Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s threat to go to war with Colombia is almost certainly more bluster and opportunism than a real thirst for battle.
Machiavelli formulated long ago what rulers have known since the dawn of time: A leader facing problems and potential opposition at home can often prosper by turning peoples’ attention to a foreign threat or outrage, distracting the peoples’ attention from their own problems and ginning up some jingoism. The trouble is that sometimes threats and bluster escalate into real military confrontations.
The flap started after Colombia’s armed forces attacked a jungle camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an insurrectionary guerrilla group that has been carrying on an insurrection that has sometimes resembled a civil war for some 40 years. The trouble was that the camp was a mile or two inside neighboring Ecuador. When troops on the ground inspected the camp, they found a laptop purportedly belonging to Raul Reyes, a top FARC commander, who was killed.
Ecuador’s initial response was relatively subdued, but