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Gingrich’s AEI Speech is Over the Top

Newt Gingrich gave a talk at AEI yesterday that was highly tauted. You got the impression that he was going to have something important to say. I saw part of the speech, and read it all. I am mystified why people think this was a great speech. See, for example, Jonah Goldberg’s praise of it. But even worse is Frank Gaffney’s boundless intemperance in saying that it "may be one of the most important foreign-policy addresses by a former national leader since Winston Churchill warned in March 1946 that ’an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.’" This is way over the top.

It seems to me that although the State Department can be criticized on a variety of grounds, it absolutely cannot be criticized simply the way Gingrich does. Or, if it can be so criticized, it is, in fine, a criticism of the President himself. And that is both wrong and politically dangerous. Is Gingrich (and some so called conservatives) now willing to take on the President and his very succesfull foreign policy (of which war making is only a part) by relentlessly and comprehensively criticizing the State Department? What kind of suicidal mission are these guys on? Or, it is possible that I am missing something having to do with some kind of petty inter-office wars within the beltway. But if it’s only that than Gingrich ought to be ashamed of himself for creating an inside-the-administration-war at a time when that administration is about to conduct some very, very serious diplomacy in order to further its foreign policy agenda. I think that Gingrich is either a fool, or a knave, or is being used by some for highly imperfect ends. If I am wrong, you should let me know.

Discussions - 8 Comments

The cover on the last National Review was: "Unpatriotic Conservatives", Dr. Mosier writes an article on "McCarthyism". Dr. Moore wonders if Academia has surrendered the citizen. Dr. Schramm laments the fact there are petty-inner office wars within the beltway. Ah yes, I haven’t noticed again, how are these related? We are in a war, but the war is such a success that it becomes a failure. Why? It was easy and everyone expected it would be easy, so...when we aren’t fighting a war, we are making war on ourselves. Such is politics. Welcome to the Watchdog.


The most hilarious thing, is that it is hard to tell who the real watchdogs are or even if by being watchdogs they are doing a service or diservice. If the press is the watchdog of democracy who is watching the press? This war already has more press issues than anything, is this a coincidence?

I don’t believe in fortune, so that answers a lot of questions. So what is a conservative, or rather how do you tell the good ones from the bad ones? "Defend American interests and values throughout the world vs. appeasing enemies and a fearfull policy of ignoring threats."(David Frum p.32 Unpatriotic Conservatives article in National Review)

I actually liked most of Newt Gingrich’s points... But he was being over simplistic. He was talking in terms of good guys and bad guys. He was saying that the Defense Dept was about "defending american interests and values throughout the world." On the other hand the State Dept is all about "appeasing enemies and a fearfull policy of ignoring threats."

Examples taken from speech that point to "appeasing enemies and fearfull policy of ignoring threats."

1. "The concept of the American Secretary of State going to Damascus to meet with a terrorist supporting, secret police wielding dictator is ludicrous. The United States military has created an opportunity to apply genuine economic, diplomatic and political pressure on Syria."

2. "The State Department invention of a quartet for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations defies everything the United States has learned about France, Russia, and the United Nations. After the bitter lessons of the last five months, it is unimaginable that the United States would voluntarily accept a system in which the UN, the European Union, and Russia could routinely outvote President Bush’s positions by three to one (or four to one if the State Department voted its cultural beliefs against the President’s policies)."

3. "The people the State Department has sent to Iraq so far represent the worst instincts of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. They were promoted in a culture of propping up dictators, coddling the corrupt and ignoring the secret police. They have a constituency of Middle East governments deeply opposed to democracy in Iraq. Their instinct is to create a weak Iraqi government that will not threaten its Syrian, Iranian, Saudi and other dictatorial neighbors."

In short the DD is doing what good conservatives should do, but the SD is full of the bad kind of conservatives.

But if we want to be a little more exacting in the witch hunt a good watchdog could point out that some parts of Gingrich’s(good) speech sound like those of Buchanan(evil). Buchanan after all was worried that "We remain unrivalled in material wealth and military dominance, but these are no longer the components of might..."(NR) Likewise, this seems to be part of Gingrich’s concern. "Without bold dramatic change at the State Department, the United States will soon find itself on the defensive everywhere except militarily. In the long run that is a very dangerous position for the world’s leading democracy to be in. Indeed in the long run that is an unsustainable position." Thus both Gingrich and Buchanan are worried that our weapons are of the wrong sort, and that in essence the slick frogs and germans will end up defining the rules of the game by which we will be forced to play. Gingrich’s pessimism and unkind remarks about the State Department are I believe of the same sort that prompt me to be anti-UN. You can call this imprudent, but in a sense this is the deeper problem of being able to know what prudence is.

Did Schramm read the same speech i did?
Newt did not attack President Bush. His attacks on the State Department were that the Tranzi Elites were undermining Bush’s foreign policy through inaction, or actual lobbying against it.

It used to be that the self-professing paleo-conservative were the greatest opponents of these Globalist Elitists. That was the position of Taft, McCarthy, Bricker, and others whos these paleos profess to revere.
Suddenly neocons attack the State Department and the self-proclaimed paleos support it. The reality is that they are not expressing an ideology other than anti-neoconservatism.
Likewise, the sp paloes found a use for the UN when it was hindering Bush. Some patriots!

To Ron and John (and the many others who are beating me up on my Gingrich comments!): I don’t dispute the fact that the State Department is (and has) been questionable, etc. I am questioning why this is the best time to make such a frontal attack. But, I also admit that there is much going on here that I am not privy to; I can be missing much. In passing let me say that this has nothing to do with me supporting paleoconservatives; I don’t, and never have. On that last point I know of what I speak. Everything else you can question!

It is interesting that a critique of the State Department comes at a time
when its role is changing so much. The State Department, even though it is
not perfect, is the main vehicle for the manifestation of American policy
throughout the world. Of course, that was easy, now it becomes harder. The
21st Century will most likely see a shift away from any remaining Eurocentric
view and shift to a more Asian track. India and China, provided they improve
their industrial and economic capabilites will become much greater players
than they are now. They are in a position to recreate world affairs in their
own way. Balance of power will eventually begin to reassert itself into
American policy, albeit with some new twists. These twists are Russia and
Japan. My daughter, Reagan, contracted a respiratory virus and was confined
to Akron Children’s Hospital for a period of time. (A wonderful hospital by
the way, and a tribute to the private healthcare system.) Anyways, I ended
up speaking to a Japanese doctor with a sense of his own country and history.
He bemoans the declining Japanese martial spirit and sees a great decline in
Japanese influence with the rise of India and China. He supports the
rearming of Japan, not only for Japanese interest, but larger interests as
well. He believes that Japanese homogenity and more dynamic economy gives it
unique advantages that offset its smaller size. He is very fearful of Indian
and Chinese interests, and, temporarily, as he puts it, North Korean actions.
After thought, I began to agree. If the balance of power moves to Asia,
then it will be imperative that Japan be a major player so that liberal ideas
can be protected. It is both possible and practical to advance the idea of a
fully rearmed Japan. The second unknown is Russia. Will she recover or will
she not? It is difficult to say, given her current state. However, because
of her vast and never fully realized potential, I see a resurgent Russia at
the very least leaving her mark upon the 21st Century. She is not yet dead.
And her interests will surely come into conflict both with the Orient and the
West. While Russia is not dead, Europe may be. Unless Europe reorganizes
itself, streamlines and unifies its military-industrial complex, and cuts
back on the enormity of their welfare states, she will shrink to irrelevance.
(I have always held that while European influence is in decline, it is still
significant. Perhaps this is both because of Western and cultural
traditions.) How Britain will fit into that if Europe wakes up is unclear.
To make the point then, the State Department is in transition. The State
Department is aware of this, and serious people grapple with these issues on
a day-to-day business. This is not to say that the State Department is
always right or even close to right sometimes. But for Mr. Gingrich to
criticize it from the outside, as a former legislator who focused more upon
party politics than what I would call serious ones, is especially curious.
This is not to say the like Madeline Albright and dislike Newt Gringirch,
quite the contrary. But his assertions and assumptions seem disconnected
with the changing times and the decline of the Middle East, in my view. To
this end, and the 21st Century, he must lend himself now.

Jarrod Bottomley


Dr. Schramm, I am not beating up on you for your Gingrich comments. At the worst I am poking fun of National Review and the whole climate of "paleo/neo-con" distinctions which really have gotten out of hand, and don’t make any sense to me. I guess if being a paleocon means endorsing everything Vdare or LewRockwell says and being a neo-con means endorsing everything said by National Review then I would choose neither. I agree with you that this is "a petty inter-office war within the belt-way."

For you the most important question seems to be: Is this the right time? -I don’t know, but...I think it is.

I think it is the right time to criticize Bush? Obviously not. But I would refuse to read Newt that way, doing so makes you descend into the "petty inter-office wars". The question is what did Newt say which is of interest?

You say, not much, because it certainly is an exageration to compare it to Churchill’s "iron curtain" speech.

Fair enough, once again I agree. The judgement on his speech should be to ask if he raised any interesting questions?
Dr. Schramm, I am not beating up on you for your Gingrich comments. At the worst I am poking fun of National Review and the whole climate of "paleo/neo-con" distinctions which really have gotten out of hand, and don’t make any sense to me. I guess if being a paleocon means endorsing everything Vdare or LewRockwell says and being a neo-con means endorsing everything said by National Review then I would choose neither. I agree with you that this is "a petty inter-office war within the belt-way." I certainly wouldn’t accuse you of being a Paleo-Con probably not a Neo-Con either.

For you the most important question seems to be: Is this the right time? -I don’t know, but...I think it is.

I think it is the right time to criticize Bush? Obviously not. But I would refuse to read Newt that way, doing so makes you descend into the "petty inter-office wars". The question is what did Newt say which is of interest?

You say, not much, because it certainly is an exageration to compare it to Churchill’s "iron curtain" speech.

Fair enough, once again I agree. But the question remains what did say anything that was interesting?

Is “Our ability to lead is more communications, diplomatic, and assistance based than military”? Have “People have always admired us more than feared us.”? Are the current people in the state department on a different page than the president? Is it true that they "represent the worst instincts of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. They were promoted in a culture of propping up dictators, coddling the corrupt and ignoring the secret police. They have a constituency of Middle East governments deeply opposed to democracy in Iraq."? Is this true? To what extent? If this is true then this would undermine the assertion made by Jarrod Bottomley that "the state department is aware of this".(that it is in transition) Perhaps they are, and perhaps they are "serious" people, but this has nothing to do with what outcomes they reach, or how the biases they have (propping up dictators, coddling the corrupt and ignoring the secret police) will incline the judgements they make as to this future direction. If these things are true, for Mr. Gingrich to criticize the State Department from outside is not so curious. After all if Mr. Bottomley were to give up criticising things from the outside, then he certainly could not make a comment as outrageous as saying that "While Russia is not dead, Europe may be. Unless Europe reorganizes itself, streamlines and unifies its military-industrial complex, and cuts back on the enormity of their welfare states, she will shrink to irrelevance." All of Europe really? Perhaps, but this is a claim that is much more speculative than any made by Gingrich, and this one seems to be even more from the "outside". In defense of Europe I could say that it is in transition and that many "serious" people in Europe grapple with these issues on a day to day basis. Yet you would certainly be right to suggest that it is the very biases of these European thinkers despite their "seriousness" that will blind them in the endeavor, and thus you are taking this into account in predicting that Europe will cease to be significant. I take Gingrich to be making in effect the same argument Mr. Bottomley would have to make to prove that Europe will become insignificant. People in the State Department harbor old prejudices (i.e "propping up dictators, coddling the corrupt and ignoring the secret police") this inclines them even when grappling seriously with transition issues, to be blinded in reconcilling themselves to the new actuallity to such an extent that they threaten to make themselves insignificant. Yet this causes a problem due to current events there has never been a time in the past when the function they must serve has been as important. For this reason, a real and serious reevaluation of the State Department can only occur from the outside. Just as Mr. Bottomley might argue that Europe can only get itself out of its current condition by turning to a model closer approximating that of the United States (in terms of making changes to its welfare state apparatus). But Gingrich I think is going even further than this (or at least I am) one of the difficulties is that the people inside the State Department are largely thinking inside the boxes intellectually worked out for them by these very same Europeans, that as we can see are shrinking into irrelevance, economically. The upper echelons of our intellectual class (no matter how serious you may think they are) are at this very moment enslaved to the ideas spouted by Habbarmas and French Nietzscheans, and this affects the scope of mind that is required for a project of this magnitude. As such there is no other time than now! There is no time when it is more crucial to reexamine the preconditions for the conversation. “America cannot lead the world with a broken instrument of diplomacy.” (read: powered by the European philosophy: Habbarmas, French Nietzscheans et al) We must be able to rethink the very foundations of our thought that we have heretofore left to be defined for us by European intellectuals. “America cannot help develop a vibrant world of entrepreneurial progress where countries grow into safety, health, prosperity and freedom for their people with a broken bureaucracy of red tape and excuses.” The only question is whether or not the problem is deeper than the solution offered by Mr. Gingrich. Is it “now time for the President to call for the equivalent of a Goldwater-Nichols reform bill for the State Department and redefine peace on our terms?” Could any good come from “holding an exhaustive hearings (in the House and Senate) on the requirements of diplomatic and communications leadership in the 21st century?” I don’t know, but on manifold levels such questions require at the very least a formulation.

Sorry about the doubling in the above message. I cut and pasted it to a word doc, so I could switch back to the Gringrich article online. Apparently some of it was saved on this page even when I swiched over.

Dr. Lewis makes some valid points. But I must add several things. Of course, "serious" people are not always, or even often, correct. That wasn’t my exact point. And, I did not assert that the State Department is staffed only by these serious people. I do agree, with Dr. Lewis in this however. The box that diplomacy worked out of before September 11th and Bush’s response will become extinct. Of course, the State Department hasn’t caught up with that yet, how could they. And, secondly, Mr. Gingrich does have the right to criticize, from the outside or the inside. I respect outside critcism in many ways, mostly because of a different perspective that is often insightful. But I fear Gingrich does not have this perspective because he, Gingrich, has an inherent distrust of the Establishment leanings of State. I don’t see the Defense Department as seperating itself from State any more than it ever has. Gingrich probably prefers the more direct, straightforward, Rumsfeld-like approach, while I think it was the best choice in Iraq, it is not always the best course in other situations. And, to add more clarity to my real position, I do not think that a policy that accepts some nasty regimes and destroys others is by neccessity immoral. Coddling dictators is often wrong, but not always. Diplomacy relies heavily on the situation of the indiviual country and a broad application of principle, however correct and just, would not be successful. I am not being pragmatic, I am being realistic. For instance, if our principles dictate an overthrow of both the brutish regime of Sudan and the ugly regime of Iraq, that does not neccessarily mean we carry out those principles to conclusion by neccessity. I do not see that as a betrayal of principle, hardly, more of a realization of American interest combined with American principle. And to respond to the death of Europe assertion, I re-state my earlier claim. All of Europe, eastern included will need to contribute to the lasting influence of the European order impacting world affairs. Yes, really. Is it probable? Well, no not at this point, but 50 years is a long time in this age. Continuing economic unification and diplomatic isolation combined with a declining UN could force Europe to rethink its ideals. I can go into greater detail if you like, but I will stand by that. I am not being speculative. I mean, perhaps all foreign analysis is in some sense speculative, but in the sense that Gingrich is speaking, I can verify my position, while I wonder if he can. That was the basic point. Of course he is free to make his comments. And, of course, I am free to wonder at them. Now, to add, I do think that transition comes very slowly to entrenced, powerful government organs such as the State Department, so in some sense, Gringrich was absolutely correct. But the East coast intellectual types that want to call everything a "crisis" is unnerving. By the sound of it, this nation is one crisis after another. I do not imply that Gingrich is this sort, but I do mean that he puts a bit too much emphasis on something that seems a bit less clear. Clarity is not a luxury, I bet, in the State Department right now, and for that I am not quick to undermine them on issues that seem less important than the big ones I mentioned previous.

To clarify, I did not mean Bush’s reponse would become extinct, but that his response killed the old diplomacy, or diplomatic assumptions.

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