Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House and current Trumpworld mouthpiece, had an op-ed in the Washington Post this week citing a giant shift in U.S. foreign policy in the president’s speech to Muslim and Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia. Naturally, he also said the media “…largely missed the real drama of the moment: a titanic shift in U.S. foreign policy occurring right before their eyes.” It was one so significant, according to Mr. Gingrich who also holds a PhD in History from Tulane University, that its only equal antecedent is a speech by Reagan—who else?—in London thirty-five years ago which was meant to rally the West against the tyranny of the Soviet empire. In diagramming this alleged massive change in U.S. foreign policy, Professor Gingrich says this:
“Trump stood before an unprecedented gathering of leaders to do something far more significant than utter a single phrase or undermine his predecessor’s record. He was there to rally the Muslim world, in his words, “to meet history’s great test” — defeating the forces of terrorism and extremism. He did so in a way that no American president ever had before. While extending a hand of friendship to Muslim nations, he also issued them a clear challenge: to take the lead in solving the crisis that has engulfed their region and spread across the planet.”
The meeting was “unprecedented” in that it has been a while since the Arab League gathered perhaps, and if he could undermine his predecessor’s record on his first international trip, well, that would certainly fire up his base who cared not a whit for foreign policy when they stood alone in the voting booth and somehow found a way to vote for a man who incited violence at his rallies, ran on heretofore latent bigotry, and claimed to be a serial sexual assaulter. In the speech, President Trump said,
“America is prepared to stand with you…But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”
It is a compelling statement as written, though much is lost when such lines are delivered by our president. It is not however a titanic shift in U.S. policy. It is not a shift at all. Mr. Gingrich’s rousing cheer for the man who just appointed his wife to an ambassadorship (#Ithoughtweweregoingtodraintheswamp), had the line “…never before has an American president so plainly put the ultimate responsibility for eradicating terrorism on the nations of the region.” That statement is patently false.
Perhaps the history professor could not be bothered to recall that the National Security Strategy of United States for 2006, signed by President George W. Bush, stated:
“The strategy to counter the lies behind the terrorists’ ideology is to empower the very people the terrorists most want to exploit: the faithful followers of Islam…The most vital work will be done within the Islamic world itself…Responsible Islamic leaders need to denounce an ideology that distorts and exploits Islam for destructive ends and defiles a proud religion.” (p 11)
Perhaps Mr. Gingrich elected to forget President Obama’s famed Cairo Speech—one that was unequivocal in “extending a hand of friendship to Muslim nations”—when he said,
“So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.” (emphasis added)
It seems pretty clear to anyone who can read where the responsibility for eradicating this false-ideological form of terrorism lies. As the statement of a president in a widely reported speech on the future of U.S. foreign policy, it was in and of itself a policy statement. That policy was only parroted by the current president, thereby cementing a long-held objective of U.S. policy going back multiple administrations. But then, it was not really Mr. Gingrich’s intent to assess this speech among the pantheon of presidential pronouncements on U.S. foreign policy with any degree of academic rigor. That’s a shame, for the man was once known as part of the Republican, if not really the conservative, intelligentsia.
Ironically the former speaker and current Trumptown Cryer disparages the media for failing in its duty to write the “first draft of history,” a phrase credited to the former Washington Post publisher Phillip Graham, while he intentionally attempts to subvert history for political (and no doubt personal) gain. In speaking so highly of the $110B weapons deal the president announced during the trip, Mr. Gingrich seems unaware that as recently as September of 2016 the Obama administration was inking a larger deal only to cancel small parts of it (for precision ordnance and other munitions) based on human rights abuses and lack of care for the lives of innocent civilians in Saudi’s continuing war in Yemen. In fact, according to figures from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, an official DoD institution responsible for security assistance to partner nations, and the non-profit Security Assistance Monitor, a program of the advocacy group Center for International Policy, arms sales to Saudi Arabia under President Obama topped $115B. This included the sale in 2010 of $30B in front-line fighter aircraft and options on $30B more in naval weaponry among other things, constituting the largest arms deal of its kind in history at the time.
In speaking of President Trump’s deal, Mr. Gingrich said it “…will bolster the kingdom’s ability to contribute to counterterrorism operations across the region. This will reduce the burden on the U.S. military and send a clear message that this administration takes the threat of Iran seriously.” First, this comes from the former speaker of the party who just last year, against the advice of President Obama, made it legal for Americans to sue the Saudi government for its complicity in supporting that very terrorism. Secondly, if Mr. Gingrich’s statement is true, the American taxpayer ought to be asking why the $115B in arms already sent to the Kingdom under the previous administration has not offered that return on investment or had the same effect of communicating the seriousness of the Iranian threat. The fact that it has not in the former and clearly did in the latter, certainly calls into question the credibility of Mr. Gingrich’s statement and makes his closing line absolutely laughable. He says, “Foreign leaders and the American people alike can see in this trip the core of a new, reality-based foreign policy.” There is scant evidence of anything “reality-based” at all in the Trump administration, save for the good and decent public servants and career bureaucrats toiling on for the good of the nation or those like Mr. Mattis whose distinguished career and reputation as a deep thinker is the only light in this blackening hole of anti-knowledge.
There was a titanic shift in policy in two tiers during this speech, and the media covered it in detail. First, there was a complete absence of any implied American leadership in human rights, particularly the plight of women in Islamic theocracies. Second, there was no mention of the desire for every citizen of the earth to experience self-determination and the natural state of humankind. If this is what Mr. Gingrich is referring to, they are consequences of a perspective called realism, not reality-based foreign policy. It is something a man of his considerable education should understand. Additionally, if that is the shift he is referring to, not only did he not state as such, but it is anathema to the core of U.S. foreign policy for seventy-two years, with a few perturbations, and not at all true to the principles that gave rise to the nation’s Founding.
A Trumpist Realism gives maneuver space to authoritarians around the globe including competitors in charge in Russia and China, but particularly to those in the U.S. sphere of influence including Turkey, the Philippines, and Gulf State monarchies and theocracies as well as those across the Levant and deep into Africa. To forgo American leadership in these two vital tiers will certainly make the world a far darker and more dangerous place for those in need of our example the most. Even Ronald Reagan and both Bushes understood that. President George W. Bush’s NSS from 2006 also contained this passage, “The United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere. These nonnegotiable demands of human dignity are protected most securely in democracies.” It was on page 2.
Mr. Gingrich’s piece in the Post is a titanic lie. In truth, it has long been the policy of the United States to bolster partner nations’ capabilities to fight violent extremism. It has long been known that change can never be imposed from outside. It must come from within. It has been stated in speeches and official policy statements going back thirty-five years and four administrations. Yes, back to that Reagan speech. Mr. Trump is no great change agent, and while he can be dismissed for not knowing the history of the policy he trumpeted—he told us he never reads—Mr. Gingrich cannot be forgiven for this blatant attempt at subversion of the truth. Dealing in the currency of his once-respected intellectualism to erase over thirty years of steady policy in order to attribute it to an imbecile is beneath us. It is apparently not beneath Mr. Gingrich. That knowledge ought to grant you the power to disregard all you may ever hear again from the former speaker.
There is a simple maxim to the human experience. It is this: Those who read, know. Those who do not are doomed to an ignorance the likes of which Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Trump (such that he has the capacity to do so from the historic depths of his own ignorance) are only too keen to reinforce. Inoculate yourself against this affliction. Research the source documents; it has never been easier. Read, assess, and draw your own conclusions. Then hold the purveyors of falsehoods to account. Despite what you will hear from @realdonaldtrump while he watches “the shows,” from whence all his knowledge flows, they almost exclusively emanate from his own sphere. The current leader of that most unseemly pack is Dr. Newt Gingrich, PhD, former Speaker of the House, and affront to thinking people wherever they may exercise their intellect.