Newt Gingrich has befuddled even those who follow his career the closest. His critics say he drifts with the current political winds while others insist he abides to his own strict principles. When it comes to his various views on foreign policy matters, he once claimed, “I don't do foreign policy” to a New York Times reporter in 1995.
Of course, in 1995 Newt was the Speaker of the House and the comment may or may not have been an appropriate one considering his position. Today he insists the now memorable remark was made in fun, but is that what his views of the United States overseas are?
Yet his “playful” antics with foreign affairs have lifted more than a few eyebrows in the past. Now with his candidacy for the Republican nomination growing increasingly possible, many are listening a lot more intently to “playful” Newt.
Asked about the U.S. Relationship with China 17-years ago as Speaker, Gingrich boldly stated we should recognize their arch-enemy Taiwan as a “country independent of China.” These words could have fueled an international incident with the Chinese had they been uttered by the actual president. But Newt being Newt, he played down the remark by insisting later, “I was trying to rattle their cage (China), to get their attention.”
During his present campaign, Gingrich has proposed U.S. support for regime change in Iran, his choice of former United Nations ambassador John Bolton as Secretary of State in a Gingrich administration, decried the alleged culture of timidity at the State Department and encouraged many more covert operations from the C.I.A.
Every Republican should take a hard look at Gingrich's own views on American foreign intervention and his role as possible commander-in-chief:
Gingrich insists there is little chance of achieving our original goals of peace and democracy in either country. He blames Obama for setting a very public time line for the military's departure, especially from Iraq where the last ground troops will be out by December 31. “I think it's important to recognize that the very act of stating a date for withdrawal has a frightening potential,” the former Speaker remarked.
Gingrich was a hawk, along with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and has shown little sign of backing down from his original positions now that the war is over for the United States – for now.
A telling sign of an aggressive foreign policy in these types of situations is the steady advice Gingrich receives from former C.I.A. director Jim Woolsey, one of the early advocates of toppling the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003. Another close adviser is Robert McFarlane, former Reagan national security chief.
In terms of other hot spots around the world, Gingrich would be prone to prop up friendly regimes rather than commit all-out war. One of his favorite ideas to avoid American involvement was an idea to provide iPhones to Iranian dissidents to spread the word of democracy and plan anti-government demonstrations.
But as his reputation suggests, Newt can be an advocate from both sides of his mouth.
Last May, Gingrich advocated a no-fly zone over embattled Libya. Only a few days later Obama did exactly that. The Speaker came out days later to criticize the president, adding “he would not have intervened.” Days after that statement, he recanted the quote and declared that “since we are already there, we should stay.”
Not very presidential – more “Carteresque.”
Perhaps the following quote best sums up Gingrich's view of foreign conflicts and U.S. involvement: “I'm a hawk, but a cheap hawk.”
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