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March 23, 2011

Speaking of Partisan Games on Matters of War: Gingrich Flip-Flops on Libya

I know there are some conservatives who have derided Obama for failing to lead in Libya, when a judicious application of Tomahawk missiles would have permitted the already-advancing rebels to swarm into Tripoli.

I know there are some conservatives who feel Obama is was basically acting properly by not intervening -- they take a "let them sort it out" position. They may criticize Obama for ancillary stuff (like issuing tough-guy bluster like "Qadaffy must go," then going golfing), but they believe that non-intervention is the correct policy, and have been consistent in this from the beginning.

Both of these positions are respectable (I think) and both have a good pedigree in the conservative movement. For every interventionist, there is a noninterventionist.

There is a one-sentence sum-up that everyone agrees on as foreign policy: "We must promote liberty and justice and defend the national interest, but we must not be the world's policeman or be drawn into bloody foreign adventures."

Everyone agrees with that, because it sort of says both everything and nothing at all. The real question in foreign intervention comes down, of course, to which of those two ideas, separated by that mischievously meaningful "but," do you most agree with?

Everyone agrees with that statement, but that's meaningless. The question is which part of it do you nod more vigorously along with.

I know where McCain and Lindsey Graham stand -- they are hawks and eager for foreign intervention. (Too eager, I think.) And I know where Rand Paul stands -- like his father, he is a skeptic of intervention.

I can speak politely with either camp. I may think either is wrong (or too ideological or not "flexible" and nuanced enough or whatever) but I wouldn't say any of those men is insincere.

But what is disrespectable and dishonorable, to me, is simply taking a position opposite whatever Obama is doing at the moment. That is just as much a hypocritical partisan game as what Johnny Come Lately military interventionists Chris Matthews and Joan Walsh are doing.

What is Newt's real position? I do not see any editing in these video clips, so I don't think these clips misrepresent his words. (We'll have to see, though.)

But it is unserious and partisan and cynical to urge muscular interventionism when Obama was sitting back and doing nothing but suddenly urging sitting back and doing nothing when Obama opts for airstrikes.

There was in fact a changed situation here -- 16 days ago the rebels just needed some airstrikes to take out Qadaffy's tanks and artillery and jets and they would have taken the whole country. At this point, the rebels may or may not win, even with Qadaffy's war machinery taken away from him.

But I don't hear Newt making that distinction, or saying that Obama let the situation shift in such a way as to now make intervention futile and therefore foolish. What I hear him saying is now that Obama's ordering airstrikes that he actually wouldn't have intervened before.

Which is the exact opposite of what he said 16 days ago.

This illustrates perfectly my basic problem with Newt Gingrich -- I just don't trust him. He is very clever at being clever, but beneath all that cleverness, what is real? What is genuine?

Is everything a game? Everything positioning for political advantage?

I do not know how Gingrich would respond to this -- I imagine he'll have to within the next few days.

It remains possible that there is deceptive editing here -- this video is offered by ThinkProgress. It is possible there is important context left out.

But, that said: I cannot easily imagine what context might reconcile these statements into something that looks like policy rather than political posturing.

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posted by Ace at 02:20 PM

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