Former House Speaker and possible Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will use quotes from French existentialist Albert Camus and British intellectual George Orwell to argue Thursday that President Obama should not set a deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“If the President insists on a July 2011 withdrawal from Afghanistan, he is frightening potential Afghan allies, encouraging our enemies to hang on for a few more months until we cut and run, and courting a disastrous defeat which will have worldwide consequences,” Gingrich will say.
It is in many ways classic Gingrich, in that it is a unique and unconventional approach to policy discussion that is ambitious yet risks appearing overwrought. Inside Washington, the speech will be perceived as intellectually stimulating by some, while others will dismiss it as an old argument wrapped in new clothes.
Gingrich allies leaked select quotations from his speech prior to the afternoon address at the American Enterprise Institute, though none of the selections included actual references to Camus or Orwell.
Gingrich plans to say: “The left’s refusal to tell the truth about the threat from radical Islamism is a natural parallel to the 70 year pattern of leftwing intellectuals refusing to tell the truth about communism and the Soviet Union.”
Tim Cameron, with Gingrich’s “American Solutions” advocacy group, wrote earlier this week that “drawing on the lessons of Camus and Orwell, Gingrich will describe the dangers of a wartime government that uses language and misleading labels to obscure reality.”
The target of criticism here is undoubtedly pronouncements by Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan, which he first aired last summer, that the U.S. is no longer in a “war on terrorism” or fighting against “jihadists.”
From there, Gingrich will pivot to the war in Afghanistan, which has weighed more heavily on the nation’s collective mind in recent weeks with the firing by Obama of the top U.S. general in theater and the release by Wikileaks of more than 90,000 classified military documents from the conflict.
Even many conservatives have begun to turn on the war effort, deciding that it is increasingly a pointless and misdirected exercise.
Gingrich believes strenuously that this is not the case, and will argue that clarifying the stakes in the context of a broader fight against “radical Islamism” makes it an imperative to continue fighting in Afghanistan.
“Discussing strategy in Afghanistan without first defining the larger war and outlining a strategy in the larger war is like discussing Gettysburg without taking into account the civil war of which it was a part,” Gingrich will say.
Obama and Brennan believe it is important to do as much as possible to avoid giving the world’s Muslim population, estimated at around 1.5 billion, the impression that the U.S. is at war with Islam itself.
Gingrich will fix the center of the problem squarely inside Islam itself.
“The fight against radical Islamism, the imposition of sharia and Madrassas that teach hatred and fanaticism is more important than Afghanistan or Iraq. It is the heart of the enemy movement from which the terrorists spring forth,” he’ll say.
It’s not clear whether Gingrich will talk about countering “radical Islamism” ideologically — a long sought but woefully underachieved objective for the Bush and Obama administrations — or whether it is more or less a speech urging America to keep up its resolve in what he believes is a necessary fight.
A few other quotes from the Gingrich speech:
- “America is at risk of a catastrophic disaster here at home, a reality our elites are hiding from.”
- “The key lesson of the Christmas Detroit bomber and the Times Square car bomber is that our national security system failed completely and we were notified by civilian passengers and a street vendor about two bombs which could have killed many Americans. Yet, there has been no honest assessment of failure. Indeed, from 9/11 to the present nobody has been fired for failure to perform, even though it’s obvious there have been many failures.”