Likely 2012 Republican Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, claims that Islamic terrorism is a mortal threat to America and must be decisively defeated over the next ten years or so. While Gingrich supports a pre-emptive, offensive-based war policy, America's $13 trillion debt and psychologically strained military should cause critical thinkers to put such a prospect to the test.
In a Politico interview, Gingrich stated, "We have to have a decade of really profound, deep, change, and it has to be in the right direction to...defeat terrorism." In a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, Gingrich declared terrorism to be a mortal threat, and even appeared to imply that the U.S. could defeat terrorism and replace it with a better system, just as President Reagan "proved you could defeat an evil empire and replace the Soviet Union."
The former Speaker of the House has also stated that the U.S. does not spend enough money on national security, despite Obama's record breaking military budgets.
Now, while this tough talk from the likely 2012 presidential candidate rightly identifies terrorism as a legitimate national security threat and excites the GOP base, its lack of specificity raises a number of pivotal questions that challenge the very premise of his plan.
As the U.S. has set up camp in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan for the last 9 years, would Gingrich support extended occupations in other nations around the world? After all, there are terrorist hotbeds and active cells in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Europe, Somalia, and the Philippines, just to name a few.
How much will a decade of intense, offensive operations cost the United States? We've spent well over a trillion dollars since 9/11 on overseas wars, new, federal departments and security agencies, all while running record budget deficits, piling on more debt, and devaluing our Dollar. And by 2020, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the U.S. to be in about $20 trillion of debt.
How many men and women will it be acceptable to lose during this period? We've already lost over 5,000 in Afghanistan and Iraq, and over 30,000 have been maimed for life. Would 5,000 more be acceptable? 10,000? 50,000 maimed for life? 100,000+ maimed for life?
Would a President Gingrich institute a draft to achieve total victory? As I've written, the military is suffering from a PTSD epidemic and record suicide rates due to repeated deployments. Repeated deployments arise, plain and simple, due to inadequate troop quantities. Or, like Bush and Obama, would Gingrich utilize hundreds of thousands of additional, private war contractors to conduct security operations and nation building efforts in order to stave off a draft?
As a so-called deficit hawk, would Gingrich drastically cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education, and every other area of the federal budget to accomodate increased military spending? This is an especially pivotal question, since Gingrich advocates deep tax cuts across the board, and as we learned with Reagan and Bush, tax cuts without commensurate spending cuts lead only to massive debt.
Finally, how would we specifically define victory? Would it be vague like Obama special envoy Richard Holbrooke's infamous "We'll know it when we see it" line, when asked how we define success in the Afghanistan war? Will victory equate to eradicating every single terrorist around the globe? How will we objectively quantify and measure "victory"? And will we establish precise, specific, and unequivocal benchmarks before embarking on the 10 year mission?
These are just some of the questions critical thinkers should be asking about Gingrich's ten-year plan. Republicans should put this proposal to the test since it appears quite similar to the George W. Bush war policy, and Democrats should put this proposal to the test since President Obama and a Democratic-led Congress have continued virtually all of Bush's war policy measures.