Former speaker of the House
- By Kedar PavgiKedar Pavgi is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.
Foreign-policy credentials: As House speaker, Gingrich weighed in on the U.S. interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti and was a key supporter of North American Free Trade Agreement and other major Clinton-era trade deals. Since leaving politics, he has researched, as an independent scholar, the roles of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in the closing days of the Cold War. He holds a Ph.D. in modern European history.
Overview: Gingrich is often referred to in the media as the intellectual of the GOP field, owing to his post-speakership years as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and his numerous works of historical fiction. Gingrich is probably somewhat closer to the neoconservative, "national greatness conservative" end of the spectrum than the more isolationist strain favored by some members of the Tea Party. Gingrich takes his foreign-policy cues from the 1980s, particularly the "Reagan-John Paul II-Thatcher strategy" of aggressive, rhetorical democracy promotion.
Gingrich consistently uses Cold War rhetoric to describe current threats, for instance, comparing the influence of radical Islam within the United States to the domestic threat once posed by communism.
Advisors: Gingrich’s foreign-policy team is led by Herman Pirchner, the American Foreign Policy Council, a Washington D.C. think tank. Other advisors include AFPC Vice President Ilan Berman and AFPC Senior Fellow for Asian Studies Stephen Yates, a former staffer for Vice President Dick Cheney.
Former CIA director James Woolsey, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace and former Central Command head Gen. John Abizaid are also reportedly advising the campaign.
On the issues:
Afghanistan/Pakistan: Gingrich has been downbeat on the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, predicting that it "is not going to end well." He believes that "we consistently underestimate how hard" it is to deal with an "Afghan culture that is fundamentally different" than America’s and that counterinsurgency doctrine is ill-suited to a situation as complex as Afghanistan. Nonetheless, he opposes the withdrawal timetable proposed by Barack Obama’s administration because it’s "signaling to the world we are getting out."
Gingrich favors cutting aid to Pakistan and accuses the country’s government of having "hid [Osama] bin Laden for at least six years in a military city within a mile of their national defense university."
Military spending: Gingrich characterizes the current budget debate as "historically illiterate politicians who have no sophistication about national security trying to make a numerical decision about the size of the defense budget." He has also, somewhat inaccurately, described current military spending as being at historically low levels. Nonetheless, Gingrich is open to cuts if waste and unnecessary spending can be found. "I’m a hawk, but I’m a cheap hawk," he said at the Oct. 18 debate in Las Vegas.
Immigration/borders: Unlike many of his opponents, Gingrich has suggested that some illegal immigrants "may have earned the right to become legal" and has suggested a modified draft system as a process of granting citizenship. He has also proposed relocating "one-half of the 23,000 Washington-area Department of Homeland Security bureaucrats to the Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona borders" in order to secure the U.S. southern border and supports a law mandating English as the national language.
Israel/Palestine: Gingrich supports moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively recognizing a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He has described Obama’s suggestion that a peace process should begin with Israel’s moving back to the 1967 borders as "suicidal" and believes that negotiating a peace deal with Hamas would be impossible.
China: As speaker of the House, Gingrich was strongly supportive of measures to promote increased trade with China, but critical of its human rights record. Although Gingrich has been less vocal on China’s economic policies than other candidates have, he has warned that if Beijing owns "trillions of dollars of our debt and they have a superior manufacturing system and a superior military, then our range of independence will be within the framework the Chinese tolerate."
Foreign aid: At the Nov. 12 candidates’ debate, Gingrich agreed with Rick Perry that the default position on foreign aid should be giving countries nothing. "You ought to start off with zero and say, ‘Explain to me why I should give you a penny,’" he said, though he somewhat overestimated the amount of aid received by Egypt. According to President Bill Clinton’s memoir, Gingrich, as speaker, was "passionately in favor of helping Russia, saying it was a ‘great defining moment’ for America and we had to do the right thing."
Iran/nukes: Gingrich favors "maximum covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian [nuclear] program, including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems." He has compared the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran to the Soviet threat during the Cold War, writing, "It’s worth pondering how the history books will treat Obama’s handling of a similarly apocalyptic Iranian nuclear threat."
Trade: Gingrich is a staunch free-trader since his time in Congress and is on the record supporting the recent U.S. trade deals with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama. He is sharply critical of EU trade policies, noting that the European Union has "layers of bureaucracy that scheme every morning for ways to rig the game against the United States." He has vowed to appoint an aggressive trade representative who would "kick in doors for the United States every day."
War on terror/detainees: Gingrich supports the extrajudicial assassination of terrorist suspects, including U.S. citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki, arguing that "the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are trying to kill you." Gingrich also supports the continued use of the Guantánamo prison facility for terrorism suspects. Gingrich has stated his concern that the United States is on the road to becoming "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists."
Environment: Gingrich has disavowed the commercial he once co-starred in with Nancy Pelosi, then the Democratic House speaker, calling for urgent action to address climate change, describing it as the "single dumbest thing I’ve done in recent years." He opposes cap-and-trade laws, supports increased nuclear power, and wants increased domestic drilling. In 2007, Gingrich co-wrote a book proposing market-based solutions for environmental problems.
Russia/reset: Strongly supportive of aid to Russian democracy programs in the early days of the post-Soviet era, Gingrich is harshly critical of Vladimir Putin, saying he represents a "dictatorial approach that’s very violent."
Arab Spring: Gingrich has said, "The degree to which the Arab Spring may become an anti-Christian spring is something which bothers me a great deal," referring to the attacks on Coptic Christians since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. He also worries that a new Egypt could "go the way of Iran," falling into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists thanks to the Obama administration’s "amateurish" handling of the situation.
Other issues: Gingrich has repeatedly warned of the danger of the imposition of sharia law in the United States and said that radical Islamists are waging "a cultural, political, and legal jihad that seeks the same totalitarian goal even while claiming to repudiate violence." This stance became particularly evident during the debate over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, the backers of which he compared to Nazis.