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March 30, 2011

Gingrich Explains Shifting Positions on Libyan Kinetic Action

At Hot Air.

His major claim (which he previously stated) is that his analysis was always according to the situation presented by President Obama's haphazard, slapdash decision-making.

He began by not encouraging a no-fly zone or direct military action. When Obama flipped a coin and decided it was a new national foreign policy imperative that "Qadaffy must go," he then supported the establishment of a no-fly zone and taking Qadaffy out while he was weak. Based, he says, on the changed situation that the foreign policy prestige of the US was now placed on a reckless bet against Qadaffy -- having made the bet, we now have to win it. Or, as he says, "if you ask me if we should jump in the lake, I'd say no. But now if we're in the lake, if you ask me to swim, I'd say yes."

His current position -- that we shouldn't have intervened directly -- is based, it seems, on two different beliefs: First, in accord with his originally announced statement, that the US should just not intervene directly. Second, based on Obama's Jenga-based foreign policy declarations -- if the president has taken the one decisive goal off the table (removing Qadaffy from power), then the military action is designed only to produce stalemate and civil war, not a stable and positive situation, and thus, minus that critical goal, the original position of non-intervention is reinforced.

The video he's released compiling a series of past statements doesn't exactly prove that was his thinking; the past statements are consistent with this narrative, but do not prove that was his thinking all along. Gingrich is a smart man and knows how to articulate his thinking clearly -- if this was his thinking all along, you'd usually expect a quick wit like Gingrich to say so.

On the other hand, the charge against Gingrich here is that he is playing partisan games with foreign policy, and the past statements do tend to show evolutions in thought -- and hesitancy. That's forgivable, I think; my own thinking on this changed (and, who knows, could change again).

But it's hard for Gingrich to push his central critique that Obama's making this up as he goes along, reversing past statements and generally guilty of muddled, rudderless thinking when Gingrich himself hasn't been coherent and firm throughout this.

I don't think someone changing their mind is necessarily a bad thing. But it does make it harder for Gingrich himself to carry this particular brief against Obama.

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posted by Ace at 11:00 AM

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