INTRODUCTION: [In progress] -- Newt Gingrich. We've had a very enjoyable lunch, and I can assure you if his speech is as enjoyable as the luncheon, you're in for a rare treat.
As most of you know, there are Australians who live in blissful ignorance. Newt is a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, currently the CEO of the Gingrich Group, the communications and management consulting firm. He serves as senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., is a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. He's also a member of the senior advisory board of the secretary of defense's National Security Study Group.
A world-renowned strategist--and that's what he is. He is an expert on world history, military issues, international affairs, reptiles-- I found out over lunch he likes snakes--and he's got a great interest in the prophets. So I'm going to ask him a question about how he'd aim to stop the North Koreans and--you'll get a good answer.
He served as a member of the U.S. Congress for over 20 years, and as speaker from '95 to '99. He's widely recognized as the key strategist behind the '94 Republican victory. Under his leadership, Congress passed welfare reform, the first balanced budget in a generation, and the first tax cut in 16 years--with a Democratic president, who we all know. I've forgotten his name, it's so long ago since he was president.
So far-reaching was his impact that he was named Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1995. He's still widely recognized for his commitment to the American health system. His leadership helped save Medicare from bankruptcy, promoted the FDA reform to help the seriously ill, and initiated a new focus on research and disease prevention.
A strong advocate of volunteerism, like we in the Liberal Party and our prime ministers today. He's raised millions of dollars for charity, donating both time and money to causes, including the Habitat for Humanity, United Cerebral Palsy, the American Cancer Society, Zoo Atlanta, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and Earning by Learning literacy program.
He's an author of five books.
I say to you, sir, it's an absolute pleasure to have you. Please welcome Mr. Newt Gingrich.
MR. GINGRICH: Thank you all very, very much. Thank you, John.
I have to say, first of all, that it has been a great thrill for my daughter Kathy and my son-in-law Paul, who are here with us today, and my wife Callista, who had to go back this morning, but changed her plans and took a few extra days off once she got to Melbourne because she became so intrigued with the city.
It's been wonderful to be here for three seasons in the last few days.
And I'm hoping that when--we're coming back again on Thursday and Friday, I hope summer will be there by then. It will be a very exciting time.
But it's been interesting listening to Craig's description of the world a minute ago--as an American. Let me say, first of all, the joke about the Irish judge. I'm an O'Dougherty on my grandmother's side, and listened quite carefully, and from an Irish perspective can appreciate that a man who could actually get up 17 times in three minutes deserved a 10.
Let me also say, in terms of John's background and the fact that Foster has been mentioned several times here, one of the minor things that happened to me when I became speaker. I had gone to the 1984 World's Fair, which was in
Knoxville, Tennessee. And the most interesting exhibit of the fair was the Australian pavilion, and the most interesting part of the Australian pavilion was the fact that they had Foster's in the oil can. And so I had had a truly wonderful afternoon in Knoxville, and remembered that very fondly.
And Time magazine had a photographer, P.F. Bentley, who had come to us after I got elected speaker and said can I cover your first year and be in the room and take pictures and so forth? And at the time, rather open to all these things, we said sure. And we'd sort of forgotten that he was hanging around. And at 3 o'clock in the morning, the night I became speaker--we'd been in session ever since noon; I was the first Republican elected to the speakership since 1954; we'd had a terrific day. We literally had been voting all day because of the way we ran the Contract With America, and we were changing things in the House from noon and we didn't get done till about 2:30 in the morning.
And after the House was gaveled shut, two of my closest friends and I later--Senator Connie Mack and Congressman Bob Walker, both in the House then. The three of us were standing there, and I picked up a Foster's oil can and was in Time magazine the following week celebrating my speakership, which is--you talked about imported beer--let me tell you, Budweiser was not as thrilled with that photograph as you might have imagined.
So I understood fully the earlier passing references to Foster's, and I'm delighted to be at any event which is associated with them.
I also want to say thank you to Richard Pratt and Pratt Industries, and in particular to Dr. Stephen Webster, who's here, who's just been extraordinary in helping introduce us to Australia and giving us a better understanding of the country and a better chance to see things.
And I want to thank Melbourne for your botanical garden, your zoo, and for the new Victoria Museum, and Jeff, in particular, the work you did and leadership you showed. They're all world-class institutions, and you can be very, very proud of them. And as somebody who's visited an awful lot of museums, zoos, and botanical gardens, it is a real thrill to be in a city that has institutions of that quality.
I want to very briefly, not give you a speech, but cover a series of topics so we can spend most of the time on questions, which are always, I think, more interesting. So let me just bounce through a couple of items.
First of all, the Bush administration is very serious about getting to a free trade agreement with Australia. It's a very real part of Ambassador Zoellick's--
Ambassador Zoellick is very concerned that the World Trade Organization model is not going to work very well in getting the next tranche of real opening of the world market. He believes that we need to prove we're the largest market in the world, that we can reach out and work with countries that are interested and committed to competition, to free enterprise, to the rule of law, and continue to create more and more opportunities like this. And I would say that you are on a very, very short list of countries that he really wants to get an agreement with as soon as possible.
My instinct is, because of the American political system which has an election this coming November, it's more likely to be very early in 2003. But it could even be done in 2002. And I think that you can count on the Bush administration having a real commitment to work with your prime minister and your trade minister to get this done. And it's an area where--I look forward to it. I think that it's very, very important for us to continue to expand free trade because I think it does in fact raise the standard of living of everybody involved in the larger world, in the larger market.
And I can also tell you, this is an example where the psychology is as important as the economics. There is a deep positive American attitude towards Australia. And I've noticed in your paper, one of the papers this morning, a recent survey--Australia came in second after Canada. Now, if you think about the relative distance involved in that decision.
Canada is literally our neighbor. You have to reach a fairly--number of time zones to get to Australia. The fact that you are second in the world in the esteem of the American people should say something very strong.
I think there's a big bias--in a Congress which has many people who are against wider free trade, it will be much harder to stop an Australia-U.S. free trade agreement than many other countries because the commitment we've had since 1941 working together, the sense of deep affection for Australia, and, candidly, the impact of Crocodile Dundee, the crocodile hunter, and of Foster's. I mean, you know, there's a cultural acceptance of things Australian that has nothing to do with the gap between us. And I think in that sense, I hope all of you will be active in promoting the idea of a wider competitive free-trade zone involving both of our countries.
Let me talk a little bit about the national security implications for the United States and for the world of September 11th. And let me start with an observation that hasn't been made often enough. The world is not more dangerous since September 11th. The world was objectively at least as dangerous on September 10th. But all of us who were too busy to notice it on September 10th have now noticed how dangerous the world is.
Now, it's very important to put this in context. Al Qaeda existed on September 10th. I say this in part because in 1998, President Clinton and I launched a commission, called the Hart-Rudman Commission. Fourteen Americans--when I stepped down as speaker, I became one of them--14 Americans spent three years looking out to 2025. We wanted deliberately to get a period far enough out that we could get beyond the normal fights and the normal parochialism and really try to understand what the world was evolving toward.
We reported last March, after three years of study. We unanimously agreed that the number-one security threat to the United States was a weapon of mass destruction going off in an American city, and it would almost--and it was probably going to be a terrorist event. We said, interestingly what has not been picked up since September 11th, that the number-two threat to the United States in national security was our failure to invest enough in science and our failure to reform math and science education. And we unanimously agreed that it was a larger security threat than any conceivable conventional war in the next 25 years.
And I say that just to note in passing that the coming revolution in science, the combination of computing, communications, biology, nano-scale science and technology, and quantum mechanics--those five things are going to change the world more in the next 25 years than the entire 20th century. If you look at the scale of scientific change from 1900 to 2000, and you imagine we will have--
I think we may--did we just lose me? For a second I thought that it was all disappearing. You start talking about science, and machines rebel.
But the scale of change is so massive, I would encourage all of you to get some understanding of what Nathan Myhrvold, the former research vice president at Microsoft, calls exponential industries--computing, communications, and biology. These are where literally every year the capability goes up. And it's where if you're thinking about Australia's future, you need to think of Australia's future in the context of this scale of scientific change. That was our number-two conclusion.
But our number-one conclusion had been that we had to worry about weapons of mass destruction. Now, let me point out: Nothing which happened on September 11th involved a weapon of mass destruction. And I say this because I notice that Governor Ridge, the homeland security director, is trying once again do we need to be worried. Secretary Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, several days ago made a speech saying we should be worried.
Our worries are about nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. As tragic as September 11th was, it will be tiny in retrospect compared to a weapon of mass destruction. You saw a little of that with the anthrax scare, in which a scare which affected 17 people caused almost a paralysis in three or four cities of our mail services, closed down one of our
Senate office buildings for three months. So we have real concerns.
And that's the context I want to share with you for a minute or two in talking about Bush's speech the other night, which I thought was an extraordinary speech. Let me take the use of the term "axis of evil," which combined one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt phrases, talking about the Axis powers in the Second World War, with one of Ronald Reagan's phrases, talking about the "evil empire."
Let me start out and talk about the word "evil." I was with Nathan Sharansky, who's now an Israeli minister but who was a Soviet political prisoner in 1982. And Sharansky said, when Reagan gave his speech--he only ever used the term "evil empire" once in his career, but it was so intense and so powerful that it resonated ever since. Pravda the following day attacked Reagan for describing an evil empire.
So the word was out he'd used the term "evil empire," because he was being attacked for using it. Sharansky said in Siberia, as the prisoners learned that he had described this other system as an evil empire, their morale exploded. Because for the first time, somebody in the West knew what they knew, because they were inside the gulag, they were political prisoners, they were being tortured, mistreated, brutalized, and in some cases starved to death. And finally somebody in the West said it was as bad as they thought it was.
But as Gorbachev once said, "It was actually quite a helpful phrase; we'd always known it was evil, but it was useful to have somebody outside confirm it." And I really do believe the use of the term "evil empire" was a significant factor in the decline of the Soviet Union.
In the case of Axis powers, it's important because one of the great discoveries of the Rumsfeld Commission--I appointed Don Rumsfeld to be chairman of the Rumsfeld Commission on Ballistic Missile Threats back in 1997. The number-one thing they learned was that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was in the habit of looking at each country. You'd say how long will it take Iraq to develop the next missile, and they'd say, well, given the Iraq laboratories, the Iraq factories, it'll take nine years. There was another question: Could you buy the missile on the open market? The answer was yes. So if you wanted to know how long would it take Iraq to acquire the next missile, the answer was one boat trip from Korea.
That the CIA wasn't asking because they were under instructions from the Clinton administration to minimize the risk. And so in fact we have open source television footage from North Korean television of the beloved leader, the dictator of North Korea, showing Iranian purchasers around the North Korean missile factory. And we don't think they were there because they were looking to take a vacation. We think they were there to buy missiles, which is the only thing North Korea produces that is exportable in the world market.
And so there is an axis, there is a relationship between these countries. And President Bush is making, I think, a very compelling argument that I hope will occur around the world. And it's not an argument the way some of our European friends have responded to it. I mean, the German--I think it was the German defense minister said--the foreign minister said--I'm sorry, Defense Minister Scharping said, you know, we're for a political solution to Iraq. We agree. And if you can find a political solution to Iraq, we're for it. But to say we're for a political solution without a solution is nonsense.
And let's look at the base case that George W. Bush is making. Is Iraq attempting to build biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons? Well, we had one defector headlined in the New York Times three weeks ago who personally had been in 20 sites in Iraq last year. I've interviewed the former head of the Iraqi nuclear program who defected in 1994, who said he had 7,000 people working on nuclear weapons in 1994. We know that Saddam used chemical weapons on Iranians and we know that Saddam used chemical weapons on a city in his own country.
Now, do we have reason to believe Saddam is the kind of guy who, if he got a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon, might use it? I mean, does any serious, mature person on the planet believe this guy is incapable of using these weapons? Well, if you believe that, then you come to the second question, which is, Is it less dangerous to deal with Saddam before he has chemical and biological and nuclear weapons that are operational, or is it less dangerous to deal with him after he uses them?
And those who are arguing you don't have a casus belli, you don't have a cause for war until after he takes out one of your cities, it seems to me have to reject all the lessons of the 1930s, all the lessons of dealing with Adolph Hitler, because this is not a bureaucratic regime like the Soviet Union became. The reason detente worked is there were enough Soviet senior leaders who didn't want to die, that the idea of a nuclear exchange was unacceptable. Now you're dealing with a man who may decide that, you know, if he could take out Washington, London, and Paris on the way, he'd accept martyrdom.
Now, which democratically elected leader wants to say my policy is we'll get even? And it seems to me democracy's established a precedent. The first reason for creating a government is to secure physical safety--not to secure retribution after your family has been annihilated. And that's a debate we need around this plant.
We called back in March for the development of preemptive policies--this is before September 11th. Because the absolute logic of war-gaming these issues is simple, and I'll let any of you try it out as a parlor game one evening. If you're dealing with a regime which does not value life--and remember in Saddam's case, when the health minister gave him a bad report, he walked him out of the cabinet room, into the corridor, and personally shot him. Now, recently he'd also shot his son-in-law, although in that case he had defected and then stupidly went back home.
But we have pretty good grounds to believe in Saddam's case that--somebody's patted my son-in-law's shoulder.
And the great thing in America is he may shoot me, but the odds are very unlikely that I'm going to risk my daughter's anger by shooting him. You know.
But if you think about it, it seems to me the burden of proof after September 11th ought to be on the side of the appeasers, those who would say, oh, let Saddam alone, how can you pre-judge him? And in Saddam's case, you have a man who is only sustained in power by five different secret police organizations. Now, I just want to offer a theorem here. If a dictator is surviving because there are five sets of secret police, they probably don't think they'd win a referendum.
Now, it's very important because what's the legitimacy of his regime other than violence and torture? What's the moral basis from defending Saddam from being replaced?
Let's go to the second case, Iran. Because I don't believe, by the way, that President Bush is saying we're going to invade all three countries. I think each on is susceptible to a totally different set of challenges.In the case of Iran, you have a dictatorship which has been losing every election. But the way the Iranian system works, it doesn't matter if they lose, because the Council of Ayatollahs still ends up vetoing everything. But there's pretty good reason to believe that up to 80 percent of the people of Iran no longer believe in that government. And it seems to me there's a very real opportunity--and by the way, every secret poll we've seen, Americans are very popular in Iran. We're very popular in Iraq. The places we're unpopular are places where we have supposedly pro-American governments, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, because there everybody who's mad at the government thinks we're propping them up.
Well, you show me a good dictatorship--this used to be true in Russia and Poland. You show me a good dictatorship, I'll show you a country where America's popular. Because the average person thinks we'd be better than the current regime.
In the Iranian case, I don't think you need a military solution, I think you need a political diplomatic alliance--by the way, that 80 percent is overwhelmingly young. There's virtually nobody under 40 who's in favor of the ayatollahs. And again, what's the sanctity of the regime? This was a revolutionary regime; it exists by force, it survives by secret police, and in every election the reformists defeat it.
The third case is North Korea, which is in many ways the hardest. And I would argue we want a very cautious solution in North Korea, because Seoul is so close to the North Korean border and because the North Korean regime is, I think, so totally unpredictable. But our goals there start by being very straightforward. We don't want the North Koreans to make nuclear weapons; we don't want the North Koreans to have an effective ballistic missile--and they're already--they're very close to having one capable of reaching the entire region; and we don't want them selling weapons in the Middle East. And that may in the end involve some military activities outside of Korea to block the transit of weapons that are intolerable, but I doubt very much if President Bush in the near future is going to suggest replacing the regime.
So you have three different problems with three different kinds of solutions. In the case of Iraq, I believe if in the end Saddam is not replaced, we have lost this war. I do not believe the world can be safe as long as Saddam is there. In addition, if we do replace Saddam, Iraq is a naturally modernizing society that would be second after Turkey as the most secular of Muslim societies in the region, and I think you will dramatically see change across the region if Iraq has that opportunity.
In the Iranian case, I hope we will reach out to the people of Iran diplomatically and in terms of other activities, but not militarily. And I believe you are likely to have a modernizing, democratic Iranian regime within a year or two.
But in each case, to be very clear, we are not going to tolerate the development of weapons of mass destruction by dictatorships. And the reason is very straightforward. We have no capacity to ensure that those weapons will not be used.
I'll give you one closing example on that topic, and it's very straightforward. In every study that's done of the use of anthrax, if it's airborne, the casualties are between a million and two and a half million in the Washington area. Now, that's the scale of the problem we're dealing with. We're not talking about four people with a truck driving into [inaudible]. We're not talking about a commercial airliner hitting a building. We're talking about weapons whose capacity to kill is beyond imagination. And we'd like to keep it beyond imagination. And the only way to do that is to have a very direct effort to suppress it.
Let me say two last things and I'll take questions. The transformation in the art of war is real. Our capabilities are amazing. The first real evidence of it was in 1982 or 1983, when the Israelis fought a theater-level air campaign against the Syrians and shot down 102 Syrian aircraft while losing one.
The second big example of it was Desert Shield, which was totally different than the American military thought it would be. Now, we moved enough equipment into the region under Desert Shield--we had enough equipment in the region to have fought a Second World War-style campaign. As you know, the ground campaign lasted four days. We had enough ammunition to last about six months.
Two specific pieces of data: The exchange rate in tanks between Iraq and the United States was 3,700 to five. The five were all hit by land mines. There were seven American tanks hit by T-72 tanks; none of the seven were hurt. The exchange rate in armored personnel carriers was 3,000 to there. One of the there was killed by an America helicopter by accident.
The next big occasion--if you see "Black Hawk Down" you'll see it--was Mogadishu. The truth is, those attacks--while it was a tragedy and we lost 18 people unnecessarily, the capabilities of those forces and the way in which they were being coordinated is astonishing. And you'll see it if you see the movie, "Black Hawk Down."
And then Afghanistan has been the most recent example. Kosovo was not, because we did not insert Special Forces. And one of the real lessons is that Special Forces change the accuracy of your bombing by several orders of magnitude, maybe 100 to 1. And it turned out that one American on a horse carrying a satellite phone and a laser designator, as long as they had B-2's, F-15's, and other aircraft overhead, was literally the equivalent of as many battalions as the Taliban could get. And that's why the Northern Alliance did so well.
So when I hear people say, well, there was a real active alliance in Afghanistan but you don't have that in Iraq, I just want to go back and remind them that when we first went into Afghanistan, the New York Times in an editorial said unlike the Iraqi opposition, there's no effective opportunity in Afghanistan. But it turned out the Northern Alliance combined with American air power and about 300 Special Forces were remarkably effective.
My last point. In the long run, our interest is not in defeating terrorism. Our is not even in defeating dictators. In the long run, our interest is in extending order in such a way that the average person can achieve prosperity, safety, and freedom. We have an obligation in Afghanistan to move beyond simply defeating the Taliban, so that the average Afghan a generation from now wouldn't dream of being a terrorist because they're too busy creating prosperity living under the rule of law and having an opportunity for freedom.
It's very important for us to understand, as you've discovered with your own challenges in terms of refugees. Those of us who are prosperous, we either help the rest of the world learn how to be prosperous, or we will [inaudible]. Because in the long run, in the age of universal television, they will know the disparities. And so if we truly want to live in a world that's peaceful, if we truly want to be good neighbors, we've got to have a much more aggressive understanding of how to help other people be prosperous, safe, and free.
And I think that requires being much more honest about what that takes--something which for the last 30 years has been politically incorrect, but I think that we can do it. I think we will be rewarded by billions of people around the planet who have no real interest in moving if they can find a way to live close to their parents and their relatives and have a better future and live in safety and create prosperity. And I think that mission, in the end, is even morally more important than defeating terrorism.
I've covered a wide, sweeping range. If it's all right, I'll just take questions. Is that permissible?
MR. : We have a couple of roving microphones. And if you'd also do us the honor of just stating your name and organization. And here's a bloke that almost looks like your full brother up there. John O'Brien.
MR. GINGRICH: That's a very good question. I would say it's very different situations. Let me start and say, as I should have earlier, that it's important to understand we can afford to focus on terrorism because the United States is incontestably the most powerful nation in the world. If we were to cut our defense budget radically, and allow China and Russia and others to compete with us, within a decade we could not afford to focus on terrorism because we would have genuine peer competitors.
I think it's very important around the world for people who want stability to favor the United States being incontestably the strongest nation in the world. Because that says to the Chinese, for example, you can become a regional power but you probably can't in the next 40 years make the capital investment to actually compete with the United States.
And that creates a much safer world than one in which the Chinese came to believe that they could seize Taiwan and we would be incapable of stopping it. Which I think would be a very unstable world, not just there but in the oil fields of the South China Sea and in a variety of other places. So I'm starting with the premise, it's helpful, I think, to most of the planet, for everyone except our most bitter enemies, for the United States to sustain a military advantage that is relatively incontestable at a global level.
In that framework, I think people do matter. It turns out, for some reason. George W. Bush really does like Putin. They get along well. They like each other. Now, why that happened, how that evolved is utterly beyond my understanding, but it's clearly real. I think that's very significant. In addition, Putin really is a generation beyond the first reformers of the post-Soviet era. He understands that the future of Russia is inside some kind of capitalist system. He understands that Russia is not going to be a global competitor. And he understands that while Russian nationalism matters, it cannot be allowed to cripple Russia's role economically in the world at large.
Now, he's more authoritarian than I might like. But again, this is a country in dramatic transition. And when you look back 12 or 13 years, even his authoritarianism is remarkable more open as a society than anything one could have dreamed as late as 1987 or 1988.
So I think there you're likely to see an emerging continuing American-Russian friendship. The very fact that the Russians are supportive of our being in Central Asia--I think as a child of the Cold War whose father served in the U.S. Army for that entire period, the notion that you'd have an American base in Uzbekistan is inconceivable. I mean, it's just--it is--this is a world you couldn't have dreamed of. And yet the Russians in fact are relatively supportive of our playing a significant balancing role in Central Asia--I suspect partly because in the long run they worry very much about Islamic extremists, and partly because in the long run they worry some about the Chinese. And I think having us there almost in the sense that the British were once a balancing force probably makes them feel more secure. And they don't feel particularly threatened by us right now.
That's an enormous change from where we might have been. And Yeltsin was so weak domestically, he could never have pulled this off. Putin feels pretty comfortable saying to his own nationalists, Don't worry about it, we--you know, George and I have got it taken care of. And it's working. I think that's a very good sign for the relatively near future in Russia.
In the case of the Chinese, I think they're drifting toward a real crisis of the regime. Those of you who deal with China a lot know they have very large factories that are stunningly inefficient, that are owned by the People's Liberation Army. Now, how they're going to get through the next 10 years entering the World Trade Organization, opening the economy up even more than it is now, starting to operate under the rule of law in an international sense without an enormous crisis of their power structure strikes me as a very hard challenge.
And I think the Bush administration attitude is, well, we want to accelerate the emergence of China commercially and, though we believe that in its--following that acceleration, you will have a China whose people are dramatically more open to the world and that the regime will then have to follow almost unavoidably.
Now, that may sound naive. I think it's actually--it's a fairly sophisticated argument. It's useful to remember that his father was the first U.S. ambassador to Beijing and feels that he has a very long and deep understanding of that region. Interestingly, Condi Rice, of course, was a specialist in Soviet affairs. So when you talk about Russia and China, they feel they have some knowledge of the region. And then, of course, with Cheney and Powell's role in Desert Shield, Desert Storm, when you talk about the Middle East, they think they have some knowledge of that region. And then in a way, this may be the most experienced foreign policy team we've ever had, with the exception of Dwight Eisenhower.
MR. : Do we have a question? I think there's one from this side of the room.
MR. GINGRICH: I think as a general principle the United States would be inclined to favor working things out peacefully and by negotiation. I suspect the logic of where we are going on terrorism means that the Tamil Tigers would be more and more listed as a terrorist operation by us if they persist in operations aimed at killing civilians. But I think that the truth is, if you were to say how often does the Sri Lankan problem enter on the list, I think it's, at the present time, not been a significant factor in terms of their daily operations. But I do think you have in this administration a much greater concerns about South Asia than I believe have at any point in American history, and a great willingness to be involved in the region. And so I think you would see a really serious effort on our part to try to get to a negotiated agreement if we could.
MR. : A question at the front. Is there one at the back as well?
MR. GINGRICH: In 1990, when the original incursion and the seizure of Kuwait took place, there was a general agreement among the allied forces led by the Saudis and the Turks not to replace the regime. The alliance was for ejecting them from Kuwait; it was not for replacing the regime. I was in Riyadh in September of 1990, and the American ambassador at that time said to me that basically the fix was in.
And the reason was there was a broad agreement that without a very strong Iraqi government, Iraq would disintegrate because the attractions toward Iran in the south, the attractions to create a Kurdish state in the north, which the Turks were deeply, bitterly opposed to, and that Iran was actually--remember that prior to Saddam seizing Kuwait, Iran was considered the greater threat. And everybody was worried in 1988-89 that Iran would dominate the Persian Gulf, that Iran would bully and undermine the Saudis and others. And so the whole attitude had been oriented toward Iran until Saddam just overreached and suddenly got everybody to realize this--you know, they may be a danger in the long run; this guy's crazy.
And so everybody at that point said we're for defeating him, but we are unwilling to replace him. I don't think there was ever any consideration. In addition, those in the administration who wanted to see him replaced, I think, believed that the decisiveness of the defeat would probably lead the military to replace him. I say this because I heard both Scowcroft and Cheney say this in April and May of 1991, that they had--they really thought that they had so punished the Iraqi military that Saddam was almost certainly going to fall. And I think that represented an underestimation of his secret police and the fact that, really--dictators who really work at it can survive an amazing amount of difficulty.
MR. GINGRICH: Well, let me say first of all, Saudi Arabia is the largest single reserve of oil in the world. But remember that Iraq is the second-largest. And the potential instability of the Saudi regime and the fact that, frankly, in terms of funding terrorism and housing people who favor terrorism, the Saudis have not been particularly cooperative. And one of the reasons I strongly favor replacing the Iraqi regime is because it creates a totally new environment in which to negotiate with the Saudis. And I think it would be very helpful to the world at large to have a regime in Iraq committed to being part of the world market, committed to producing oil and providing you an alternative from reliance on the Saudis. So I would strongly favor that.
In addition, I personally strongly favor a pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. Because I think the more rapidly we can bring the oil and natural gas supplies out of Central Asia, the more we minimize reliance on the Persian Gulf. And I think it's not healthy for the whole planet to have an over-reliance on one part of the world.
MR. : Final question.
MR. GINGRICH: I'm told this is the final question, so...
MR. GINGRICH: Well, I met with Arafat when he came to the first signing ceremony, the first meeting with Rabin. And in fact, to go back a stage further, the first foreign leader I met with after I became speaker was Prime Minister Rabin, who walked through how passionately committed he was to getting to a peace with the Palestinian people and why he was committed to doing so, which frankly related largely to what he saw as a deeper long-range threat from Iran.
I would have to say that I know of no leader in the last decade who has been a greater disappointment than Yasser Arafat. And you can only reach one of two conclusions. He is either a deliberately, systematically dishonest advocate of terrorism who has worn a mask, or he's a man of remarkable incompetence. And I'll let you decide which it is.
He has had occasion after occasion to attempt to create a peaceful state which suppressed terrorists. And involves a real risk, because the terrorists would have tried to kill him. But it would have been a risk that would have made sense and which he would have had the help of the Israelis and the Americans and others, and the Europeans, in my judgment, in creating a modern Palestine.
I hosted several dinners with Jewish Americans and Palestinian Americans trying to find a formula by which people who were used to making money in the U.S. could create joint ventures in the region, to convince people in the region that there is greater wealth to be achieved by working together to create a bigger pie than there is by killing each other to see who has the last crumb. And I really think you've got to have a cultural change.
King Abdullah of Jordan understands this perfectly. Abdullah's a modern person. Abdullah wants to create a modern world; he wants Jordanians to live in prosperity. He understands that means you can't have terrorism, you can't have random violence. And Arafat has thrown away a decade of the life of the Palestinian people in a policy which is either, as I said a minute ago--and I want to be very clear with this. If you look at what's happened in the region, you have to conclude that this is a man who always wanted to destroy Israel but lied about it for a decade to try to get the state as--which he said in Arabic, by the way, that this would purely be an interim to the final defeat of Israel.
When he talked to his own people, he said over and over again--and if you look at the maps in the schools given to Palestinian children, they do not have Israel on the map. So you have to assume either--which I happen to believe--this man in fact has always been committed to the destruction of Israel and has lived a lie for 10 years hoping we in the West would impose him, so that he would then have an entire state from which to launch a war. Or you have to assume he's a sincere, well-meaning but stunningly weak person who in 10 years of leading the region could never figure out how to defeat terrorism in his own communities.
Now, I'll let you decide which it is. In either case, I think we should not deal with him at all. I think we should look for a new Palestinian leader and we should be quite clear about it. The Palestinian people deserve to have a state. The Palestinian people deserve to have chance of freedom, prosperity, a regime that isn't corrupt and a regime that isn't a dictatorship. We would like to work with any Palestinian who has the courage to stand for those things. But we should work with no Palestinian who says, well, of course I reserve the right to destroy Israel, but could we be friends for three weeks.
And I think it's time--the Europeans, I think, have been the most misguided in this, but the American State Department is a very close second.
Let me just close and just say to all of you, as an American who is having his first experience of your extraordinary country, I just want to say thank you. I think over the last nearly 60 years this year--61 years, if you want to go back to December, we have had a remarkable friendship, a remarkable alliance. I think the world is better because of it. I think there is a depth of warmth in America toward Australia that you have to visit to truly experience. I know there is a warmth here for Americans, which I have been experiencing. And I thank all of you for hosting us and for giving us this chance.
In particular, again, Stephen, I want to thank you and I want to thank Richard and Pratt Industries for having made this opportunity possible. Thank you all very, very much.
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