Newt Gingrich on Wednesday said flatly that it would be a “major mistake” for the United States to send troops to Syria, a departure from the more hawkish rhetoric he employed a year ago as a Republican presidential candidate.
“No one in the region wants us invading yet another country,” Gingrich said in an email sent out by his group, Gingrich Productions. “None of our allies want our strength diverted from Iran. There is no practical mission American forces could accomplish without a very large commitment.”
At a Republican presidential debate last year in Arizona, the former House speaker mocked President Barack Obama for not doing more in Syria.
“This is an administration which, as long as you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe,” Gingrich said. “You know, the only people you’ve got to worry about is if you’re an American ally.”
In his email Wednesday, Gingrich expressed concern over Syria’s chemical weapons “getting into the hands of terrorists.” and said that the U.S. could “provide intelligence, technical support, and in a worst case air power to destroy the sophisticated and massive Syrian anti-aircraft defenses.” But ultimately, he said, the onus should fall on Syria’s neighbors to bring the bloody, two-year-long civil war.
“If the neighbors are not sufficiently worried to act, however, the United States should not be drawn in to acting for them,” Gingrich said.
A CBS News/New York Times poll released earlier this week showed that most Americans do not believe the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene in Syria.
Below, Gingrich’s email:
It would be a major mistake to put American troops in Syria.
No one in the region wants us invading yet another country.
None of our allies want our strength diverted from Iran.
There is no practical mission American forces could accomplish without a very large commitment.
America has three practical interests in Syria.
Of the highest urgency is keeping the large Syrian chemical weapons stockpile from getting into the hands of terrorists. Imagine the Boston bombing with a chemical weapon and you can immediately see why containing the Syrian chemical weapons is a very high, practical value for the United States.
Second, it would be helpful in containing and undermining Iranian power if the Assad dictatorship (its only major ally) were to fall.
Third, there is significant risk in having millions of refugees destabilize Jordan and weaken Turkey.
None of these interests justify a major American military campaign in Syria.
Syria’s neighbors have an even greater interest in ending the war and controlling the chemical weapons. Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all have a vested interest in making sure chemical weapons don’t show up in their country.
The United States can provide intelligence, technical support, and in a worst case air power to destroy the sophisticated and massive Syrian anti-aircraft defenses (built with Russian help to stop Israel).
If the neighbors are not sufficiently worried to act, however, the United States should not be drawn in to acting for them.
We are in a period of retrenchment on military spending. Adding a third major war would lead to either massive increases in defense spending or a collapse of the Pentagon as an effective system.
The red line President Obama established about chemical weapons has to be a red line for the neighbors and for the world community.
It cannot be simply a red line for the American military.
We should ponder the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan and think long and hard before launching our third major war in 12 years.
No US troops in Syria is a pretty good place to draw the line.