Did Elliott Abrams just take the US military option for Venezuela off the table?

President Trump appointed the famously NeverTrump Elliott Abrams into his Venezuela point man job to scare the hell out of Maduro.  Why is he helping the Venezuelan dictator sleep more soundly at night instead?

The conservative-libertarian PanAm Post's Orlando Avendaño lays it out forcefully:

Elliott Abrams, the United States envoy to Venezuela, has surrendered: "I do not think Europe, Latin America, Canada and the United States are thinking, at this moment, of a military reaction."  It was his response to concern about whether interim president Juan Guaidó should request a military intervention, or cooperation, through the activation of Article 187, Section 11 (which establishes that the National Assembly can authorize foreign military missions in Venezuela).

"I think it's premature.  I think it's not the right time ... My advice would be that at this time it would not be very useful," he stressed in an interview with Caracol Radio [Note: This is a major broadcaster in Colombia].

The United States has thus neutralized, with Abrams' statements, the credible threat.  He has just uncocked a loaded revolver, pointing at Maduro.

And the dictator can breathe a sigh of relief.

I first saw it a couple days ago in this pair of tweets from Venezuela's democratic leaders and hoped I was reading it wrong:

 
 

Notice that Burelli, who initially cheered Abrams's appointment, is trying to soothe Machado, who noted that Venezuela's situation is urgent and politely noted that Abrams hasd a different sense of timing.  Here's a rough Google translate:

MC, we have an obligation to explain our case... But that of imposing is as much when the money and the armies are of others. You Have to be more sensible/realistic to Have the $, assets and lives of others. Our times are urgent, but that does not oblige others.

Burelli further clarified, here, that there are people pushing acting president Juan Guaidó to call for military intervention "for scenarios not yet materialized," and it's irresponsible.

But Machado, who's inside Venezuela and constantly in danger, has reasons to be disappointed, as Avendaño notes.

María Corina Machado has a lot riding on this.  She is the one who has spent weeks championing a proposal: the activation of Article 187, Section 11.  The key Venezuelan opposition leader understands well, and has made it clear, that only our allies have the ability to help us, the Venezuelan people, to restore our freedom.

She has boldly fought for her ideas, and with them, the urgency of invoking this uncomfortable article.  Her work, in favor of activating this constitutional provision, has now been sabotaged by Abrams, who dismissed the Machado route. 

Burelli makes a lot of sense, but it still does appear that Abrams has taken a loaded weapon off the table by making assurances there are no plans for military intervention in Venezuela.

How's Maduro going to read that?  Any questions as to why Russia is now digging in harder in its aim to defend its little Venezuelan Marxist pawn at all costs?  Not only have Russian troops entered Venezuela, but the Russian parliament has threatened Colombia, and now Russia says it might be sending even more troops.

They're advancing as the U.S. is retreating, and sure enough, statements of weakness are coming out from the U.S.  It's positively Obamaesque.

Can we blame Abrams alone?  It's a possibility.  Abrams is a NeverTrump and was initially rejected for a State Department job based on his record of neo-con nation-building and NeverTrump grandstanding.  Yet in January, he was put there, seemingly incongruously, by President Trump, presumably to scare the hell out of Maduro.  He was useful that way; there was no other reason to appoint him.

Here was my initial reaction to Abrams being appointed back in January:

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.

Now there's no threat of force.

Yet he's kind of a swamp thing, someone who wants the good opinion of the swamp establishment, too.  This we saw in his behavior to undercut the free marketers in Pinochet's Chile, as I noted earlier here.  Some kind of statusy thing with him.

But to be fair, it may not be him alone. We already know that President Trump is no fan of military intervention.

Abrams spoke on Caracol Radio, which is a huge Colombian broadcaster, so these don't seem to be off the cuff remarks, for one - they may have been well coordinated with President Trump from the top.

Second, notice Vice President Mike Pence's words on Venezuela as he announces another round of sanctions on the Chavistas - and they were made after Abrams' remarks:

"Those looking on should know this: All options are on the table. And Nicolas Maduro would do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America," he said.

"The United States will continue to exert all diplomatic and economic pressure to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy," he said.

Diplomatic and economic, I don't see military there. Plan on some more testing Mike, given that military options aren't on your list. Maduro, remember, is held in power solely by military options from his own side. 

It's possible they are betting they can run out the clock on Maduro on economics alone, although as the Castro regime in Cuba has demonstrated - it's possible to slip very very low on the economic scale and still see a determined dictatorship with a brutal state apparatus survive.

Or, maybe they have intelligence that Maduro wouldn't believe him, so it doesn't matter what they say, so the threat remains and Maduro will still be sleeping with one eye open.

Another thing may be that the U.S. has failed to rally the region's allies. As I noted here on Trump's meeting with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, the latter looked rather glum and Trump didn't seem that happy, either. Was there a conflict of visions on whether to enact military intervention on Venezuela? Maybe there was.

The same scenario seemed obvious in Colombia, the other pillar of Maduro resistance. President Trump made the seemingly bad move of calling out Colombia's new conservative president, Ivan Duque, for not solving the entire drug war in his first seven months of office. Was that based on Duque not being willing to militarily play ball on getting rid of the Maduro regime and just wanting the U.S. to take care of the matter, or worse still, not offering logistical support? Maybe.

Whatever it is, it's not a good look for us. Russia is strengthening its hand. The U.S. seems to be retreating. One can only hope that if we're going to take military intervention off the table, we have something even scarier in store for Maduro. I don't know what that can be, but that's the nature of surprises.

 

 

President Trump appointed the famously NeverTrump Elliott Abrams into his Venezuela point man job to scare the hell out of Maduro.  Why is he helping the Venezuelan dictator sleep more soundly at night instead?

The conservative-libertarian PanAm Post's Orlando Avendaño lays it out forcefully:

Elliott Abrams, the United States envoy to Venezuela, has surrendered: "I do not think Europe, Latin America, Canada and the United States are thinking, at this moment, of a military reaction."  It was his response to concern about whether interim president Juan Guaidó should request a military intervention, or cooperation, through the activation of Article 187, Section 11 (which establishes that the National Assembly can authorize foreign military missions in Venezuela).

"I think it's premature.  I think it's not the right time ... My advice would be that at this time it would not be very useful," he stressed in an interview with Caracol Radio [Note: This is a major broadcaster in Colombia].

The United States has thus neutralized, with Abrams' statements, the credible threat.  He has just uncocked a loaded revolver, pointing at Maduro.

And the dictator can breathe a sigh of relief.

I first saw it a couple days ago in this pair of tweets from Venezuela's democratic leaders and hoped I was reading it wrong:

 
 

Notice that Burelli, who initially cheered Abrams's appointment, is trying to soothe Machado, who noted that Venezuela's situation is urgent and politely noted that Abrams hasd a different sense of timing.  Here's a rough Google translate:

MC, we have an obligation to explain our case... But that of imposing is as much when the money and the armies are of others. You Have to be more sensible/realistic to Have the $, assets and lives of others. Our times are urgent, but that does not oblige others.

Burelli further clarified, here, that there are people pushing acting president Juan Guaidó to call for military intervention "for scenarios not yet materialized," and it's irresponsible.

But Machado, who's inside Venezuela and constantly in danger, has reasons to be disappointed, as Avendaño notes.

María Corina Machado has a lot riding on this.  She is the one who has spent weeks championing a proposal: the activation of Article 187, Section 11.  The key Venezuelan opposition leader understands well, and has made it clear, that only our allies have the ability to help us, the Venezuelan people, to restore our freedom.

She has boldly fought for her ideas, and with them, the urgency of invoking this uncomfortable article.  Her work, in favor of activating this constitutional provision, has now been sabotaged by Abrams, who dismissed the Machado route. 

Burelli makes a lot of sense, but it still does appear that Abrams has taken a loaded weapon off the table by making assurances there are no plans for military intervention in Venezuela.

How's Maduro going to read that?  Any questions as to why Russia is now digging in harder in its aim to defend its little Venezuelan Marxist pawn at all costs?  Not only have Russian troops entered Venezuela, but the Russian parliament has threatened Colombia, and now Russia says it might be sending even more troops.

They're advancing as the U.S. is retreating, and sure enough, statements of weakness are coming out from the U.S.  It's positively Obamaesque.

Can we blame Abrams alone?  It's a possibility.  Abrams is a NeverTrump and was initially rejected for a State Department job based on his record of neo-con nation-building and NeverTrump grandstanding.  Yet in January, he was put there, seemingly incongruously, by President Trump, presumably to scare the hell out of Maduro.  He was useful that way; there was no other reason to appoint him.

Here was my initial reaction to Abrams being appointed back in January:

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.

Now there's no threat of force.

Yet he's kind of a swamp thing, someone who wants the good opinion of the swamp establishment, too.  This we saw in his behavior to undercut the free marketers in Pinochet's Chile, as I noted earlier here.  Some kind of statusy thing with him.

But to be fair, it may not be him alone. We already know that President Trump is no fan of military intervention.

Abrams spoke on Caracol Radio, which is a huge Colombian broadcaster, so these don't seem to be off the cuff remarks, for one - they may have been well coordinated with President Trump from the top.

Second, notice Vice President Mike Pence's words on Venezuela as he announces another round of sanctions on the Chavistas - and they were made after Abrams' remarks:

"Those looking on should know this: All options are on the table. And Nicolas Maduro would do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America," he said.

"The United States will continue to exert all diplomatic and economic pressure to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy," he said.

Diplomatic and economic, I don't see military there. Plan on some more testing Mike, given that military options aren't on your list. Maduro, remember, is held in power solely by military options from his own side. 

It's possible they are betting they can run out the clock on Maduro on economics alone, although as the Castro regime in Cuba has demonstrated - it's possible to slip very very low on the economic scale and still see a determined dictatorship with a brutal state apparatus survive.

Or, maybe they have intelligence that Maduro wouldn't believe him, so it doesn't matter what they say, so the threat remains and Maduro will still be sleeping with one eye open.

Another thing may be that the U.S. has failed to rally the region's allies. As I noted here on Trump's meeting with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, the latter looked rather glum and Trump didn't seem that happy, either. Was there a conflict of visions on whether to enact military intervention on Venezuela? Maybe there was.

The same scenario seemed obvious in Colombia, the other pillar of Maduro resistance. President Trump made the seemingly bad move of calling out Colombia's new conservative president, Ivan Duque, for not solving the entire drug war in his first seven months of office. Was that based on Duque not being willing to militarily play ball on getting rid of the Maduro regime and just wanting the U.S. to take care of the matter, or worse still, not offering logistical support? Maybe.

Whatever it is, it's not a good look for us. Russia is strengthening its hand. The U.S. seems to be retreating. One can only hope that if we're going to take military intervention off the table, we have something even scarier in store for Maduro. I don't know what that can be, but that's the nature of surprises.