Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has a new and unlikely ally in his fight against the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party that has long dominated its foreign policy: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“I am a neoconservative,” Gingrich told the Washington Times in an article published on Sunday. “But at some point, even if you are a neoconservative, you need to take a deep breath to ask if our strategies in the Middle East have succeeded.”
A decade ago, Gingrich as was the forefront of those calling for a broad interventionist policy, one that would spread democracy throughout the Middle East whether its inhabitants wanted America’s help in doing so or not. Just days after the 9/11 attacks, Gingrich was calling for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq after the U.S. finished ousting the Taliban in Afghanistan. In the time since, it would seem that Newt has had a change of heart.
“It may be that our capacity to export democracy is a lot more limited than we thought,” Gingrich told the Times, adding: “I think we really need a discussion on what is an effective policy against radical Islam, since it’s hard to argue that our policies of the last 12 years have effective.”
In case the change of allegiances wasn’t clear enough, though, Gingrich specifically cited Sen. Paul as an example of the future of the Republican Party. “I think it would be healthy to go back and war-game what alternative strategies would have been better, and I like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul because they are talking about this,” Gingrich said.
“The establishment will grow more and more hysterical the more powerful Rand Paul and Ted Cruz become,” Gingrich predicted. “They will gain strength as it’s obvious that they are among the few people willing to raise the right questions.” Those comments echo those he made last week on the Laura Inghram radio show, in which he called the Republican establishment’s hysteria over Paul “sad,” determining that “frankly, they’re hysterical because they have no answers.”
Paul has been at the center of the growing feud among the neocon/hawkish wing of the party and Paul’s own libertarian-friendly views. That debate broke into the headlines last week as Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) engaged in a very public spat over U.S. security policies in the decade since 9/11. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) waded into the debate as well, likening Paul to Nazi appeasers during a CNN interview.
Gingrich has long been known for his desire to fundamentally change the way the politicians view certain issues, so his decision to throw his support behind the Pauls and Cruzes of the party shouldn’t come as too far out of left-field. And he’s been known to quickly change his foreign policy views when it appears it would be politically beneficial to do so. It does, however, mark a shift from the 2012 campaign for the GOP Presidential nod, in which Newt was for a time the front-runner. Unlike Paul, Gingrich said during the campaign that he would support an Israeli strike against Iran, if “only as a last recourse and only as step toward replacing the regime.” Likewise, during the Jan. 7, 2012 debate, Gingrich and Sen. Paul’s father got into a heated exchange over the former Speaker’s support for interventions despite never serving in uniform.