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April 26 2000


Speech in 1996 on terrorism and Clinton national security record
After being honored at the Center for Security Policy's "Keeper of the Flame" Award Dinner
Gingrich Communications  September 18 1996
Newt Gingrich

This is a very serious group. This is a group that gets together because we really do believe that America's security is at risk and we really do believe that there are dangers....I think virtually every person in this room has studied history and in many cases lived history enough to know that lack of preparation, lack of foresight, lack of realism, lack of candor about our security needs, are precisely the ingredients to truly create a catastrophe....It is those who avoid the realities of the world and those who avoid the lessons of history who are the most dangerous because they are precisely the people most likely to create the conditions for the next disaster because they have not got a clue what their policies lead to.

It is very hard in a free society in peacetime to understand and take to heart George Washington's injunction that if you want peace, you must prepare for war....It is the absolute nature of a free society to worry about going to the lake for the weekend, to worry about paying for the next vacation, to worry about what we might do with our children's college education, and to put off for another few weeks or another few months or another few years disagreeable, unpleasant, and difficult things. And to give those around the world who might do us harm every possible benefit of the doubt.

[When] you deal with this Administration, it is so easy to drown in the tactical opportunities of commenting on each week's confusion that it's very hard to back up and look at the larger picture. And the scale of their systematic avoidance of reality and misstatement of fact is so enormous that you could simply spend your lifetime dealing with: What did they really do? What did they really mean? Why did they say different things than they did or meant? And yet it gets you nothing in the end.

And so I thought I would come in the opposite direction and back all the way out and suggest that what those of us who care the most about American security should focus on is Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" -- maybe the most insightful single essay about politics in the 20th century -- the essence of which is quite simple: Words matter. It is desperately important in a free society to insist on clear language.

In fact, our opponents on the left consistently fail to be clear in their language because they cannot survive in an honest debate if they're clear. And so they deliberately, systematically, and willfully misuse the English language because they cannot possibly stand up and honestly and accurately defend their policies.

I want to talk about three words: clarity, coherence, and consistency -- three things I want to suggest to you are lacking in this Administration at levels that are breathtaking, and if you are a serious student of American survival, at levels that are, frankly, frightening.

I want to make the following observation: I believe intellectually in our capacity to understand the world. The democracies are in a greater danger than they have been at any time since Stanley Baldwin lied to the English people about the Luftwaffe and Hitler's Germany.

Let me start with point number one. The world is dangerous. Now, this is an important debate. If the world is dangerous, we should have a CIA Director who believes in the CIA. I know this a high standard, but the truth is, after this election, when we're beyond immediate partisanship, there should be a thorough investigation of the current Central Intelligence Agency.

The degree to which [the CIA] has been politicized should be ripped apart, and we should insist on the establishment of a professional Central Intelligence Agency with a professional director dedicated to the defense of the United States rather than to the defense of left-wing politicians. And I think it is a desperately important thing.

The Iraq Fiasco

Now, let me just suggest to you that if we, in fact, focused intently: what is happening in northern Iraq is simply a Middle-Eastern equivalent of the Bay of Pigs. You can tell who lost. We are flying people out of the country so they won't be killed.

Now, one of the ground rules of history is that the people being evacuated probably didn't win....This is an enormous defeat for the United States. This is a defeat that will reverberate for a generation in the Middle East.

Let me repeat the public-source information about Iraq. As the story is told, the Central Intelligence Agency, under the leadership of a group of left-wingers who don't believe in it, has spent something like $100 million, to no avail, has propped up several groups trying to undermine Saddam, has failed on a large scale, having first enticed people into working with the United States, and then, in effect, having allowed them, A) to be killed and, B) to be driven out of their homeland.

Now, everywhere in the world people will notice this, and America will be weaker, and our [credibility] the next time somebody meets with us will be weaker, and people will be less likely to work with us. This is bad. It is bad for freedom, it is bad for America, and it is bad for the people who we first enticed to get involved and then failed to defend.

I believe there are three levels of dangers that we should deal with using three different strategies, and I think they are very discrete and quite different. The first is terrorism; the second is adventurous or outlaw states; and the third is great powers. And they're quite different challenges.

Terrorism comes basically in three forms: random people who have unusual personalities. The Unabomber is a case. It's likely, if we ever find out who had the bomb in Atlanta, that will turn out to be a case. Those are, frankly, police actions requiring the FBI, are virtually unstoppable, and in a free society you will occasionally have somebody who acts out their particular derangement in a violent way.

The second [category is] private groups engaged in terrorism. There are remarkably few of them. They are very hard to sustain. And the fact is you can almost always track them down if they engage in action over any length of time.

The third, which is often mistaken for the second, are organized, systematic extensions of terror -- of state power engaging in guerilla warfare, but masking it as terrorism. When you have organized groups in the Bekaa Valley and they are sustained by Iran and they have a headquarters in Damascus, they are acts of war. They are not terrorism in any traditional, anarchic sense of the turn-of-the-century. They are guerilla warfare being waged by a state for its diplomatic and military purposes. And we should deal with them accordingly.

For a country to say: "We will blind our eyes to Lebanon; we will wonder why the Israelis are so harsh when they retaliate to protect their own children and their own women and their own innocent civilians; we will tolerate Iranian money propping up various terrorist groups across the planet; we will know that in country after country -- in Latin America, in the Philippines, across Europe -- that the Iranians are engaged, but we will not, of course, engage Iran as though we were a great power and we were fed up with state-supported terrorism; and we will coddle the Syrians while they sustain and defend terrorism" -- terrorism would not last a week in Lebanon if Syria did not protect it.

And for this Administration to have had the Secretary of State visit, I believe it was 27 times, the city of Damascus, to have tea with the dictator, to raise him to the level of being the equal of the United States, is the worst possible foreign policy. We should be doing the opposite. We should be saying to Assad: "Prove you are worthy of treating with the greatest democracy on the planet by expelling the terrorists from Lebanon, and when you have proven you are worthy of being part of the civilized world, give us a call."

Let me be quite clear. Ronald Reagan was correct when he said of the Soviet Union it is an evil empire. And, in fact, after the collapse of the Soviet empire, there were Russian leaders who said it was a remarkably helpful speech, because they hadn't quite been sure. And they meant it quite seriously. If we in the West in our freedom didn't have the nerve to condemn their tyranny, maybe it wasn't such a bad deal.

Well, let me suggest the same thing about Syria's behavior and Lebanon. A regime which is itself a dictatorship internally, which has ruthlessly killed its own people in large numbers, which actively sustains war against its neighbors by terrorism, and which then claims it has no control over those it controls is behaving in a destructive and despicable manner and should be treated as a nation more appropriately isolated than negotiated with....

What I am suggesting in part is that we pull most terrorism out of terrorism. That's not an FBI problem. It's a military problem. It's a diplomatic problem. It's an intelligence agency problem. Let's [set aside] pure, true terrorism by random individuals and tiny groups -- that's the FBI's problem. But anytime there is systematic, organized support by a state, that is a military/diplomatic problem and should be dealt with by the intelligence agencies, the military, and the State Department at the highest levels. And it, frankly, then shades into the next problem, which is outlaw states and adventurous states.

Now, these are manageable problems, but they require those three words I talked about earlier: clarity, coherence, and consistency. You need to be able to define early: What is our goal with Iraq? What is our goal with Iran? What is our goal with Syria? What is our goal with North Korea? What is our goal with Libya? Just to take five random examples, none of which this administration could tell you because it's so complicated to be clear. And then you have to remember the next day what you said, and that's so hard. And then somebody might actually make you stick to your word, and that's so difficult. But you can't lead an alliance, you can't educate a free people, you can't design a strategy if you don't have clarity, coherence, and consistency....

I want to raise a third area that we don't even talk about very seriously that I think is a real challenge. It's not necessarily a problem, but it's a challenge. And that is great powers. We are very foolish to look out over the next half century and assume that we can deal with China without an enormous amount of thought. And I think that we're a little silly to look at Russia with anything less than seriousness.

I want to draw a distinction here between diplomatic and military thinking. Diplomatic thinking should always look out for the best, for the greatest opportunities, for the opening up. Military thinking should be ruthlessly engaged in looking at capabilities, not intentions.

This is why I would draw the comparison to Stanley Baldwin. Just as the democracies in the early '30s enormously underestimated the potential military capability of their competitors, the objective reality is that, for all practical purposes for most Americans, the relative safety and capabilities is no greater today than it was 15 years ago. The objective fact is, if anything, there are more missiles on the planet, and the odds of their proliferating are greater.

I would say that there is no single insult to intelligence and to the desire to protect America greater than the CIA report which was deliberately rigged by this administration to ensure that it would not tell us the truth. The fact is there are countries that are dangerous that will be able to purchase long-range missiles almost certainly within a decade, and at least one news report suggests that Iran may be able to buy Russian launch vehicles within the next two years....

That's why I think that national missile defense should be as large a crusade for our generation as radar was for Winston Churchill, and we should be as adamant in getting it as they were in the 1930s because it may well be that decisive in our survival in the 21st century.

There are several other things we should insist on. We should insist on the re-establishment of human intelligence and the capacity of the intelligence agency to, frankly, have spies.

This Administration is stretching our military, frankly, [to] the verge of the breaking point. The military gets smaller. There are fewer personnel. They get sent more places....And yet, if you were to look at the serious plans of this administration for what they would really do if they didn't have a Republican Congress, you'd have an even smaller military with an even smaller budget sent even more places with even less adequate training and less adequate equipment....

I think at some point somebody needs to stand up and say there is a minimum size to being the world's only superpower, and we have gotten smaller than that in terms of our regular units, and we have an obligation to insist on a military in which people can serve without being burned out by the sheer constancy of their being used.

It stuns me that at the very time we were engaged in military action in Iraq, we had troops in Bosnia, and the State Department was sending people to Haiti. The administration was asking us to cut our defense appropriation by $3 billion. It just to me was mindless.

Second, I think we have to talk honestly about modernization....I believe that the Chiefs of Staff will tell you in private that they believe we're at least $120 billion short of the money we need for modernization to keep this force going, and that's before the next round of cuts if the liberals keep control of the Office of Management and Budget.

The fact is we're going to have too small a force with too obsolete a weapons system, and I think it is a serious problem in not very many years. And we're going to risk the lives of young men and women because we send them places without adequate strength, with weapons that will, in fact, not have any great qualitative advantage over the people we send them against.

We have had four years of a tragedy. We have had: four years of lost time in Russia; four years of lost time in reaching out to China; four years of lost time in defeating state terrorism; four years of lost time in building a national missile defense; four years of lost time in rebuilding our intelligence capabilities; and four years of lost time in sustaining the extraordinary level of professionalism and commitment and dedication in our armed services.

For four years, this administration has mismanaged, misled, and misconstrued our security and our foreign policy. So far it has not led to a calamity. But everyone who is sophisticated knows that on virtually every front we are fraying at the edges. We're fraying at the edges with our allies, who wonder what we'll do next and who they can believe. We are fraying at the edges domestically in holding us together with an administration which systematically fails to consult the Congress and systematically fails to inform us. We were told today, [the Administration] will not tell us what they are spending in the Middle East because they know it will force them to sign the [defense] appropriations bill. And so they don't even want to tell us what they're spending until after we get beyond the election, because they know it undermines everything they're trying to do in cutting defense.

And I just want to suggest to all of you that at the core of the survival of our children's country, we need to re-establish a seriousness of purpose and an honesty of intellect and a willingness to have clarity, to have coherence, and to have consistency. Or we are going to once again face a crisis of enormous proportions, and we will pay in blood what we are giving up today in time and preparation.

mkwilliams4 9/26/2006 8:57:05 PM

My chin is on my desk!!!


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