Jacob Heilbrunn

Newt Gingrich Goes Bonkers (Again)

There they go again. As the Republican debate on Wednesday in Mesa, Arizona, indicated, the attacks against President Obama by the Republican presidential candidates—with the notable exception of Rep. Ron Paul—are becoming increasingly preposterous. Now Newt Gingrich is offering a fresh specimen.

No sooner had Obama issued a tepid apology to Afghans for the mishandling of Korans by the American military in Afghanistan than Gingrich denounced him. Obama "surrendered" to the forces of darkness. It was another instance, we were told, of Obama's penchant for dragging America's good name through the mud and, in particular, kowtowing to radical Muslims. According to Gingrich,

It is an outrage that President Obama is the one apologizing to Afghan President Karzai on the same day two American troops were murdered and four others injured by an Afghan soldier. It is Hamid Karzai who owes the American people an apology, not the other way around.

Gingrich's bluster manages to encapsulate just about everything that has gone awry with Republican foreign policy, which is that blustering loudly has come to substitute for thinking rationally and lucidly and cogently about the difficulties that America confronts. Certainly the murder of American soldiers by Afghans, including those allegedly allied with us in the military and police force, is a huge problem. But it is a symptom of a larger one, namely, that the entire country appears to evince deep ingratitude for everything that America has done for it, or says that it wants to accomplish. Karzai's countrymen, it appears, want something else. They want America out. Whether they want the Taliban back in is another question. But America has the status of an occupier in Afghanistan, which is never a good thing. What's more, George W. Bush also offered several apologies to Iraq—it isn't as though Obama is breaking new ground by trying to cool tempers in Afghanistan.

Gingrich continued,

This destructive double standard whereby the United States and its democratic allies refuse to hold accountable leaders who tolerate systematic violence and oppression in their borders must come to an end.

A lofty aspiration. But once again, Gingrich assumes omniscience on the part of America and Obama. But what is he supposed to do? Demand that Karzai stop the Taliban? Disband the Afghan forces that we are building up and that are going to supposedly maintain the peace once America withdraws its ground forces? Furthermore, when Gingrich says we must "hold accountable leaders" who sanction violence, does he mean anywhere in the world?

To judge by the recent statements at the Republican debate the other evening, the answer may be a resounding yes. Perhaps one of the most remarkable moments in the debate, if that term can be applied, was when both Rick Santorum and Gingrich had inveighed about the evils of Iran and Syria, and Romney announced that he couldn't agree more with his adversaries about the need to contemplate military actions. At a moment when the Afghan war is going nowhere, it seems a curious time to be calling for further military strikes, this time in both Iran and Syria—a move that would further inflame the Muslim world, probably allow the Assad regime to maintain it's hold on power and administer another body blow to America's reputation abroad.

Gen Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says an attack on Iran would be "destabilizing." At this point, the same term can be applied to the foreign-policy nostrums being espoused by the leading contenders for the GOP's presidential nomination.

Image: Gage Skidmore