Washington (CNSNews.com) - Strategies used by President Ronald Reagan to defeat Communism in the 1980s could serve as a model for the Bush administration to defeat an insurgency by radical Islam today, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.
When Reagan won the White House in 1980, he did not plan to engage the Soviet Union in detente. Instead, the new president set his sights on the higher goal of freeing Russia and Eastern European countries from the Communist yoke, Gingrich said.
Similarly, the United States today has to come up with "goals worthy of the leading power on the planet" in its dealings with the Muslim world. Merely aiming to defeat the Taliban or replacing the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq is not enough, he said.
"They have to be goals that represent a scale of change in the Islamic world fully parallel to the changes in the Soviet empire," Gingrich said.
These changes must provide for "a rise in opportunity for every Muslim to live in safety, health, prosperity and freedom and for every woman in the Muslim world to live in freedom - and those are very, very big changes," he said.
Gingrich addressed his comments Wednesday to policymakers at the American Enterprise Institute, where he serves as a senior fellow, on the presentation of a new book, "Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph over Communism," by Peter Schweizer.
Jeane Kirkpatrick, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Reagan administration, told the group that Reagan rejected detente as a policy because it failed to check Soviet aggression straightforwardly and effectively.
Moreover, Reagan's views of America's destiny and of how the world worked made it impossible for him to accept the idea of a pre-ordained socialist victory.
"He had a conviction that if there were any pre-ordained victories in the world, it was the pre-ordained victory of freedom and free people, and in that pre-ordained victory of a free people, he was ordained to play a role, and America was ordained to play a role," Kirkpatrick said.
Much To Be Learned From 'Reagan's War'
For politically correct reasons, the United States is refusing to analyze its opponents, Gingrich charged, including the significance of the fact that 15 out of 19 people involved in the Sept. 11 attacks came from Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis continue to finance radical Islamic Wahabi and Deobandi sects, "and we refuse to confront what that means." Today America in many ways is in the position it found itself in the late 1940s, when the Soviet Union had just begun a worldwide movement against U.S. interests.
"We should quit talking about a war on terrorism," Gingrich said. "We should recognize we are in a head-on confrontation with the 2, 3, or 4 percent of Islam that is reactionary ... [and] consciously try to ally ourselves with all the rest of Islam."
Gingrich called the current struggle "a serious cultural war. This is not just a handful of terrorists hiding in cells, and that makes it an insurgency with a guerilla movement form, not a terrorist effort," he said.
"What is at stake today at a minimum is the loss of one or more cities, and at a maximum is the collapse of civilization as we know it," Gingrich said.
"There are elements on this planet that are actively seeking weapons of mass destruction for the purpose of using them. They speak as openly as Adolph Hitler did about their desire to kill us and we should honor them by believing they're sincere," he said.
"So I would argue that there is much to be learned from 'Reagan's War' as it relates directly to the world we currently live in," Gingrich said.
Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, said the Bush administration certainly should work on the assumption that there is an ideological or theological battle going on with Muslim factions.
However, the comparison between Communism and radical Islam is slim, Bandow told CNSNews.com.
Communism collapsed because it was an unpopular, completely failed secular ideology. "Theology is a very different thing. You can't win the battle against fanatical Islam by saying, 'We produce more bathtubs,'" he said.
The current struggle goes beyond normal politics and indeed calls for different tactics to combat it, Bandow said. In addition to protecting its own borders, the United States should work to insure that groups under its sphere of influence don't fund radicals, such as Saudi support for Wahabism.
"To the extent we can find a way to engage moderate Muslims, and to encourage them to engage, that would be helpful. We need a Reformation or Vatican 2 within Islam. That's something we can't impose, but maybe there are some ways we can encourage it," he said.
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