The Missing Option in Our National Security Debate

Next Monday, I will give a speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) marking six years since 9/11 and outlining the larger war we should have been waging in order to defeat our terrorist enemies on a worldwide basis.

My speech at AEI is designed to make the case for a larger and more productive dialogue about what we need to accomplish in the Real War we’re engaged in — not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in dealing with our enemies on a larger strategic scale, including Iran, Syria, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and the worldwide forces of terrorism that want to destroy our civilization and eliminate our freedoms.

We will webcast the speech beginning next Monday evening, September 10, and also post the text of it online at and

The reason I am speaking out is simple: We need a war-winning option, and today we do not have such an option.

Let me explain.

What’s Missing in Our National Debate About ‘The War’

Next week will be the sixth anniversary of the enemy attack on the United States on 9/11. Six years ago, more than 3,000 innocent civilians were murdered by an evil barbaric force, an irreconcilable wing of Islam that seeks to repress women, eliminate religious freedom and punish personal liberty.

For six years, we have been at war on a worldwide basis with a movement funded largely by Saudi Arabian and Iranian sources.

For six years, we have failed to confront the scale of our enemy, the direct threat of nuclear and biological weapons if possessed by that enemy, and the scale and nature of the strategy needed to win the larger war with that enemy.

Next week, Gen. David Petraeus, who did a brilliant job in his two previous tours of Iraq and is the best counterinsurgency Army general America has, will issue his report on how the “surge” is working in Iraq.

And yet next week, our elites will continue to hide in the smaller argument about Iraq and avoid the larger argument about the global war.

When the analysis and debate on that report begins, there will be an important option missing.

The ‘Stay the Course’ Camp Versus the ‘Lose Quickly’ Camp

The debate over the Petraeus Report will rapidly be divided into two predictable camps.

There will be a “stay the course” camp advocating doing more of what we are already doing, hanging on and hoping for the best. This will be led by President Bush and echoed by his most loyal supporters in the Republican Party.

There will be a “let’s lose quickly to end the American casualties” camp that will reject the Petraeus Report. This camp will note that we have failed to achieve a promised land of peace and stability in Iraq, and therefore, we should legislate defeat in the United States Congress rather than allow Gen. Petraeus to continue his efforts to engage Iraq to help defeat the enemy.

The Missing Option: A War-Winning Strategy

What will be missing in this debate is a third choice: “a war-winning strategy.”

The great tragedy of the six years since 9/11 is that we have not had a national debate about the scale of our opponents, the depth of their hatred for our way of life and the very real threat that they will acquire nuclear and biological weapons. With the former, they may kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in our cities. With the latter, millions of Americans could die in a deliberate attack.

There is no debate about the potential for a second holocaust in which millions die if Israel is overwhelmed with nuclear weapons or if the missiles Hezbollah fires from Southern Lebanon are launched with chemical warheads or if a coalition of terrorist forces backed by Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia simply wear down the Israeli will to resist.

Iraq and Afghanistan Are Campaigns Within the Larger War

Imagine that Lincoln had tried to assess Antietam and Gettysburg without thinking about the larger war for the preservation of the Union.

Imagine that FDR had tried to assess Pearl Harbor or Guadalcanal or Kasserine Pass without looking at the larger war with Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy.

Clearly, any battle report which focused only on Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal or the Battle of the Bulge would have been so negative that many Americans would have wanted to quit the war.

Yet, in World War II, Americans understood that they were involved in a larger life-and-death struggle for the very survival of their civilization. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill knew they had to rally the American and British people to a hard, violent war with tyranny, and they brilliantly described the necessity of defending what they called “our Christian civilization” against Paganism and totalitarianism.

Because the American and British people understood what was at stake and because they believed there was a larger strategy for victory, they were prepared to endure defeats, frustrations and casualties to get to victory.

Once we accept that we are in a larger war, the assessment of Iraq and Afghanistan changes and the options available to win in both campaigns changes.

The Tragedy of Next Week’s Debate

The tragedy is that next week there will be a debate between “staying the course” and “legislating defeat.”

Both will be wrong.

Legislating defeat is more wrong than simply staying the course. Yet, staying the course is wholly inadequate to the long-term challenge of winning the larger war.

By focusing the country on a stay-the-course-versus-legislated-defeat choice, we have left no space for a dialogue about how to win the war.

Legislating Defeat Will Be Tragically Wrong, a Major Victory for Our Enemies and a Major Defeat for the United States

Let me be absolutely clear: I am unalterably opposed to legislating defeat.

And from talking to thousands of you across the country, including those in our armed forces, I know that the American people are opposed to defeat as well.

We know that defeat in Iraq will be a disaster for America, for the Iraqi people and for the cause of freedom and the rule of law.

If the American Congress legislates defeat, it will have taken on its shoulders the burden of politically defeating the United States at a time when it is impossible for our enemies to militarily defeat us.

If the “Reid-Pelosi Defeat America” legislation passes, every terrorist group on the planet will rejoice.

If the leftwing, pro-defeat activists celebrate a victory over Gen. Petraeus and President Bush, they will be joined in their celebration by every anti-American group around the world.

Legislating defeat should not be an acceptable option for any American who cares about our national security and who wants to defeat the enemy who attacked us on 9/11.

Staying the Course Is Inadequate

Yet as wrong as legislating defeat is, the present strategy of staying the course is simply not good enough.

As long as Northwest Pakistan (Waziristan) is a sanctuary, the Taliban can never be defeated.

As long as we have failed to create a better economy in which growing and processing drugs is no longer the best way to earn a living, Afghanistan will never be safe.

As long as Iran is allowed to ship weapons into Iraq, we will never fully bring stability to Iraq.

As long as Syria is allowed to serve as a transit point for foreign terrorists coming into Iraq, we will never fully defeat the insurgent forces.

As long as Saudi sources finance the spread of Wahhabism across the planet and the Wahhabists continue to advocate Jihad and martyrdom, the flow of new terrorist recruits willing to die will continue.

As long as the current dictatorship runs Iran and works every day to create nuclear weapons and to sustain terrorists groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the professional state-sponsored terrorists of the Iranian Guard units, our civilization will not be safe.

We Are Faced With a Large Worldwide Threat, and We Need a Large Worldwide Strategy for Victory

The greatest need in American policy today is for a strategy to win the larger war.

A strategy for a larger war requires a much more thorough statement of the scale of our enemies and their preparations.

A strategy for a larger war will involve some very difficult and, at times, frightening conversations about who is helping our enemies and what it may take to cut off that aid.

Confronting the Real War on its worldwide terms will require fundamental changes in national security, homeland security, budgets and preparations.

Setting out to win the larger war will require a new tempo and new rhythm for our bureaucracies and new determination to insist on real changes both in America and abroad.

My speech at AEI September 10 at 10:00 a.m. ET will outline the scale of changes required to win the real war.

Anticipating the Patraeus Report

We already know from a variety of sources, including interviews with Gen. Petraeus, what his report will contain.

Gen. Petraeus will report that things have improved, that we are a long way from winning but we are gaining ground, and that we need more time and more patience. The report will indicate that the military situation in Iraq is improving faster than the political situation but that both are promising.

However, we should be prepared for the probability that the enemy has spent the last several months planning and preparing to launch devastating attacks to coincide with the release of the report.

Our enemies understand how Washington works, and they understand how the media work. They increasingly plan the timing of their attacks in an effort to undermine the resolve of our politicians and our public by perfecting their influence of the war coverage in our news media.

If the enemy fails to attack during the debate over the report, it will be a modest help to Gen. Petraeus and President Bush.

If the enemy does succeed in a series of deadly attacks during the debate over the report, those attacks will be seized upon by the American news media and the pro-defeat left as proof that legislating defeat is the right solution.

Who Do You Trust? Gen. Petraeus or Gen. Pelosi?

No matter what happens that week, given a choice between the self-appointed political generals of Capitol Hill and the professional soldiers and Marines who have dedicated their lives to studying the art of war, it is a lot safer bet to believe in Gen. Petraeus’ analysis than Gen. Pelosi’s.

This upcoming debate is going to be the most serious effort to legislate the defeat of America in a generation.

No one should underestimate what is at stake. Please tune in to my speech September 10, and let your representatives know that we’ve had enough debating defeat. It’s time for a serious discussion of what it takes for victory.

Newt Gingrich

P.S. — Last week, in a lawsuit brought by the AFL-CIO and the ACLU, a federal district court judge in San Francisco blocked the implementation of a new rule adopted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would have a dramatic impact in stemming the flow of illegal immigration into the United States by cracking down on illegal employment.

The new DHS rule would involve sending letters to thousands of employers across the country that have employees with invalid Social Security numbers. These “no-match” letters would give notice to employers that the Social Security numbers of at least 10 of their employees do not match existing Social Security numbers and that they have 90 days to correct the problem. If not corrected, an employer would then face civil and criminal penalties. In issuing an order for a temporary injunction, Judge Maxine Chesney stated that the court needed “breathing room” to determine if the new DHS rule went beyond what was authorized by the 1986 immigration law.

This judge’s decision should serve as a moment of clarity for this Congress. Either the United States government is finally going to take action to reduce the magnet of illegal employment or it is not. The Congress should take decisive action and immediately pass legislation that makes it absolutely clear that existing immigration law permits the type of action that DHS is carrying out to enforce the law.