Gingrich Says War on Terror ‘Phony’

Newt Gingrich issued his sharpest attack yet on the Bush administration, terming the war on terror “phony.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday the Bush administration is waging a “phony war” on terrorism, warning that the country is losing ground against the kind of Islamic radicals who attacked the country on Sept. 11, 2001. A more effective approach, said Gingrich, would begin with a national energy strategy aimed at weaning the country from its reliance on imported oil and some of the regimes that petro-dollars support.

“None of you should believe we are winning this war. There is no evidence that we are winning this war,” the ex-Georgian told a group of about 300 students attending a conference for collegiate conservatives.

Gingrich, who led the so-called Republican Revolution that won the GOP control of both houses of Congress in 1994 midterm elections, said more must be done to marshal national resources to combat Islamic militants at home and abroad and to prepare the country for future attack

To be fair, the president announced a major new energy initiative this past January, albeit one that went largely unnoticed. But, surely, it was far too little, too late.

Now, whether “energy independence” is a chimera is another question entirely. But one would think we could undertake a national mission comparable to that which put us on the moon and at least make a dent.

Further, even if we somehow managed to ween ourselves from Middle Eastern oil, it’s far from clear that our problems with the Islamist terrorists will go away. There’s the Israeli-Palestinian question and a whole bevy of other issues.

Still, even by the standards Bush himself set in his address of September 20, 2001, we have not made much progress against the terrorist enemy, or even made much of an effort to do what we said we would do:

  • “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
  • “Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

Neither of those things has happened.

One presumes from the boldness of this speech that Gingrich is still toying with jumping into the presidential fray. For a variety of reasons, I can’t imagine him ever getting my support. But he might force a more serious discussion of some major issues.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Terrorism, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Steven Donegal says:

    So maybe John Edwards had a point?

  2. Bithead says:

    Donegal:
    Perhaps the point is why he spends so much time covering it with his hair.

    James:

    Further, even if we somehow managed to ween ourselves from Middle Eastern oil,

    We could, in fact, replace that situation right now… The fact of the matter is that we are only pulling around 8% of our oil from that region, just now. We could short circuit that process, by domestic drilling. Even if domestic drilling doesn’t account for 10% of our total oil intake, that’s more than were pulling from the Middle East, at the moment. Gee, do you suppose we have a chance of drilling such domestic reserves without the democrats going crazy? I tend to doubt it.

    And your point, about our problems not going away, under those conditions, I find it be quite correct. The fact is, our problems would not go away, with that transition. Indeed, they would likely get worse, given lower amount of income to the region. Poverty, after all, is not the root cause of such violence, but it does provide an accelerant as would gasoline to a match.

    Personally, I can’t help but wonder , however, if the amount of press that Gingrich is getting just now, doesn’t have to do with the fact that his current mumblings, can be taken as something in line with the MSM’s anti Bush narrative. If Gingrich ever gets any traction with this argument that he’s currently making, and starts this seriously considering a run for the White House, based on it, he’s going to be rather surprised with how the ground ships, in that transition. That way lies John McCain, for example. (I will say, that I am somewhat more sympathetic to Gingrich’s arguments than those of McCain, Gingrich having by far the more resolutely conservative record. )

    The quotes you offer, James, end up being pretty general in nature, and nonspecific. This is completely consistent with Gingrich historically. He tends to see the broad picture of things, and is quite good at it. Specifics, however, tend to elude him. Consider, for example…

    …more must be done to marshal national resources to combat Islamic militants at home and abroad and to prepare the country for future attack

    … is all well and good. But how do you suppose that the biggest roadblock to such… the Democrats… are going to react when specifics are offered? I suppose that the reaction will be not unlike what Mr. Bush himself received. Which, in turn, will leave is precisely where we are today.

  3. Richard Gardner says:

    If the USA doesn’t buy the Middle Eastern oil, then the petro-dollars will decrease, but the petro-Euros and petro-yen will increase. Not quite a zero-sum game, but close (with the USA out of the market, the prices might not be as high, so demand would increase), so I don’t see from a funding of terrorists prospective it matters much.

    And of course the number one foreign country the US petro-dollar is spent is Canada, and we all know about them.

  4. Triumph says:

    Yes, the “war on terror” is phony. But Gingrich is just as phony and is acting in his typical opportunist manner.

    Let’s remember what strategy he laid out for dealing with terrorism in a Nov. 1 2001 interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News:

    HANNITY But, as we think beyond this, if the bigger picture, Mr. Speaker, is the war on terror, the next question — well, what do we do after that? I mean, what is necessary so that, by definition, we can say we won that war?

    GINGRICH: Well, _I think, first of all, the president has been pretty clear and has said again and again this is about a lot more than Afghanistan. This is about a lot more than Al Qaeda or bin Laden and that this is the first campaign in a series, and I think — there’s a tremendous amount of tension, I think, around the world by people who’d like us to focus on a very small number of folks, claim victory and go home, and let the hatred continue.

    And I think we’ve got to recognize that Iraq is a problem.

    Later, the wise old Newt said:

    Well, you know, he said the other day that Saddam is evil, and that he had made an agreement to allow U.N. inspectors in Iraq and he had better live up to that agreement. And there are other signs coming out of the White House that this administration is going to move to reinforce the right to have inspectors, and if Saddam blocks those inspectors, I suspect at some point late next spring, having completed the Afghan campaign, you may see something happen.

    I frankly think we have the resources and the capacity to move quicker, but I think there’s a huge gap between the courage, the integrity, the directness of this president and his immediate team, people like Secretary Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Rice and Vice President Cheney, and the way in which the bureaucracy is still pretty cumbersome, pretty slow, and I think not moving with the speed that we need. So I think the president’s probably still getting a grip on moving the government in the direction he wants it to move in.

    Didn’t Bush do precisely what Newt advocated? Why the problem now?

  5. floyd says:

    “”But Gingrich is just as phony and is acting in his typical opportunist manner.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Triumph;
    Please give us a comprehensive list of politicians who do not fit the above description,in the space provided here> []

  6. floyd says:

    Triumph;
    To avoid any consternation on your part, you need not use all the space provided!

  7. Grewgills says:

    If the USA doesn’t buy the Middle Eastern oil, then the petro-dollars will decrease, but the petro-Euros and petro-yen will increase. Not quite a zero-sum game, but close (with the USA out of the market, the prices might not be as high, so demand would increase), so I don’t see from a funding of terrorists prospective it matters much.

    How does it follow that if we use less oil the Europeans and Japanese will use more? Do you really think that their industry and travel will increase to fill the gap? What support do you have for this bald assertion? The reason for the difference in price of European and US gas is taxes. As a percentage the gas prices in Europe did not go up nearly as much in Europe as in the US and a corresponding drop in oil prices would not generate nearly as steep a drop in gas price as in the US. Prices in Western Europe now are around 1 euro per liter (~$5/gal). Prior to the spike in oil prices the cost was about 85 cents (~$4.25/gal). There is considerable more use of public transit and considerably less space for parking, which can be quite expensive. Driving will remain expensive relative to public transit in most of Europe due to these and other factors. US usage will not change EU usage in anything approaching a linear fashion.
    China will continue to grow demand and may fill the gap, but that growth will be there regardless of whether we are buying ME oil or not. If we remain and compete with China for that oil prices will only go higher.
    To say it would even approach a zero sum game seems frankly ridiculous. Particularly when you consider that both Japan and Europe are more devoted to developing alternative energy than we are.
    Who is making and driving electric cars?
    Who designs most of the windmills and solar cells?
    Who has developed tidal power?

  8. Steve Verdon says:

    If the USA doesn’t buy the Middle Eastern oil, then the petro-dollars will decrease, but the petro-Euros and petro-yen will increase. Not quite a zero-sum game, but close (with the USA out of the market, the prices might not be as high, so demand would increase), so I don’t see from a funding of terrorists prospective it matters much.

    The problem with this is that we’ll likely spend just as much finding alternatives, if not more. If it were truly cheaper, in a real sense, to shift from oil to an alternative we’d know precisely what that alternative is, and the cost difference would be fairly well known. Right now, no such alternative exists. One will almost surely be found, but this idea that we can force the issue and save money at the same time is political double talk from a lying and conniving politician…but I repeat myself.

  9. davod says:

    We chose to allow ourselves to be blackmailed by OPEC and the other oil producing countries.

    Oil is the most fluid form of energy. You can move it anywhere relatively cheaply. The US has abundant sources of oil off its coasts and at ANWR. We should ramp up production and use our oil for internal use and as a foil to counter the manipulation of oil prices.

    We are fooling ourselves with the Utopian dream of alternative fuels. Most are not ready for prime time and those that are such as Ethanol are overpriced and have far more costs than the benefits. Look at what the miracle of Ethanol has brought to the price of food.

    Always look for the simplest answer – drill for our own oil and gas and build more processing plants.

  10. Bithead says:

    I’m with Davod, here.

  11. Anderson says:

    To be fair, the president announced a major new energy initiative this past January, albeit one that went largely unnoticed.

    A bit like the major new Mars initiative?

    Slightly OT, has anyone noticed Gingrich’s stating an opinion on our use of torture, “black sites,” etc.? Just curious — I’m sure there are readers here who pay much more attention to Newt than I usually do.

  12. davod says:

    “To be fair, the president announced a major new energy initiative this past January, albeit one that went largely unnoticed.

    A bit like the major new Mars initiative?”

    Have we arrived on Mars?

    Bush announced an energy policy in early 2001 Bush Energy Policy: Make More, Use Less

    He has reiterated this policy every year since. For instance in 2006 Bush Seeks Vast, Mandatory Increase in Alternative Fuels and Greater Vehicle Efficiency

    To compliment what Bush would like to do in the US if the Congress would get out of the way, Bush has been working on an agreement with other countries to help them improve their economies while minimizing the effect on the environment.
    Beyond Kyoto . When it was first agreed to in 2005 Australia, the United States, India, China and South Korea were party to the agreement. A number of other countries have signed up since then.

    You may not like any of Bush’s policies but it is disingenuous to say he does not have an energy policy.