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Some thoughts about what happened in Venezuela earlier. First, DISCLAIMER I speak only for myself and not my employer. I have no knowledge of what the USG is doing here. TLDR: Either this was a really crappy coup attempt or Guaidó is trying to do something else. (1)
Part 1: *If this was a coup attempt it was very poorly handled*
A coup attempt succeeds when the challenger makes it appear that his victory is a fait accompli. This creates a self-fulfilling dynamic. By convincing people the coup will succeed, it does so (2)
This is what game theorists call a coordination game. Actors most of all want to avoid a lack of coordination which might lead to a civil war. They also want to avoid being on the losing side. Therefore, they try to back the side everybody else will back (3)
The coordination dynamic creates a point of leverage for coup makers. If they can convince other military actors that the coup will succeed, they can obtain the support necessary to succeed (and deflate resistance without fighting it) (4)
There are various ingredients to what I call "making a fact" One of them involves seizing the TV/Radio station and making a credible broadcast. Guaidó did none of this. He tweeted out his message & his video lacked any heavy military actors in it. (5)
A tweet cannot work as a substitute for a broadcast because members of the military will have no idea if others have seen the tweet. You can be sure they don't follow Guaidó on twitter (that might get them arrested), and I have no idea how many were on twitter at all. (6)
So even if one colonel wanted to join in the coup, he's not going to do so alone, and he has no idea if others have seen it and if they're going to join in, etc. Also, that video did a lousy job of convincing viewers that Guaidó had much military support.
That location is a minor air strip, not even a major air force base, and definitely not a major army base. And, as became clear pretty soon, it's not even clear that Guaidó has the loyalty of the men at that base. (8)
A credible broadcast would have shown the faces of key commanders, or perhaps even let them talk directly to the camera. None of that happened. The impression was that Guaidó had a few enlisted men on his side. And sure enough, that seems to have been the case (9)
The coup was clearly DOA. Why did Guaidó do it then? Here I speculate BASED ON NO INFORMATION. One theory is that he was encouraged by allies in the USA who couldn't cash the check they wrote (metaphorically) but who said that a coup attempt would be supported inside&outside (10)
Another is that Guaidó simply had no idea how a coup worked and was naive and played a very weak hand very badly. Either of these are possible. (11)
But more interesting is the idea that he might have been trying to achieve a different goal. Perhaps Guaidó believed that his action would produce an outpouring of civilian support which would then lead to Maduro ordering a crackdown on large numbers of citizens (12)
Perhaps security forces would refuse to crack down & this confrontation would then prompt an effective coup by senior military leaders. Or it would weaken the relationship between Guaidó & the top brass. Or there would be a slaughter which tarnish Maduro irreparably (13)
All of these are plausible scenarios. Guaidó had been losing steam & needed to do something to up the ante. I find it completely plausible that this "coup attempt" was a gambit, one designed to lead to victory but not through Guaidó's coup attempt itself (14)
Then again, there is no reason why these clever scenarios are any more likely than the scenario in which Guaidó is foolish and desperate and maybe misinformed. I cannot really tell (15)
END for now.
p.s. Sorry for the heavy handed use of disclaimers but given where I teach (you can google my name) I wanted to make it very clear that I am speaking only for myself.
pps I forgot to mention this but I develop the general argument in much greater length in my book amazon.com/Seizing-Power-…
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