Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a possible 2012 presidential contender, said U.S. military forces should engage with Libya on land as well as air, a position he said would not be necessary two weeks ago.
In an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Thursday evening, Gingrich, who was trying to clarify previous remarks on Libya that led to critics calling him a flip-flopper, tweaked his stance on U.S. strategy.
“If they’re serious about protecting civilians, you can’t do that from the air. Gadaffi is going to use light infantry, he’s going to use his secret police. He’s going to be in the cities, he’s going to be inside buildings,” Gingrich said during a Thursday segment advertised as “Gingrich attempts to clarify stance on Libya.” “You’re not going to be able to do that with air power. This is a fundamental mistake. And I think is a typical politician’s over-reliance on air power.”
Earlier this month, however, Gingrich said the United States simply needed to use air power to take down Gadaffi.
“We don’t have to send troops, all we have to do is suppress his air force, which we can do in minutes,” he said.
Gingrich rebutted critics who pointed out his change in tune, saying that any alterations in his analysis were reactions to new information.
“I was responding in each case to changes in Obama’s position,” Gingrich told Van Susteren. “Obviously my analysis is going to change as the facts on the ground change.” He added that once the president said that Gadaffi needed to be deposed on March 3, the U.S. had an obligation to see that through, which was why he changed his position from non-intervention to support for a No Fly Zone.
On March 7, Gingrich told Van Susteren that Obama should, “exercise a no-fly zone this evening.”
When Obama took action, Gingrich blasted him for it. On the Today Show, Gingrich said, “I would not have intervened…I think there are a lot of other ways to affect Gadaffi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region that we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.”
Politifact, a project of the St. Petersburg Times newspaper that tracks the accuracy of statements from public figures, gave Gingrich’s comments its harshest rating, calling it a “full flop.”