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Sunday, January 09, 2005

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Would you vote for this man?

Newt Gingrich is promoting a new book and playing coy with reporters about the possibility of running for President in 2008. Personally I wouldn't vote for him, and I think he has all the appeal of a Phil Gramm (which means he has no chance of winning the nomination.)

While promoting his book, he is taking shots at Bush, and some of them, in my opinion, are simply wrong.
He says America's early-century goals should be to defeat terrorism, stop driving God from public life, develop "patriotic" immigration and education policies, harness modern science and technology and establish personal Social Security accounts.

While giving Bush credit for recognizing the threats posed by terror, Gingrich said U.S. intelligence capabilities are one-third of the size needed. On Iraq, he writes that the Bush administration erred by creating a U.S.-led provisional authority instead of quickly creating an interim government as it did in Afghanistan.
While I agree with the goals he articulates, I disagree with his assessment of the provisional authority. I think it's way too early to tell whether or not it was the right decision or even if there were viable alternatives. As a historian, I would have expected Gingrich to be more cautious in his criticism.
He also accused the administration of underestimating the effect of anti-U.S. propaganda from the Arab rule and lacking a strategy to deal with insurgents. "This lack of strategic planning led to the tragedy of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal," Gingrich wrote.
I agree with the first part. I still don't think the government has a sensible, workable plan for offsetting Arab propaganda, although the tsunami relief may be a gift horse.

I think, again, it's far too easy to criticize the strategy to deal with the terrorists. I think that judgment is better left to dispassionate analysts in future years. However, how he connects that to Abu Ghraib is a complete mystery to me. As you know, if you know the facts about Abu Ghraib, you know that it was an isolated incident that occurred on one night. Nothing that is an isolated incident could possibly be construed as a result of long-term planning.
In the AP interview, he said Bush had signed off on an adequate postwar plan, but it was abandoned by former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer.

"When Bremer arrived, he thought he was (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur in Japan" during post-World War II reconstruction, Gingrich said. "He thought he had five years to build an Americentric model. He just basically amputated the entire postwar plan."

Bremer, in an opinion column in The New York Times in October, said it was no secret that he had tactical disagreements with military commanders and others while in Iraq. But he said he underscored his "constant public support for the president's strategy in Iraq and his policies to fight terrorism."

Despite his criticism of Bremer, Gingrich said the official should not be a scapegoat for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush. "Whatever mistakes Bremer made were not corrected by his bosses, who were Rumsfeld, Powell, Cheney and the president," Gingrich said.
Don't you love politicians? Here, Gingrich makes Bremer the scapegoat for everything that went wrong and then turns right around and says that Bush et. al. should not do that! Do as I say, not as I do. The credo of ever self-aggrandizing politician that ever "served" in office.

GIngrich should be ashamed of himself for his hypocrisy.
Had the president stuck with an Afghanistan-style postwar plan, his public approval rating would be sky-high "and the Arab world would be closer to democracy," Gingrich said. "But that is history now, and we must work our way out of it."
And now I'm wondering what the difference was between the two plans. I think the difference is in the results, not in the plan.

The Taliban didn't have a plan for defeat. Their hubris led them to think they would defeat the US just as the Muhajadeen and Afghanis had defeated the Russians and the British before them. Once everything collapsed so rapidly around them, they were running for their lives rather than planning for a prolonged "insurgency". The coalition forces have kept the heat on them and not allowed them to regroup, and their expected ally, Pakistan, wasn't, which meant they had to spend great energy evading capture and had not time for planning.

Sadaam, on the other hand, for all his faults and ego, wasn't stupid enough to believe he could defeat the US. (Of course he had recent experience with that as well.) So he planned well in advance for a prolonged "insurgency" that would sap the will of America (he hoped) and deliver a Vietnam-like "victory" from his defeat. I believe he moved his WMD to Syria in a deliberate effort to score a propaganda coup after the war, and he spread his military assets (men and materiel) all over Iraq so the battle could continue from anywhere. Everything worked according to plan except for one thing - he underestimated the determination of the American citizen to continue the conflict despite unexpected losses and setbacks.

I think the politician in Gingrich is taking precedence over the historian.