NEWSWEEK: Gingrich Speaks Out Against Administration's Policy in Iraq, Saying The U.S. Went 'Off a Cliff'
Sunday December 7, 10:25 am ET
Key in Iraq Is 'Not How Many Enemy Do I Kill' But 'How Many Allies Do I Grow'
# NEW YORK, Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- In an exclusive interview with Newsweek, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a quiet confidant of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, says the U.S. went "off a cliff in Iraq." In the December 15 issue (on newsstands Monday, Dec. 8), Gingrich talks about the shortcomings of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, saying that "Americans can't win in Iraq. Only Iraqis can win in Iraq."(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20031207/NYSU006 )
Gingrich, a member of the influential Defense Policy Board, argues that the administration has been putting far too much emphasis on a military solution and slighting the political element, report National Security Correspondent John Barry and Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas. While he says he's not speaking for the board, it is rare that one of its members voices a dissenting view in public. "The Army's reaction to Vietnam was not to think about it," he says. Rather than absorb the lessons of counterinsurgency, Gingrich says, the Army adopted "a deliberate strategy of amnesia because people don't want to ever do it again." The Army rebuilt a superb fighting force for waging a conventional war. "I am very proud of what [Operation Iraqi Freedom commander Gen.] Tommy Franks did-up to the moment of deciding how to transfer power to the Iraqis. Then we go off a cliff."
The real key in Iraq, he says, "is not how many enemy do I kill. The real key is how many allies do I grow," he says. "And that is a very important metric that they just don't get." He contends that the civilian-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is fairly isolated and powerless, hunkered down inside its bunker in Baghdad. The military has the money and the daily contact with the locals. But it's using the same tactics in a guerrilla struggle that led to defeat in Vietnam.
Gingrich faults the Americans for not quickly establishing a legitimate Iraqi government, however imperfect. "The idea that we are going to have a corruption-free, pristine, League of Women Voters government in Iraq on Tuesday is beyond naivete," he scoffs. "It is a self-destructive fantasy."
The former speaker indicates it would be a huge mistake for American troops to leave Iraq by next November's election, a rumor that has been circulating in the Pentagon. The only "exit strategy," says Gingrich, "is victory." But not by brute American force. "We are not the enforcers. We are the reinforcers," says Gingrich. "The distinction between these two words is central to the next year in Iraq."