Mark Falcoff: A war in South America?

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Cuba: The Morning After — Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes tonight to offer his perspective on the possibility of war between Venezuela and Colombia:

Of course, with Chavez anything is possible. We are dealing here with a troubled, overgrown adolescent. Nonetheless, it’s worth contemplating the likely outcome. The Venezuelan army is — from a professional point of view — something of a joke. Have you seen any photographs of its general officers? They all need to go to Weigh Watchers. It’s been many years since that armed force had to face a serious enemy, or indeed any enemy except high carbs. In contrast, the Colombian army has been at war for decades with a vicious enemy, often elusive, all the moreso since (as we have recently learned) it has been using Venezuela and apparently Ecuador as safe havens.
Even the purportedly right-wing Washington Times refers to President Alvaro Uribe as a “hard liner.” Let the US media make the most of it. Uribe is no hand-wringing liberal and doesn’t much worry about the approval of outsiders. Why should he? The US Congress — that is to say, the Democrats — have told him he isn’t going to get a free trade agreement anyway, so he has nothing to lose on that front. Meanwhile, at home he’s virtually turned the military and security situation around over the past five or six years, and he isn’t afraid of Chavez. Why should he be? If push comes to shove, the Colombian army could make mincemeat out of its Venezuelan counterpart. And if the latter is humiliated on the battlefield, what do you suppose would be its attitude towards the man who sent it into combat? One guess.

UPDATE: A friend responds:

It may be worth recalling that Henry Knox, who did invaluable service in the American Revolution, weighed 300 pounds. Generals needn’t be so nimble as the common soldiers.

And CUNY history professor (emeritus) Jerome Sternstein asks us not to forget Ol’ Fuss and Feathers:

In the discussion of “fat” Venezuelan generals please remember Winfield Scott, “Old Fuss and Feathers,” who, in his latter years when he was general in chief of the army — he retired in Nov. 1861, after drawing up the “Anaconda Plan,” to blockade the Confederacy — was very corpulent. He weighed at least three hundred pounds and had to be helped mounting his horses. Though egocentric, blustery, a gout sufferer, full of Sam Goldwyn style malapropisms (he once complained that President Polk had started “a fire upon my rear”), and very fat, he was nevertheless a fine officer. Let’s hope the Venezuelan’s aren’t despite their weight.

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