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Newt Gingrich is one of the most engaged and smart people in American politics. I am not sure who I support for the Republican nomination yet and I do not always agree with Gingrich, but I do respect him and his opinion. The most recent controversy surrounding Newt is in regards to his stance on Libya and what some perceive as a series of contradicting stances on the issue. Even with several left-wing and mainstream media sources criticizing him for flip-flopping; the reality is that is not fair to his position. Decisions are made based on the circumstances at the exact moment of that decision, and thus if circumstances change so should the way we approach an issue.
Gingrich first called for an immediate no-fly zone in Libya on March 7th. At the time the rebels had just gained several major strongholds and had a growing force that could match up with Qaddafi’s unprepared army if not for the advantage of air support. The calls for a no fly zone were almost universal by informed sources and many agreed that just instituting one would be enough. The rebels could have fought for themselves at that point and likely would have been successful. The longer we waited to institute a no fly zone, the more Qaddafi’s army and planes were able to organize and take apart the opposition. Supporting a no fly zone early on was not only the humanitarian thing to do as it would save civilian lives, but it would have given us a chance to take out Qaddafi with little direct intervention on our part. Instead we heard nothing from this administration for weeks as even the French and British began to step forward in calling for action. While Obama was willing to call on an American ally facing some protests in Egypt to step down almost immediately, he refused to do so for weeks with an America hating dictator who was murdering civilians in Libya.
Weeks later we finally did take action by going to the United Nations and getting a resolution to begin implementing the no fly zone. However the reality is that in those weeks Qaddafi ‘s forces had already killed countless people and retaken many of the rebel strongholds (E.G. here and here). By the time we actually started implementing a no fly zone it became clear that the Libyan rebels will not be able to take on Qaddafi’s growing forces alone. That meant we had to decide whether we were willing to go in and make an extended commitment to actually take Qaddafi out. Instead this administration chose neither. Our president made comments about how Qaddafi must go, but made plans for a mission that does not include that end goal. America’s credibility was being staked on Qaddafi being overthrown by a force that can’t do it without our intervention on the ground, which we are reluctant to do. It was with all of these facts in mind that Gingrich was asked for his positions on Libya and he came to the conclusion that if we are in it, we need to be in it to win it.
No matter what you think the right thing to do is, is it really unreasonable to no longer want to go into Libya considering the changing reality that was caused by us doing nothing for weeks or to demand if we do that we actually go in with a strategy to win? No of course not. Yet this is exactly the position that Newt Gingrich claims and is being criticized for. A good leader knows how to make adjustments based on situational realities. We have not seen that kind of leadership from Obama, let’s not criticize Newt Gingrich for providing it.