Saturday, February 05, 2005

# Posted 1:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LONG MEMORIES, SHORT TEMPERS: David Holiday, who shares my esoteric interest in US-Central American relations during the Reagan era, is less than happy about Elliot Abrams' promotion over at the National Security Council. The media clearly hasn't forgiven or forgotten, either. According to the first sentence of a wire report reprinted in the WaPo,
Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair, was promoted to deputy national security adviser to President Bush. [NB: Abrams will be a deputy NSA, not the deputy NSA. --ed.]
David H. observes that Abrams
Still thinks he did nothing wrong...Sounds like a model policy maker for the Bush administration to me!
Since the legal aspects of the Iran-Contra affair are not my area of expertise, I am going to withhold judgment. I have read the transcripts of many of Abrams' jousting sessions with House and Senate oversight committees, and it is hard not to be impressed by his intellect.

Given how often liberal recollections of the 1980s are just plain wrong, I would not be surprised if their is far more merit to Abrams' case than his critics let on. (For Abrams defense of his own record, see here.) In fact, even some of Abrams most persistent liberal critics admit that he took the fall on behalf of other Reagan era officials.

What I can comment on with a certain degree of confidence is Abrams' commitment to democracy promotion. In contrast to many of those around him in the 1980s, Abrams understood fully that America must take down right-wing dictators along with their Communist counterparts. In spite of Abrams' controversial support for the Contras, he was fully able to work side-by-side with arch-liberal Sen. Tom Harkin toward the objective of bringing down the Pinochet regime in Chile.

In fact, I would argue that Abrams is a pivotal figure in the history of neo-conservatism. In the early 1980s, in the heyday of Jeane Kirkpatrick, democracy promotion was nowhere to be found on the neo-con agenda. In fact, Kirkpatrick rose to fame by arguing that the Carter administration's greatest failure was its hesitation to support pro-American dictators like Somoza and the Shah.

If you want to understand why the new generation of neo-conservatives is so committed to democracy promotion, you have to focus on the influence of Elliot Abrams.

One of Abrams' assistants at the State Department in the 1980s was Robert Kagan. Now, I can't be objective about Kagan since I worked for him and think he's a great guy, but who wouldn't admit that Kagan is the most important and persuasive spokesman today for neo-conservatism?

Neo-conservatism today is much stronger than it was 20 years ago, and Elliot Abrams is one of the most important reasons why.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments: Post a Comment