Strategy vs. tactics

When reading the diplomatic battles being waged on the topic of Venezuela, it's easy to forget what the long-term goal is ... or should be.

Venezuela’s government and its opposition have begun a tentative dialogue process. This has sent part of the opposition blogosphere into a frenzy, and has excited many in foreign diplomatic circles.

At the same time, the OAS is beginning to discuss whether or not to invoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Backed by a massive report from its Secretary General, the hemisphere’s top body is moving towards an unprecedented punishment for Maduro’s dictatorial, rapacious, heartbreakingly inept government.

This … has also sent part of the opposition into a frenzy.

Confused? Here’s the news for you: none of this really matters.

Unless this is your first time on the blog, I think we can agree that the underlying problem in Venezuela is a lack of freedom. Whether it is businesses stifled by excessive State control, a government tied by near bankruptcy, lack of access to foreign exchange, or a political process hijacked by people without merit, Venezuela can only be righted by loosening the knots of chavista control that keep her down.

That … can only happen if chavismo leaves power. In other words, “chavexit” is the only strategy for anyone wanting a solution for Venezuela. Anyone thinking Maduro is going to change course is living in a fantasy world.

The only game in town should be Maduro leaving power. That is the strategic goal. Everything else is just tactics.

It would be wise if our foreign friends kept this in mind as they guffaw and gasp, feigning concern over Venezuelans not having enough to eat, declaring themselves heartbroken at the thought of children dying because of a lack of medicine.

Seriously, does the international community – the Pope included – think dialogue between underlings is going to convince Maduro to change course?

Dialogue in and of itself is not going to put medicine on the shelves or get the pranes out of our streets. Dialogue is not going to get Leopoldo out of jail. Neither, for that matter, is the OAS Democratic Charter. All those are mere tactics, and as such, their value in achieving the ultimate strategy is questionable.

Unless, that is, those things are the strategy.

After so many years in the trenches of Venezuela analysis, one develops a sixth sense for why foreigners are interested in our problem. More often than not, they are concerned about Venezuela because it makes them look good – magnanimous, idealistic, and sensible. It’s not about us, it’s about them.

Only, for us, it is about us.

The Democratic Charter is supported by the Venezuelan opposition because they believe it pressures Maduro, and this pressure could be translated into actors within their coalition pushing for a change. Yet the extent to which this actually happens is questionable.

Dialogue is supported by people because it makes them look “dialoguey” – diplomatic, resourceful, and positive. After all, who doesn’t believe in dialogue that can diffuse conflict?

But just like magical unicorns and candy-coated rainbows, the fiction that dialogue in Venezuela can lead to Maduro leaving power is just that – fiction.

Ultimately, that is the yardstick through which we should judge any of these initiatives: to what extent does <insert your favorite international initiative here> lead to the end of chavismo. That is the only strategic goal we should have. That should be the only strategic goal for foreigners interested in our problem.

The stakes are too high, and the drama is too near for us to be entertained by silly little games. While the region’s top diplomats fiddle away about the commas and colons in a radically unserious piece of paper, people are going hungry in the streets of Venezuela, kids are dying, and a social eruption looms.

This is all because Maduro and his cronies are in power. Ending this nightmare is the only strategy.

The region can engage in sideshows, but we should avoid them. Let’s instead focus on the tactics that are going to lead us to our strategic goal.