Newt Gingrich is a smart guy. He was a college teacher before running for Congress. He led congressional Republicans to a phenomenal victory in 1994, and became speaker in 1995. He was the intellectual leader of Capitol Hill conservatives during most of the Clinton years, and left Congress about the time that George Bush was emerging as the likely Republican standard-bearer for the 2000 campaign. So his widely anticipated attack Tuesday on Bush administration foreign policy, its conduct, substance, and personnel, merits attention.
Gingrich got right down to business. The “success” of the US military attack on Iraq was preceded by six months of diplomatic “failure” — in the UN, in Korea, in Europe, in Turkey, virtually all over the world. Because the world did not support America’s invasion of Iraq, the State Department is plainly to blame. Colin Powell should have convinced the world that our cause was just. Since he didn’t, he is a failure as well.
The State Department’s voice is “ineffective and incoherent,” it suffers from a “refusal to learn about new realities.” Colin Powell and his Foreign Service Officers have become an impediment to Bush’s mission to “redefine peace on our terms.”
Gingrich then spelled it out just in case anyone wasn’t listening:
America cannot help develop a vibrant world of entrepreneurial progress where countries grow into safety, health, prosperity and freedom for their people with a broken bureaucracy of red tape and excuses.
What is really going on here?
To put it simply, Newt Gingrich has bought into the New American Imperial World Order. He is incensed that Colin Powell has not been able to convince the 4-billion-plus other people in the world of the wisdom of that enterprise. He blames “diplomacy” when he means “reality,” because, in the intellectual fashion so popular now inside the Bush Beltway, Gingrich dismisses realities that displease him with the wave of a hand and a few smart bombs.
For Gingrich and the warriors who serve with him and Richard Perle at the Defense Department’s big-shot board, power does not merely corrupt; it also changes reality.
I repeat, with emphasis: power changes reality.
Let’s take just a couple of Gingrich’s gripes. First, Turkey.
Turkey, a democracy, a secular government with an Islamic majority, a country that paid Richard Perle’s consulting firm hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for years to improve its image, a country which Perle then nudged closer to Israel, a country which, after this little dance, was handed its most wanted fugitive, Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel (oops, “terrorist”), with the indispensable help of America’s CIA and Israel’s Mossad — after all this, Turkey wouldn’t play ball with our invading troops.
So who’s at fault? Why didn’t Gingrich blame his pal Perle, instead of Powell, for the Turkey “failure”?
Hint: For Turks, their country’s decision not to let US troops invade Iraq across Turkish soil was a success of democracy, a concept to which the United States gives lip service in presidential addresses, but not in action. When the democratic Turks discover that they have national interests too, and when they turn down half a million dollars per US soldier, and refuse to allow some 60,000 American troops to enter Iraq from Turkey, well, Gingrich blasts Powell for his “diplomatic failure.”
But what did Defense do in the meantime? It sent “unofficial” word to the Turkish army, with which the US has had long and friendly relations, that perhaps it might consider a military coup to throw out the elected “Islamist” government. An attractive offer for both sides, since it would have opened up the Iraq-Turkish border for American invaders and sent $32 billion not-very-accountable U.S. taxpayer dollars into the hands of our pliable Turkish friends.
But Turkish democracy worked. The Turks refused to be international whores. They turned down the bribe.
For Mr. Gingrich, this success of Turkish democracy is a failure for Mr. Powell.
For Gingrich, the conservative taxpayer’s friend of yore, power changes reality in the new American foreign policy, and money — lots of it — doesn’t hurt, either. Yet, Turkey’s military valued democracy more highly than oodles of American money and happy talk, and refused.
We should be grateful in one regard for Defense’s Turkish caper: it exposed America’s drumbeat of “democracy” as a fraud, a slogan fronting for aggression in the name of “new realities”.
Don’t think the world didn’t notice.
Thus far, Turkey. Second, the United Nations. Gingrich actually blames Powell for the fact that the UN is anti-American. This is rich, since Pat Moynihan, Bill Buckley, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Vernon Walters have all made that point indelibly clear for the past thirty years. And Robert Welch was ahead of them by fifteen years more. No matter, the world is at stake here, and Powell is in the way. So it’s his fault.
Here, Gingrich has it backwards; Colin Powell is not the UN’s problem; the DC worldwide warriors are, with the bluster and bombast of the neocons threatening an invasion by the foremost military power in the world of one country after another that does not meet our ever-changing demands. Our State Department is not the problem, our campaign for empire is.
Colin Powell could not get the world community, from Seoul to Paris to Berlin to Moscow, to stand up and cheer the permanent revolution featuring invading American forces, and for this he is a failure. That is Gingrich’s gripe.
In case you don’t quite understand by now, Gingrich, like many a proud parrot before him, erupts in a gnostic frenzy, to make sure we get his point.
His point is power, American power. He frets that the Founders put the separation of powers and a multiplicity of cabinet departments in the way of demagogues and tyrants. He has a vision for the world, and he resents having anyone get in its way, his way.
The vision is one born of force, delivered by force, maintained by force. With absolute power, we can “redefine peace on our terms,” a handy little formula inherited from Big Brother (“War is Peace!”) and Leon Trotsky.
Here we should note that Gingrich was not always a devotee of totalitarian, secular power politics. In the old days, he was a valuable foil against the liberal juggernaut that controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House in 1993. Back then, ages ago, Gingrich understood the limits of power and the importance of countervailing forces. But today, they are impediments to his vision of world conquest and the perpetual peace that only perpetual power can bring.
“America cannot help develop a vibrant world of entrepreneurial progress, where countries grow into safety, health, prosperity and freedom for their people with a broken bureaucracy of red tape and excuses,” he complains.
So America’s mission is to remake the world in Newt’s image (soounds like idolatry to me), and it can do so only with a worldwide military force that destroys everything in its path. Quite understandably, Colin Powell will want nothing to do with that spectacle.
But plenty of others salivate at the thought. Bill Kristol, Fox News omnipresent war TV commentator, spelled it out a few hours after Gingrich’s speech. Colin Powell is finished. He’ll stick around until just after the 2004 elections. Condi Rice will become Secretary of State, or perhaps even veep, if Cheney retires.
Gingrich’s remarks represent an attack not on Powell, but on the president. Gingrich is the highest-ranking non-incumbent figure the neocons could find — warts and all — to deliver the attack. His unusually intemperate language reflects profound neocon ire and vexation. We will know only later the proximate cause: did Powell thwart their plans to invade Syria, or perhaps Iran? After all, last week commentator Kristol, commenting on the Syrian “problem,” casually tossed off the line that, since we have 150,000 troops in Iraq, we may as well give them something to do.
Or did Powell, taking Bush at his word, insist that the U.S. keep its compact with Tony Blair regarding the “roadmap” for peace between Israel and Palestine? That would indeed enrage the permanent warriors, who have no interest in peace anywhere, especially in the Middle East.
Whatever the cause (and the tight-lipped Bush White House might not leak it until a future Frummer works it into a memoir), the goal is clear: “Mr. Bush, remove this diplomatic impediment to our imperial design, or we will make him an albatross that even Karl Rove will not be able to abide in an even-numbered year.”
Bush clearly doesn’t grasp the essence of this battle. His mentality is so “scripted,” he might not even realize it’s going on. It is a critical turning point in our history, and he will probably just turn with it, when it is finally decided — by others.
In my view, the neocon imperialists now have the advantage, but it is diminishing with every passing day. The reality of post-war Iraq, a forbidden question before the war, is now sinking into our national consciousness. Gingrich’s audacious frontal attack indicates that the neocons know they must act quickly.
After all, this is war.
Today, Powell, tomorrow, the world. If the neocons win, we will have Powell out of the way, and “world opinion” will be on our side. With “coalition of the willing” members possessing the stature of Tuvalu and Cameroon (and I’m not sure about Cameroon), it’s only a matter of time.
I can see it now. Throughout the Bush 2004 campaign headquarters, placards will blare, “It’s the State Department, Stupid!”
Boy, that Newt, he is a smart guy!
Christopher Manion [send him mail] writes from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. A veteran of nine years on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his band entertained at the inauguration festivities of Speaker Newt Gingrich in January 1995.