Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pinkerton on Gingrich

I've always enjoyed Jim Pinkerton on the Fox News channel. There's a reason; he, too, sees the Newt Gingrich "World War III" line as somewhat mysterious:

In Gingrich's mind, the deadly attacks -- "on an almost daily basis in Baghdad, and previous attacks in New York, Washington, London, Madrid, Bali, Beslan, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Sharm-el-Sheikh, New Delhi, Amman and many other cities" -- make the reality of world war unmistakable.


But let's back up a bit. We might ask: Are we really in World War Three? Have we gone past the point of no peaceful return?

Well, maybe Gingrich is a few years too late:

After 9-11, pundits and others started groping around for a new phrase to describe the world situation. Just two days after the attacks, The New York Times' Thomas Friedman asked, "Does my country really understand that this is World War III?" In 2002, Commentary's Norman Podhoretz skipped ahead of Friedman, declaring that "the great struggle into which the United States was plunged by 9/11 can only be understood if we think of it as World War IV." (In Podhoretz's reckoning, the Cold War rates as World War III.) And just this month, Sean Hannity ventured that we are now in "World War Five."

Maybe Hannity counts the Peloponnesian Wars as the First Big One, eh?

It should be noted here that Gingrich, the fiery rhetorician, is also Gingrich, the ambitious politician. It is widely believed that he is running for president. And so perhaps, some suggest, he is heating up his rhetoric in order to heat up Republican primary voters in 2008. Some might further argue that Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran, obnoxious as they are, don't exactly rate as superpowers. So it's hard, by this reckoning, to imagine fighting a full-fledged World War against third-rate players. Some might also venture that neoconservative hawks who supported the Iraq war, including Gingrich, might find it preferable to go "double or nothing" in the overall Middle East rather than to try to sort out the mess that's specific to Iraq. That is, on the theory that the best defense is a good offense, someone in Gingrich's shoes might prefer going on the military offensive, carrying the war to new fronts -- Beirut, Damascus, Tehran, Pyongyang -- rather than getting thrown on the political defensive, trying to explain what went wrong in Baghdad.

Moreover, in terms of Gingrich's political positioning, it's often wise for a hawk to play what might be called "The Churchill Card." What's that? Playing the Churchill Card means steadily issuing dire warnings about external threats. Churchill was proven right, of course, but worst-case scenario-izers are not always proven right. However, even when they are wrong, the issuers of dark tidings can always say, "I was right to point out the danger, indeed, my actions helped forestall the danger; I should at least get credit for thinking seriously about serious problems." And so it is with Gingrich in '08: Now, nobody can accuse him of not grappling with weighty matters.

To be Churchill, Gingrich would have to 1) Grow a voice; and 2) Learn how to smoke cigars.

No cigar, Newt.

Pinkerton's column in full has a good deal more worth reading.

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