The Corner

National Security & Defense

A World of Trouble

The world gives you no shortage of trouble, and the present moment is no exception. Naturally, I wanted to call on Elliott Abrams. We’ve done a podcast — a Q&Ahere.

Abrams, as you know, is a veteran of the Reagan State Department and the Bush (43) White House. He is now at the Council on Foreign Relations.

We begin with Afghanistan, our longest war. Is President Trump right to continue it? What does victory in Afghanistan look like? (Abrams provides a sketch.)

Then there is North Korea. The other day, Steve Bannon said, “They got us.” Do they? Do they have us over a barrel? Do we have any options vis-à-vis North Korea?

Concerning Russia, Congress passed a sanctions bill. Were they right to do that? What about executive versus congressional power? (Abrams recalls that he worked for Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment — which was born out of frustration with Nixon-Kissinger détente.)

Related to Russia is Ukraine: Should we arm them? What are the pros and cons? Abrams notes that we were once known as “the arsenal of democracy.” We did not necessarily fight for others but we equipped them to fight for themselves. The phrase seems quaint now. (Earlier today, I wrote a post about Ukraine, here.)

Venezuela has fallen into savagery. What will happen there? A chavista big, Diosdado Cabello, has apparently ordered the assassination of Senator Marco Rubio. We have provided the senator with a security detail. Big whoop. Isn’t there more — a lot more — we can do, and should do?

How about the Castro regime? Have they — have they dared — deafen our diplomats? Someone did. We have expelled two Cuban diplomats. Again, big whoop. Surely there is more to be done?

Go to Egypt now, where the dictatorship is cementing. They have pretty much finished off civil society. The jails are bulging. In response, the U.S. has withheld some military aid from Cairo, and it is threatening to withhold more. Abrams discusses the ins and outs.

Consider Hong Kong, too. In recent days, three students who led democracy protests have been imprisoned. Hong Kong is ever more indistinguishable from the PRC at large, right?

In the Reagan administration, Abrams recalls, U.S. officials took care to talk about persecution in countries such as China, the Soviet Union, and Iran. That doesn’t happen so much anymore — which is a shame.

Anyway, a tour with Elliott Abrams is enlightening. That link is here.