Newt Gingrich on War & Peace
Former Republican Representative (GA-6) and Speaker of the House
GINGRICH: I think we're asking the wrong questions. Afghanistan is a tiny piece of a gigantic mess that is very dangerous. Pakistan is unstable and they probably have between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons. Iran is actively trying to get nuclear weapons. They go out and practice closing the Strait of Hormuz, where one out of every six barrels of oil goes through every day. You have the Muslim Brotherhood winning the elections in Egypt. The truth is, we don't know who's in charge in Libya. You have a region-wide crisis, which we have been mismanaging and underestimating, which is not primarily a military problem. We're not going to go in and solve Pakistan militarily. We're not going to go in and solve all these other things. We need a fundamentally new strategy for the region comparable to what we developed to fight the cold war. And I think it's a very big, hard, long-term problem, but it's not primarily a military problem.
GINGRICH: We ought to have a massive all-sources energy program , designed to literally replace the Iranian oil. Now that's how we won World War II. We all get sucked into these tactical discussions. We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with minimum use of force. But if we were serious, we could break the Iranian regime, I think, within a year, starting candidly with cutting off the gasoline supply to Iran, and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they have.
Q: But sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank now, is that a good idea or a bad idea?
GINGRICH: I think it's a good idea if you're serious about stopping them. I think replacing the regime before they get a nuclear weapon without a war beats replacing the regime with war, which beats allowing them to have a nuclear weapon. Those are your three choices.
Gingrich: There are a number of ways to be smart about Iran and relatively few ways to be dumb. And the Obama administration skipped all the ways to be smart.
Q: Could you tell us the smart ways?
Gingrich: Sure. First of all, as maximum covert operations, to block and disrupt the Iranian program, including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems. All of it covertly, all of it deniable. Second, maximum coordination with the Israelis, in a way which allows them to maximize their impact in Iran. Third, absolute strategic program comparable to what President Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher did in the Soviet Union, of every possible aspect short of war of breaking the regime and bringing it down. And if in the end, despite all of those things, the dictatorship persists, you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon.
A: Let me suggest this is a good example of a "gotcha" question. Two weeks earlier, I said we should go in covertly, use Egyptian and other allies not use American forces.
Q: But Mr. Speaker, you said these two things.
A: That's right. I said [the first] after the president announced gloriously that Gadhafi has to go. And I said if the president is seriou about Gadhafi going, this is what we should do. The [second] came after the same president said, well, I really meant maybe we should have a humanitarian intervention. I was commenting about a president who changes his opinion every other day.
Cain: I've said many times before that US intervention in Libya is inappropriate and wrong. The US does not belong in this war.
Gingrich: Not with conventional forces.
Cain: Pres. Obama did not make it clear what our mission was in Libya, what the American interests were or what victory looks like. We cannot risk our treasury or national treasures (brave men & women in uniform) without knowing those answers.
GINGRICH: Sure. The price tag is always a factor, because that's part of the decision. But ten years after 9/11, our intelligence is so inadequate that we have no idea what percent of the Libyan rebels are, in fact, al Qaeda. Libya was the second largest producer of people who wanted to kill Americans in Iraq. I think that we need to think fundamentally about reassessing our entire strategy in the region. I think that we should say to the generals we would like to figure out to get out as rapid as possible with the safety of the troops involved. And we had better find new and very different strategies because this is too big a problem for us to deal with the American ground forces in direct combat. We have got to have a totally new strategy for the region, because we don't today have the kind of intelligence we need to know even what we're doing.
It was vital from day one that the US be seen as a liberator and not as an occupier. For some reason the lesson learned in Afghanistan--of liberating and not occupying--did not get across. Like most bureaucracies, this one looked after itself. It created a green zone of protection and comfort to shield the bureaucrats. By creating a green zone, it acknowledged that the entire rest of the country was a red zone, a danger zone. Worst of all, the decision to have an explicitly American administrator of Iraq guaranteed that America's role would change from liberator to occupier.
By Dec. 2003, things were so bad that I went public and declared that we had "gone off a cliff" in the June decisions, and that until they were reversed things were just going to get worse.
The Irreconcilable Wing of Islam has emerged as an extremist movement against not only non-Muslims but also against moderate Muslims who wish both to preserve their faith and to be a part of the modern world.
DODD: I believe we should. My view is there’s a greater likelihood that the Iraqis, if they understand that this is not an open-ended process here, and that we’re willing to help train troops and help on counter-terrorism, but that come the first of April next year, our military participation is over with.
GINGRICH: I disagree deeply. There are young men and women risking their lives in uniform who are dramatically going to be demoralized by the idea of who’s the last person to die trying to win in Iraq. If we have to set a deadline, then let’s set it for next Tuesday. Let’s get out of there. Because I think the idea that we’re going to set a magic moment a year from now or 11 months from now or 10 months from now basically says we are prepared to accept defeat if the deadline’s real and we can’t find a way to get to victory, then we will have legislated defeat.
DODD: I don’t think you have to ask the question hypothetically, that’s what’s going on today. We’re in the middle of a civil war.
GINGRICH: Even if you accept that this is a civil war, people have won civil wars. And the fact is, civil wars are hard. The Second World War was hard. Guadalcanal was hard. If we’d had today’s Congress during Guadalcanal, the number of people who had said beating the Japanese is too hard, let’s find a negotiated peace, would have been amazing.
DODD: I disagree with that.
GINGRICH: We are in a worldwide war, and, and I’m going to use a word that seems to be unfashionable in Washington. We need to think about winning this worldwide war. We need to understand that every week that goes by there are more young people recruited into al-Qaeda and into the various Iranian terrorist organizations.
DODD: The idea we don’t talk to the Syrians & Iranians in a moment like this, I think, is terribly naive and dangerous for the country, in my view.
GINGRICH: I’m perfectly happy to talk to Syrians and the Iranians. We’ve had a number of secretaries of state who’ve gone to Damascus, several of whom have been snubbed. Our secretary of state was snubbed the other day by the Iranians. I just want us to understand who we’re talking about. Reagan had no doubt that the Soviet Union was an evil empire. He had a clear vision of the Cold War. He said, “We win, they lose.” And he did what you’re calling for. They unraveled the Soviet empire, largely without firing a shot.
DODD: Equating the American Revolution with a civil war in Iraq today, please....
GINGRICH: No, it’s exactly the same point. We went from 1775 with the first Continental Congress to 1789 when we adopted the Constitution. We had 14 years of confusion. Now, if you were advising the French in late 1776, what would you have said then?
DODD: We had people who knew what they wanted in the end. The Iraqis don’t, apparently. A survey said over 50% of Iraqis thinks it’s all right to kill Americans. If we go back to the American Revolution I doubt you would have had 51% of the Americans saying it’s all right to kill the French coming here.
A: We have these stunningly self-destructive reporting systems. The fact is there are about 139,000 Iraqi troops who are out on patrol with Americans who are risking their lives. The fact is the Iraqis are taking a lot more casualties than we are. And there’s something wrong [when] people who are standing next to us getting killed are dishonored. We say, “Oh, that’s not really good enough.” Look at all the Iraqis who walked to vote risking death. Look at all the Iraqis who have now twice voted, including Iraqi women who were engaged. The same thing in Afghanistan where women knew the Taliban was going to target to kill them. Imagine in the Second World War, you say, “Well what have the British done recently? Why are we helping Great Britain, or what, what have the Greeks done or the Poles done or the Belgians done?”
GINGRICH: I believe we send a signal to enemies to wait patiently and destroy the country as soon as we leave. A signal to our own troops to cease patrolling and do everything you can not to be the last person killed on behalf of something that Congress has decried will be a defeat. A signal to our allies around the world that we’re unreliable. And we will have dramatically expanded the incentives of the terrorists. And I think you’ll see a dramatic upsurge. If this Congress passes a definitive end of American involvement, every enemy we have on the planet will exalt & claim it’s an enormous victory, and they will increase their recruiting. They don’t plan to stop in Baghdad. They are coming here as soon as they can get here.
DODD: We’re bogged down in a situation here where we’re losing credibility, we’re losing our moral value. The great moral reputation of the US has suffered terribly as a result of this.
The White House Chief of Staff defended the administration’s policy. ”I think things are going very well in a very tough situation in Iraq. Newt Gingrich is not all-knowing,“ he said.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D,NY), who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, said she agreed with Gingrich. She blamed the administration for ”miscalculation“ and ”inept planning“ in Iraq.
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