Earlier today, ThinkProgress' George Zornick published an item that presented Newt Gingrich as having flip-flopped his position on intervening in Libya in record time.
See, on March 7, Gingrich was on the teevee with Greta Van Susteren, and he said this:
GINGRICH: Exercise a no-fly zone this evening. ... We don't need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we're intervening.
Later, on that same day, Gingrich said things like: "This is a moment to get rid of him. Do it. Get it over with."
And, lo, it came to pass that a no-fly zone was imposed, and from the heavens did rain a hundred or so cruise missiles, and yea, Newt Gingrich did look upon this swelling scene and declared, "NO, NO, THAT'S ALL WRONG" on the Today Show this morning:
GINGRICH: The standard [Obama] has fallen back to of humanitarian intervention could apply to Sudan, to North Korea, to Zimbabwe, to Syria this week, to Yemen, to Bahrain. ... The Arab League wanted us to do something. The minute we did something, the Arab League began criticizing us doing it. I think that two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a lot. I think that the problems we have in Pakistan, Egypt -- go around the region. We could get engaged by this standard in all sorts of places. I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Gaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.
With this contradiction rocketing through the interwebs, Gingrich -- who we remind you is also "contemplating the possibility of thinking about under some circumstances exploring the potential" of running for President -- took to Facebook to clarify his position.
His explanation is, in many ways, utterly perplexing -- like watching Newt Dance the Black Swan -- but let's give it a shot:
It is deeply troubling that there is so much confusion, lack of foresight, and little resolve coming from the President and his administration about what our mission and goals must be in the Libya engagement.
I mean, sure. But the issue is the confusion that you have added to the conversation, so let's clear that throat and get on with it, shall we?
On March 3rd, President Obama said publicly that "it's time for Gadaffi to go."
Prior to this statement, there were options to be indirect and subtle to achieve this result without United States military forces. I made this point on The Today Show this morning, saying "I would not have intervened...there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi...I would not have used American and European forces."
Wait. There were options "prior" to this March 3 statement that you clarified in a March 23 appearance on the Today Show? Specifically, that you "would not have intervened" and that you "would not have used American and European forces." If the conditions for making that point existed "prior" to March 3rd, then you really shouldn't have waited for twenty days later to actually say so. Or are other people responsible for the knowledge you keep to yourself?
Also, let's recall that while we waited twenty days, we took a brief stop on March 7 for you to say, "Exercise a no-fly zone this evening." How was that no-fly zone to be "exercised" without "American and European forces?
I know you imagine there to be "a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with." Are you speaking of the Arab League nations, who "began criticizing us" the moment we did something? Did you imagine the Pope would command seraphim into battle, or something? (Can the Pope actually do this? Now I'm worried about a "strategic seraphim gap.")
The president, however, took those options off the table with his public statement. From the moment of the president's declaration, he put the prestige and authority of the United States on the line. After March 3, anything short of a successful, public campaign for regime change would have been seen as a defeat for the United States.
Let's recall that the "options" off the table on March 3 were "indirect and subtle" things Gingrich believed could "achieve this result without United States military forces," which is something that he didn't actually assert until 13 days after he said, "Exercise a no-fly zone this evening," which -- unless we're to believe there is an "indirect" or "subtle" way of bombing Libya's ground-to-air capacity into dust and shooting Libya's planes down -- doesn't seem indirect or subtle at all.
Nevertheless, when Obama said that Gaddafi had to go, he "put the prestige and authority of the United States on the line," requiring him to affect the Gaddafi-must-go outcome in an "indirect and subtle" manner that simultaneously required him to ignore Gingrich's own plea for a "no fly zone this evening," which I think we can logically assert now as fulfilling neither the requirement of subtlety or indirectness.
That's why during a March 7th Greta van Susteren interview, I asserted that the president should establish a no-fly zone "this evening." After March 3rd, the President should have moved immediately to consult with Congress to implement a no-fly zone, while also making it clear the US would welcome involvement from other nations.
I don't think you are allowed to just say "That's why..." as if they were magic words that absolve the speaker of actually making sense! For example: You assert here that after March 3, the president should have made it "clear the U.S. would welcome involvement from other nations." And yet today, on the Today Show, you said, "I would not have used American and European forces." And now we're back to wondering who these other "forces" are. Arab League nations? Angels from the Vatican? Mummies?
Instead, he did the opposite.
You realize that at this point, it's a challenge to discern what you mean by "opposite." But I gather you mean Obama did the opposite of "Exercise a no-fly zone this evening...We don't need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we're intervening."
And okay, that's true. Instead, he exercised a no-fly zone later, with U.N. approval. If that's your beef with this, you should have just started this Facebook update by saying, "I disagree with waiting, and I disagree with waiting for U.N. approval." That would have obliterated the need for all the preceding paragraphs.
The President wasted weeks trying to get approval from the United Nations instead of Congress, the result of which was a weak mandate from the UN that changed the mission to one of humanitarian intervention.
Okay, but wait: it "changed the mission to one of humanitarian intervention?" But that's precisely the mission YOU CALLED FOR ON MARCH 7: "All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we're intervening."
Yet, by that standard we should also be using US forces in the Sudan, Syria, Zimbabwe, Yemen and more countries.
You see, Newt, that's the exact point I would have made to YOU if you had come to me and said, "All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we're intervening." WHICH IS WHAT YOU DID SAY.
Given the President's public statements and the multitude of other humanitarian crises throughout the world, the only rational purpose for an intervention with US forces in Libya is to replace Gaddafi.
Now that we have US forces engaged, any result less than the removal of Gadaffi from power will be considered a defeat.
Yeah, I'll grant you, you can hedge this because on the same day you presented the cause for a "no fly zone this evening" as one that was justified solely on humanitarian grounds ("All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we're intervening."), you also said "This is a moment to get rid of him. Do it. Get it over with."
For that reason, I believe we must support the mission and see it through.
Huh, what? You support the mission you don't like and want it to be seen through to the outcome you don't favor? Whatever, man.
Look, I think that somewhere in all that gobbledygook, I can discern something that looks like a position. I think what you mean to say is something like:
"Let me be clear about my public statements that now seem, to some observers, to be contradictory. I believe that there was a moment early on where a mission should have been undertaken to remove Gaddafi from power. But that moment was missed, and now we're tangled up in a bunch of international agreements and are a mere part of a coalition engaged in a mission that could end up leaving Gaddafi in power. I'm sorry I inadvertently made a bit of a hash of things by asserting that this mission could be undertaken solely on humanitarian grounds when I said 'All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we're intervening.' Obviously, I don't mean a word of that: the Sudanese and the Yemenis and the Bahrainians can all go hang. My position is simply that the United States should have swiftly and unilaterally interjected itself into a regime change mission in the Middle East."
Obviously, I can see why you wouldn't come right out and say that, because swift and unilateral regime change intervention is not a particularly popular policy position for a prospective president to take at the moment.
Hence, the gobbledygook!
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