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May 16, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

Threats to America
Former House Speaker warned in a major speech yesterday that the United States is facing the danger of defeat today similar to Britain in the early days of World War II.

U.S. military, economic and intellectual power is eroding as threats are growing and both Republican and Democrat leaders are deficient, Mr. Gingrich said. The five "greatest strategic threats" to the country, he said, are China's rise, a resurgent autocratic Russia, radical Islam, rogue regimes seeking weapons of mass murder, and the growth of an anti-democratic system led by a "bureaucratic international elite."

The U.S. needs a grand strategy to confront and outmatch all five threats, but noted that "current American efforts are too small, too unimaginative, and too timid."

"Faced with these large, systemic challenges, the current generation of leaders in both parties are refusing to deal with the scale and the urgency required for continued American prosperity, safety, and freedom," Mr. Gingrich told the Business Executives for National Security.

Ideologically, "we find ourselves crippled by political correctness and incapable of having honest conversations about meeting the threats around the world," Mr. Gingrich said.

Recent guidelines by the Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center instructing government officials not to use "Islamic terms" to describe terrorists is "enormously self-destructive," he said.

"If we cannot have an honest discussion about the nature of the threats against us, we cannot develop strategies to meet those threats," he said. "It is simply suicidal to treat the al Qaeda network as simply 'an illegitimate political organization, both terrorist and criminal' while ignoring the radical religious foundation underpinning this and other groups that constitute an Irreconcilable Wing of Islam. Anyone blind to this should be dismissed from working in national security."

Gates on Iran
Former generals and specialists on Iran reacted harshly yesterday to comments by who said the United States should adopt more conciliatory policies toward Iran, including unofficial contacts and talks with the regime led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - at a time when U.S. troops are dying in Iraq from Iranian-supplied bombs.

"Tehran's leaders need to pay the price for their terrorism, not be rewarded," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely. "It is appalling for anyone to suggest that Ahmadinejad regime whose EFPs [explosively formed penetrators] are the number-one killer of American troops in Iraq would be offered concessions."

Said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney: "I applaud Secretary Gates' hope that more contacts with nongovernmental Iranians might help our relationship, but unfortunately, 28 years of trying to be reasonable has gotten us nothing.

"Hope is not a strategy and these radical Islamists view our carrot-and-stick approach as weakness," Gen. McInerney said. "I urge covert action to help the Iranian people take their country back. This will solve most of our problems in the Middle East."

Alireza Jafarzadeh, author of "The Iran Threat," and former spokesman for the National Council of Resistance in Iran, said he opposes the stream of concessions offered by the U.S. to Iran since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. "As a result, Tehran has emerged as the single most dangerous threat in Iraq today,"

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202-636-3274, or at

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