Trump pulls out the tyrant-slayer for Venezuela's dictator Maduro

This might just work...

President Trump seems to have allowed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to bring in Elliott Abrams as his special point man for Venezuelans affairs. Here's Politico's hostile report:

Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative figure who was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair, has been named as a Trump administration special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, which has been rocked by a leadership crisis.

Abrams’ appointment, announced Friday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is something of a surprise — President Donald Trump nixed his 2017 bid to be deputy secretary of State after learning that Abrams had criticized him.

Regardless of what you think of Abrams, a neocon who has vociferously opposed Trump in the past, and who was turned down for a State department job on just those grounds in the past, his appointment should keep Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's brutal dictator, up at night.

The Associated Press's Josh Goodman pointed out the obvious in this tweet:



He's also been a dogged defender of the Nicaraguan people's efforts to get rid of communists from their midst, something that the left calls the Iran-Contra scandal, but which in reality was about keeping Castro and his colonizations at bay in the face of a KGB-coopted Congress that denied funds to oppose it. He was a hero on that one, not a 'convicted' person as the left yells. (He got a pardon for a politically motivated prosecution, while his KGB-coopted congressional opponents got away with actual treason.) There's no reason to criticize him on that.

The response from prominent freedom-fighting Venezuelans has been quite positive:



Abrams has his good and bad points, so it's not useful to just join the rabid left and sound the alarm, as Breitbart, unfortunately, is doing. Yes, he was an architect of the Iraq war, famous for its free-spending ways on American lives, its amazing naivete with crooked charlatans such as Ahmed Chalabi, spouting the right beltway cocktail-party democracy talk about Iraqis just being Jeffersonian democrats all along, and above all, its failure in nation-building, based on its failure to enact free market reforms and personal security measures. To my mind, Abrams was even worse on the matter of Pinochet's Chile, blithely ignoring the late great Jeanne Kirkpatrick's dictum on dictators and double standards to treat the free-market-transforming Chile the same as a typical communist regime. The Chicago Boys, in their memoirs, wrote a lot about how Abrams nearly derailed their transformation of Chile through his sanctions and vetos of development bank loans which came at a time when the country was doing the right things and needed U.S. support. Only someone with no understanding of free markets (and that was visible in Iraq, too) could do something that stupid, and given that Abrams comes from a typical leftist-origin neocon background, free markets are probably still a black box to him. If the Venezuela mission stays limited to getting rid of Maduro and his Russian masters and the U.S. doesn't get into nationbuilding, so what? Another problem is that Abrams is also a true swamp thing who has loudly spoken out against Trump and hasn't the slightest clue as to why Americans voted for him, which would suggest he is out of touch with popular sentiment despite his pretensions to being all in for democracy. He probably still hates Turmp on style grounds alone as most nevertrumps do, wanting all those cocktail party invitations in Georgetown, and might be capable of leaking to the press, deep state-style, to undermine President Trump. One has got to hope that Trump and Pompeo have made an understanding with him ahead of bringing him onboard so that isn't an issue. 

But Abrams is not without his strengths. The Venezuela crisis is a multi-faceted one and experience here is important. We have something we have never seen before in foreign affairs - a legislative president declaring himself president on valid constitutional grounds, and the U.S. recognizing that over the objections of the sitting dictator. There's the issue of the embassy kickout, which the U.S. is refusing to honor, something that puts our diplomats in considerable danger from Maduro's thugs, which could be a showdown. There's also the issue of finance. Acting President Juan Guaido can make all kinds of calls for sanctions and financial resources which will be denied to the Chavista usurpers who will believe they are entitled to them. Right now an amazing little battle is going on with ownership of Citgo, the Venezuelan government's U.S.-based refiner and marketer of fuel, with Guaido expected to appoint a new board that shareholders and U.S. law will recognize. Imagine Maduro cut off from that money and Guaido in control of it.  There are plenty of other issues that will require very deft diplomatic handling. Abrams might just be the right guy for this.

He has experience in spades and he's close to Marco Rubio, who's made quite a few excellent calls in the run-up to the current crisis. Abrams is indeed famous for using force and intervention, and that has potential to be good stuff, too, starting with the coming to life of Maduro's worst nightmare. Trump is against Iraq War-style force, so I can't see an actual Marine invasion happening although I don't want to say it won't happen. But just the threat of force is sometimes all it takes, and Abrams embodies that. He will unnerve Maduro. Rest assured, as the left that Maduro listens to screeches, you can bet they will be expecting the very worst of Bush-style interventions. That works to Trump's advantage.

If Abrams' strengths are optimally employed, he should ensure that the U.S. and the Venezuelans see a good outcome to the current crisis. Maduro will dislodged, the Monroe Doctrine will be restored with Russians and other overseas players kicked out, and the Venezuelans will be empowered to restore their own democracy. Like some of that Noriega action, Nicolas? Heh. Let's cross our fingers and be cautiously optimistic.

Image credit: Miller Center, via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0