I was having fun trying to understand the abstract, which is one of the worst pieces of English-language writing I have ever seen published. (At first I thought maybe the copy editor had been waterboarded and was rebelling by allowing this to go to press, but now I think it’s actually the English language being tortured in real time.)
And then I read the paper, and the fun ended. Here is a selectively informed, biased observer coming up with preordained conclusions. Shorter (and clearer) Max Manwaring: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is actively exporting the ideology and practice of asymetrical warfare to a wide range of criminal, terrorist and anti-US organizations and governments as part of an unreformed Leninist revolutionary ideology.
Such thinking would be no big deal if it were just some fringe dude on the Intertubes. In fact, there is a benefit in having paranoid fantasies of all sorts popping up here and there, as sometimes those fantasies turn out to be correct. But in this case, I worry, as this is coming out of the US Army War College. Sure, it has plenty of disclaimers saying it’s not official US doctrine, thinking or policy. But still, if the people making US defense policy take seriously this kind of scholarship, that country is in worse trouble than I thought.
The key point of the article appears to be:
Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez have become exporters of asymmetric, unconventional, and undeclared war.
The whole book is bad. I mean, really, really bad. Just to grab an example out of a hat, it states unequivocally that Iran has invested $40 billion in Venezuela, citing Ilan Berman’s testimony to a US legislative committee, which in turn is footnoted to this page on the Christian Broadcasting Network web page, which says something different, without a source, and also quite unlikely to be accurate. I mean, this is some bad scholarship. But still, I’m going to poke away at a few tidbits, because they are just crazy enough to get some traction.
For me, the key question when someone says Venezuela is exporting anything at all is to show me the evidence that it is acting beyond its own borders. Within Venezuela, sure, there is a defense doctrine of fourth-generation warfare — the basic idea being, avoid an invasion by making the country ungovernable to an invader. It’s a reasonable strategy, too. But beyond Venezuela’s borders, what is the evidence of exports? In this book, not much. The first significant mention is on the 37th of 62 pages:
Chavez has brought together an unlikely assortment of state and nonstate actors, and criminal-terrorist organizations [to break US hegemony]. They are: 1) the Bolivarian Alliance led by Venezuala, which includes Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and, possibly, Argentina; 2) Iran and Russia; and, 3) at the very least, this alliance offers material and political support to the insurgent and drug trafficking Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Iranian surrogate and terrorist Hezbollah operations in the Western Hemisphere, and other violent nonstate actors such as African and Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs). Thus, this group of partners (allies) comprises a hybrid of state, nonstate, and criminal-terrorist franchises that appear to be expanding as this monograph is being written. The one thing this diverse group of parties has in common is a hatred for the West in general and the United States in particular.
Questions for the author:
- You sure you want to lump ALBA countries like Dominica with terrorist organizations like FARC?
- You think Mexican gangs have “a hatred for the West”?
- What is the evidence of ongoing expansion of this alliance?
Then there’s this, which anyone who knows the words “Sunni” and “Shia” might find amusing:
Combating International Isolation. Alliances provide Venezuela with powerful friends both outside and inside the Western Hemisphere. The major allies have been noted above. Unofficial extra-hemispheric actors, in addition to Iran and Russia, would probably include China, Chinese Triads, African gangs and cartels, the Spanish Basque separatist organization (ETA), the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and various Islamic groups sponsored by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States to include al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
So now the IRA, ETA, Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah are all allied with Venezuela in a global axis of evil. Al Qaeda, best buddies with the burka-pushing Taliban, is now supposed to be pals with Venezuela’s cleavage-fest. Remember, this guy is writing at an institute of higher education. So of course he has a footnote to back up this claim. The note goes to Douglas Farah, “Terrorist-Criminal Pipelines and Criminalized States: Emerging Alliances, PRISM 2, No. 3, June 2011. It seems Farah has actually been to Venezuela, which puts him ahead of some analysts, but it also appears that his main work these days is telling scare stories in Washington. He is by no means an expert on Venezuela.
Later, the paper hangs a lot of its evidence for an “export” of “war” on the presence of the Continental Bolivarian Coordinator, or CCB, in a bunch of Latin American countries.
CCB is reported to be active in, at the least, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay.
That was probably true before 2008, when it changed its name (an event Manwaring doesn’t appear to know about, despite his self-positioning as an expert). But what is “active”? Yes, some unnamed people may “have called” the CCB a “Foreign Legion,” it was more like a “college gabfest” for people who want greater unity among Latin American countries, combined with the sort of wishy-washy leftism that would be quite familiar to anyone who had spent time within 3 meters of a bong on any college campus in the free world.
The article wastes ink on the question of Russian and Chinese involvement in Venezuela. Sure, great, worry about that if you like, it certainly does indicate a loss of US hegemony, and if you’re the US Army, that might be a concern. But don’t call that an “export” of “war.” Import ≠ export and toys that fall apart ≠ wars.
This US Army scholar seems confused about what constitutes an export of war. The US exports war by flying airplanes uninvited into other countries and dropping cluster bombs on them. The Continental Bolivarian Coordinator, back when it existed, exported bloviation. Perhaps if the Pentagon learned the difference between war and bullshit, it would perform better at both.
And next time the Army War College needs a risk analysis written on Venezuela, I could name 20 people off the top of my head who would be more qualified than Max Manwaring. At the very least, each of them could compose a better sentence than this:
Nevertheless, prudence dictates that it is time to take the empirical evidence seriously and make substantive political-economic, social, informational, and military changes to deal effectively with the threat that one dare not speak its name.
Author Max Manwaring, Director of Research Antulio J. Echevarria II, and Strategic Studies Institute Director Professor Douglas C. Lovelace, Jr. should all be ashamed to have their names on this document.
Feel free to read the whole paper to see how shoddy reasoning supports the US’s trillion-dollar military and intelligence budget. Cheery stuff.