On one foreign front, new hope of a peace deal sprang up Monday as American officials publicly discussed a "framework" for a pact in Afghanistan.
Under its broad terms, the Taliban would purportedly ensure against terrorists seizing Afghan territory. U.S. troops would withdraw. Concessions would follow. There would be a cease-fire. Direct talks between Taliban and the Afghanistan government are a key challenge.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. negotiator, said: “We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement. The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.”
The U.S. embroilment there has lasted 17 years, and President Donald Trump last month spoke of cutting troop numbers by as many as half, from the current 14,000.
At the same time Monday, White House rhetoric on Venezuela moved further in a different direction — toward diplomatic and economic intervention on behalf of opposition leader Juan Guaido, and against President Nicolas Maduro.
Some are calling it an effort at "regime change," a phrase used in the Mideast during the George W. Bush presidency.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Axios that Trump asked him in a chat about Venezuela in recent weeks: “ ‘What do you think about using military force?' and I said, 'Well, you need to go slow on that, that could be problematic.' And he said, 'Well, I'm surprised, you want to invade everybody.’ ”
Graham said he replied that he does not, that he only wants to "use the military when our national security interests are threatened."
Last week, the administration named Elliott Abrams, a longtime Washington GOP insider once embroiled in the Iran-Contra mess, as a special envoy on Venezuela policy.
Trying to describe the Trump foreign policy as a coherent doctrine proves challenging. Probably more than other presidents, he has switched stances over the years and embraced policymakers whose actions he'd previously condemned, such as in Iraq. There seems to be no general guiding principle on foreign intervention, nonintervention, or human-rights positions.
Russia and China appear to be taking sides with Maduro. But the Organization of American States won't recognize his new term as legitimate. Last May, the leftist Maduro "won" a second term, but rivals refused to acknowledge the results, calling the widely boycotted balloting fraudulent. Independent observers agreed.
One TV commentator, Hugh Hewitt, said over the weekend that the anti-Maduro effort would help "bring us together."
Hewitt's analysis may represent the rosiest optimism — like the hopes that a U.S. withdrawal soon will not lead to the Taliban overrunning the Afghan government.