Maduro at a military parade in Campo de Carabobo, Venezuela, December 2016

The United States has a clear objective in Venezuela: regime change and the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. Yet sanctions, international diplomatic isolation, and internal pressure have failed to deliver a breakthrough. Minds are turning to military intervention. U.S. President Donald Trump has said that “all options are on the table.” What if he means it?

There are two plausible ways the United States might use force in Venezuela: a precision bombing campaign and a full-scale invasion. Either course would have to be followed by efforts to stabilize the country and establish a civilian government. That could take years, given the country's size and military strength. Venezuela has a population of 33 million spread across a territory twice the size of Iraq. Its military is 160,000 strong and paramilitaries, colectivos (armed leftist groups that support Maduro), and criminal gangs collectively have more than 100,000 members. Even if a military

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  • FRANK O. MORA is Director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center and Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University. From 2009 to 2013, he served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere.
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