This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
What happened? In the past few days, President Donald Trump’s administration has made military challenges toward not just one country, but three: China, Iran and Venezuela. Just days after the U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó (pictured) failed to rally military officers against President Nicolás Maduro, senior figures from Trump’s national security team discussed a possible military intervention there. Meanwhile, Sunday saw the announcement that the U.S. is deploying an aircraft carrier and bomber wing toward Iran in response to what it claimed was a looming attack on U.S. interests in the Middle East. Then Monday, the U.S. deployed two warships in the disputed South China Sea, sparking outrage in Beijing (just one day after the president tweeted that he’d hike tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods).
Why does it matter? The U.S. military is no stranger to fighting on multiple fronts. In 2015, American armed forces, for example, were deployed to 135 countries and engaged in major conflicts in at least five of those. But these suddenly bellicose moves have some concerned that Trump’s already aggressive foreign policy has just been shifted into overdrive — steered by the hawkish national security adviser John Bolton. Technically, the U.S. Congress is responsible for declaring war, but many commanders in chief, including former presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, have unilaterally ordered attacks in the past, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he believes such intervention in Venezuela would be lawful.