Richard Keith "Dick Armey" is a former U.S. Representative (R Texas, 1985-2003) and the current chairman of conservative nonprofit group FreedomWorks. Along with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, he helped author the "Contract with America" that ushered in major Republican victories in the 1994 midterm elections. He subsequently served as House Majority Leader from 1995 through 2003. In his chairmanship with FreedomWorks, Armey has been an instrumental supporter of the nationwide "Tea Party" protests that began in early 2009. He is the author of several books on politics and economics, including "The Freedom Revolution" and "Armey's Axioms."
Question: Since Iraq, have Republicans lost voters' trust on foreign policy?
Dick Armey: Yeah. I think – and I argued with President Bush going into Iraq. I saw no need to go in there. Small government conservative basically says this. In order for the government to take a course of action, there must be two conditions that must be met. First, it must be the right thing to do, and secondly, it must be the necessary thing to do.
It was possible that the Iraq war might have been the right thing to do, I don't think so, but it's possible because it violated a fundamental tenet of American history. We don't make attacks on nations that haven't first provoked us by attacking us. Then secondly, it wasn't necessary. And I talked to the President and I said, "Mr. President, if you get involved in this war it's going to define your whole Presidency, it's going to consume all your time and resources, you'll never be able to get back to your domestic policy agenda, and you're going to end up being a big, bitter disappointment to even your own supporters." I think that's exactly how it turned out.
The Democrats always had the argument that, "We shouldn't have been in Iraq, but we should have cleaned out Al Quaeda out of Afghanistan. They got out of Iraq and now they're moving into Afghanistan and are finding their own difficulties there. The problem is, we must defend ourselves against international aggression and terrorism, but we need to do that in a manner that is smart. We're talking about what's got to be the most precious thing in the world we have to spend; the lives and limb of our children. The most precious people in the whole world to us are our children. We don't put them on a field of battle without first making definitive ownership of that field. With our resources, we should never deploy one single young American person onto any field of battle unless our presence is first definitive. None of this moving insufficient troops around the board and so forth. And what right now what I believe to be the fatal and devastating history of the Bush adventure into Iraq is now history and now the nation is coping with, "All right, now how do we deal with another rather bumbling, stumbling President in a new adventure in Afghanistan." And I think President Barack Obama is becoming as equally frightening and disappointing to the American people in Afghanistan as Bush had been in Iraq.
Question: What is a specific winning strategy in Afghanistan?
Dick Armey: Well, insofar as to say, all right, we're going to defend America from international terrorism by cleaning Al Quaeda. Let's say, we think Al Quaeda is a place to clean them out is Afghanistan, we're going to go in there, our presence is going to be definitive, we're going to go in, we're going to get the job done, and we're going to get out of there. We're going to do this and we're going to have an implementation of deployment that is so overwhelming that our people are at minimal risk for the loss of their life and limb.
You have to keep your troops safe. Our superiority is our technology. You must have a full deployment of our technology in order to let our troops on the ground be mission effective and as safe as they can possibly be. Right now, we've got out folks out wandering around in the desert over there in the worst kind of danger without the proper backup, without the proper equipment. We're losing lives everyday with very little mission accomplishment that attaches through the terrible heartbreaking cost of that loss of life. There needs to be a much more expansive effort, or get out. Either get in, get the job done, or get out of there and fight them on another field.
Question: What specific stance should we adopt toward Iran?
Dick Armey: The first thing I would do is let them know that we will brook no nonsense from these folks. We're going to find out the truth of the matter with respect to this. Understand, Israel is not going to sit around and wait until the Iranians have all these weapons and all this capacity to attack them. And understand that Israel can have a definitive impact here and let them know that we are not going to be fooling around with you about this. We don't trust you, we want definitive proof of good intentions and disarmament, or we will in fact, in alliance with Israel, or whomever, take definitive action.
The fact of the matter is, Iran has always hoodwinked our State Department and our efforts in the past. We should let them know, no nonsense now, we don't like you, we don't trust you, and we don't ever expect you to ever be reasonable people in the world scene. But we do believe that we have the capacity to control your behavior and to disarm you from the most insidious forces of mass destruction and we are prepared to do that if you don't come to terms.
Recorded on November 11, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen