Newt Gingrich is a fan of “counterfactual history,” the what-if stories that try to imagine what might have happened had events taken a slightly different course or leaders made a slightly different decision.
So where might we be today if Newt Gingrich had run for president in 2008, won the GOP nomination and defeated Barack Obama?
Well, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans and thousands of U.S. soldiers would probably be dead, much of Seoul would be a smoldering ruin, and an already overstretched U.S. military would be scrambling trying to respond to a desperate situation on the Korean Peninsula, with a million-man North Korean military on the move.
In an interview late last week, Gingrich told Greta Van Susteren that the test launch of a missile by North Korea posed a potentially disastrous risk to the United States and that if he were president, he would intervene to stop it.
“I would use whatever methods that were necessary for the missile never to be launched,” he said.
The most telling moment comes at 2:43, when Van Susteren presses Gingrich on the question of whether that includes military action. Gingrich gives a little so-what shrug, as if it’s a minor point. Maybe he would send in a small team to take out the missile, he says, or maybe find “a way to use a laser or other kind of device.”
All in all, it could be done with “very very minimal risk to anybody,” Gingrich says.
The series of grand delusions in that series of statements is remarkable. Lasers? A small tactical team surgically taking out what is surely a well-guarded missile launching site?
“Very very minimal risk to anybody?”
An LA Times piece back in 2003 laid out the strategic situation in Korea pretty clearly:
“Estimates of the damage that could be inflicted by a North Korean attack range from bad to apocalyptic. Lee Yang Ho, defense minister during a similar nuclear crisis in 1994, said one computer simulation conducted during his term projected 1 million dead, including thousands of Americans.
“It is assumed that if the United States were to strike North Korea that the North Koreans would fight back,” Lee said. “All industry would be destroyed, gas stations, power plants. This is such a densely populated area that even if North Korean artillery were not very accurate, anyplace you would hit there would be huge numbers of casualties.”
U.S. military experts who have contemplated strikes on North Korea agree….
… most of the (NK) regime’s weaponry is deployed within easy striking distance of Seoul, and the troops have continued to mass closer to the frontier even during the last few years of outwardly cozy relations with South Korea.
The arsenal includes 13,000 artillery pieces, along with rockets, multiple-rocket launchers and more than 650 ballistic missiles. Warheads on the missiles can be armed with nerve gas and blistering and choking agents. The North Koreans continue to develop biological weapons such as anthrax, plague, cholera and even smallpox, according to U.S. intelligence.”
Very very minimal risk to anybody. I think I’ve seen that statement before.