Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is well-versed and very comfortable talking about a wide range of foreign policy and global issues. As such, Gingrich has targeted President Obama from his first days in office as a naïve foreign policy amateur who’s too soft on American adversaries, too quick to abdicate hard-line American leadership, and doesn’t listen to his generals.
Like his GOP competitors, Gingrich has blasted Obama’s “outstretched hand” efforts toward Iran, North Korea, Syria, and even Pakistan seeking to repair the U.S. reputation abroad. “Charisma is a very limited commodity in international relations,” he said in 2009. Gingrich has argued Obama failed to sway Iran or North Korea from pursing nuclear weapons or win additional European support for Afghanistan, and he called the president’s well-received 2009 nuclear disarmament speech in Prague “a fantasy.”
With South Carolina tea partiers last month, Gingrich said foreign countries should worry about what the U.S. is plotting, “not the other way around.”
Gingrich has also been an outspoken critic of the large land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the Bush administration should have inserted more counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan sooner after 9/11. He applauded Obama’s robust increase of counterterrorism operations and agreed with the decision to pull troops from Iraq. But he blasted Obama’s 2014 withdrawal timeline for Afghanistan as a political move his generals did not seek.
FIND THE AFGHAN EXIT, FAST. Gingrich has long called for ending the Afghanistan War quickly, but he blasted Obama’s 2014 timeline for withdrawal as a political choice counter to the will of U.S. generals. Then, in September, he again said the U.S. should find the fastest way out of Afghanistan because he did not see a stable government forming there anytime soon – a rebuke of the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy. Pentagon officials have said, however, that Afghanistan needs a stable government and security force to maintain the hard-fought gains made by Obama’s surge of U.S. troops and civilian workers, lest the country become a safe haven for the exiled Taliban, or worse, the brutal Haqqani network.
BOMB, BOMB IRAN. Every candidate pledges to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but few detail how they’d have done anything differently than the last two presidents. Gingrich has called for a more active U.S. effort to undermine the Iranian government, saying the U.S. should be “actively funding every dissident group in Iran.” And if Israel decided to go to war with Iran, he said, “I wouldn’t wait” to attack. Yet, Gingrich also said Obama’s decision, backed by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to change the European missile-defense architecture, shifting focus away from a possible Russian strike and toward an Iranian missile salvo, was a “mistake.”
NO BETTER FRIEND TO ISRAEL? Gingrich leads the pack in his staunch defense of Israel, pledging to join in a strike on Iran if Israel deemed it necessary. He blasted Obama’s early-term efforts to restart the global nonproliferation movement as an anti-Israel conspiracy, saying: “The No. 1 goal internationally of nuclear disarmament is to disarm Israel.”
FEAR THE ANTI-CHRISTIAN ARAB SPRING. Gingrich raised eyebrows last month when he questioned the benefits of the Arab Spring, saying, “I think we may be in fact be having an anti-Christian spring” and calling Obama’s entire Middle East strategy “a total grotesque failure.” He supported the Libyan no-fly zone, but only as means to oust Muammar el-Qaddafi, criticizing the administration's framing of the operation as a purely humanitarian mission.
IRAQ HAD TO END. Gingrich said Obama made “the right decision” to pull U.S. troops from Iraq this year because Iraq would not offer them immunity, but said generically, “it's the end of a sad, in my judgment failed, campaign.” Gingrich, no fan of the Iraq War, has not blasted Obama for trying harder to keep troops there, as other candidates have.
DRONE ON. Gingrich has viewed drone strikes cautiously, saying they were “successful” and “effective” this year, following the killing of Osama bin Laden and other top terrorists. But he also has hedged, saying, “I don't know that it's in any way turning the tide of the war.” He supported Obama’s recent use of drones to kill American citizens abroad deemed to be terrorists: “The American who the president authorized killing in Yemen was an enemy combatant. Enemy combatants don't get Miranda rights.”
NO LOVE FOR PAKISTAN. Gingrich this summer said the U.S. should have forced Pakistan to root out terrorists in its midst or threaten to cut off all relations, saying “We’ll talk to you from India” -- Pakistan’s most feared rival. He also questioned U.S. aid to Pakistan in the wake of the bin Laden raid.
NO FRIEND OF THE U.N. “The administration's commitment to ‘multilateralism' at the U.N. is nothing more than appeasement," Gingrich has said, and he blasts any U.N. moves deemed harmful to Israel. But Gingrich’s anti-U.N. stance has wavered, and he once co-chaired a moderate project with former Democratic senator and Middle East envoy George Mitchell to reform the U.N., not kill the venerable institution.
PEN (AND DOLLAR) MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD. Gingrich has said the highest national security issues are overhauling America’s education system and strengthening the economy so that the U.S. can compete with India and China. Those items, along with a ramped-up focus on homeland security, “will lead to a significant reallocation of resources,” he has argued.
Rodney Hawkins contributed.