iran, not in North Korea. Certainly the citizens in those countries are miserable, but I don’t think that revolution is about to erupt in any of them. I think that politics is an independent variable, not, as the Marxists would believe, the outcome of certain social conditions. Its causes are spiritual, not material. I think that revolution is an act of hope, not a last, desperate throw of the dice. The revolutionaries think they can change the world, and they think—nowadays, at least—that powerful forces are working on their side. Modern jihadis think Allah is fighting alongside them, for example, while Soviet dissidents believed democracy was a global force aimed at tyrants. Most Iranians believe that nothing of great import ever happens without the involvement of the Dark Forces (CIA and the Queen of England above all). Etcetera.
So it’s political. It’s not the economy, stupid. Ergo, sanctions are not going to do it (mind you, I’m all for sanctions, especially the sort that directly target the tyrants, but that’s because of their political effect). If you want regime change, your main weapons will be political. Above all, you’ve got to support the regime’s enemies and you’ve got to call for a new government and a new system.
–Because the tyrants do not believe their time has come, and they do not care about the misery of their people. Maduro, Kim and their ilk live well, have plenty of international support (Cuba, Russia, Iran…), and although Maduro and Kim have been sanctioned by the United States, they don’t fear that the Trump people are working to topple them. Indeed, the top American policy makers, McMaster, Tillerson and Mattis, keep telling us and the tyrants that they do not favor regime change.
If that is true, then what are the sanctions for? Are they merely punishment for the tyrants? Or do the policy makers believe that misery really does cause revolution, and the sanctions become a revolutionary force without actually saying so?
If the former, they need remedial study. If the latter, they are too clever by half. One wonders if they are so ignorant or so tricky. Maybe they still don’t have a policy at all? That’s always a possibility. Stay tuned.
Michael Ledeen is a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @michaelledeen.
Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD.