July 14, 2009 | Commentary on National Security and Defense, Homeland Security

Newt Gnaws on Nation's Security

He was a fixture of national politics for decades, a commanding presence on the national stage. He led conservatives out of the wilderness to the pinnacle of power. But at the height of influence, he suffered a crushing political defeat. Resigning his leadership post, he returned to his great love-writing.

Hisotry, however, wasn't done with Winston Churchill. One of his most memorable and important speeches was yet to come.

In 1946, he embarked on an extended American tour. His itinerary included a stop at a small college in Fulton, Missouri. There, he challenged the United States to exercise global leadership. "To reject it or ignore it or fritter it away," Churchill warned, "will bring upon us all the long reproaches of the aftertime." The best hope for world peace, the old lion roared, was a self-confident, militarily strong America.

This call to arms is popularly remembered as the "Iron Curtain" speech, but Churchill's title for it was "Sinews of Peace."

Nobody wanted to hear it. U.S. newspapers dismissed his vision as unnecessary and "alarmist." President Truman held a press conference to deny he knew what Churchill was going to say. Still, Hisotry sided with Britain's last lion. It took a strong America to win the cold war without suffering through a big hot war.

Next Monday, Newt Gingrich plans to give "a major national security speech" in Washington, D.C. In retrospect, it is easy to find parallels between his whipsaw career and Churchill's tumultuous political life. And, like Churchill, Newt can also be visionary, a leader with really big ideas.

When he takes the podium, Gingrich will have lots of options for framing his remarks on global threats and how to address them. He could grade the current administration. In some respects, the grades might not be all that bad. The administration is sticking it out in Afghanistan and Iraq and annoying the ACLU by not opening the GITMO gates and sending everyone home with a lollipop and stern admonition to behave. In fairness, however, Gingrich would have to note that these are mostly "Bush-lite" policies.

On other matters, his scores for current Administration might not be so high. While Mr. Obama looks very presidential on his staged world tours, the White House appears inept in handling the world's unpredictable hot spots.

It was agonizingly slow to stand for freedom during the electoral crisis in Iran, yet quick to rally behind a Honduran president who flouted the will of his country's legislative and judicial branches to try to extend his term-limited reign. And it has looked weak in the face of the North Korean missile threat.

Perhaps, the worst grade Gingrich might give is to the administration's capacity to think about the future of American security. In many ways, this team has lapsed back into Cold War thought patterns. defense Secretary Robert Gates' idea of defense budgeting looks a lot like a Robert McNamara number-crunching exercise. Obama's current fascination with arms control and kowtowing to Moscow seems like Sovietology redux. Despite claims to the contrary, "old think" abounds in Washington these days.

On the other hand, Gingrich might ignore the White House all together. He might seize the opportunity to do what the administration has largely failed to do-articulate a realistic vision for American leadership, a vision that begins with a strong, robust national defense coupled with a political economy that unleashes the power of the free market rather than puts it in a straightjacket.

But no matter how Gingrich chooses to present his national security views, his arguments will likely meet the same chilly reception Churchill encountered over a half-century ago.

Here's the prediction. Most of the mainstream media will report his views only to criticize them.

The president won't deign to mention the speech. And the rest of the Left's bright-and-beautiful set will simply continue their post-World War II mantra: "Speak softly and carry a small stick. Principled leadership and power are sooo last-century."

History will prove them wrong. Again.

James Jay Carafano is Senior Research Fellow in national security policy at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

First Appeared in DC Examiner