Alternate History? That's Where I'm a Viking!


Newt Gingrich just wrapped a speech on "an alternative history of the war since 9/11," the product of "immersion" (his word) in the history of Lincoln's and FDR's war-time decision-making. The fictional president who took charge after 9/11 - let's call him President Ringrich - formed a "war cabinet," recruited tens of thousands of new soldiers and State Department experts, and modernized medical records and border security technology. He would have "issued waivers" whenever "common sense solutions could not be applied because of existing federal regulations."

Would President Ringrich have invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein?

[T]he challenges of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia would have been dealt with as a regional conflict. There would have been no safe harbors for Iraqi dictators to send their money and their key staffs. There would have been no free passage through Damascus for foreign terrorists to come kill Americans. There would have been no tolerance for Iranian subsidies, training, and weapons to kill Americans. A grand strategy would have built up sufficient economic, political and military power to confront the four nations with a simple choice: change your behavior or have your regimes changed.

This seems similar to what actually happened, albeit with greater national unity and will and more predictability from the Middle East. What about Iraq, specifically?

In that world, there might have been less violence as weak dictatorships realized they could not survive against the fury of an American people mobilized to action or there could have been more violence as they banded together to defy America openly and claim the right to finance and support terrorism against civilization and against innocent civilians.

But did we need to invade Iraq?

The details of the alternative Afghan and Middle Eastern campaigns might make for a good seminar and even a useful book.

I followed up on this and Gingrich's answer was that "it isn't about whether or not we invade Iraq," which represents a little bit of a change from his statements about Iraq back in 2002 and 2003 here on Earth-1.

NEXT: Black Sheep Squadron

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  1. [T]he challenges of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia would have been dealt with as a regional conflict...A grand strategy would have built up sufficient economic, political and military power to confront the four nations with a simple choice: change your behavior or have your regimes changed.

    So POTUS Ringrich would have been just as inclined to take economic and military action against Saudi Arabia as Iraq? Uh huh.

    Got to love that revisionist history where all your enemies behave the way you expect them to, and are thoroughly, eternally, and cost effectively, defeated.

  2. So he seems to be saying that Lincoln and FDR are the people to emulate?

    Great idea, Newt. Maybe some internment camps would be groovy, too?

  3. Gingrich should outsource his fantasy history to Turtledove, who at least sometimes does it well. And with better characterization!

  4. We often turn to fantasyland when reality sucks.

  5. In my alternate history, the Browns are a football team.

  6. What seems similar to what actually happened?

    When did the Bush administration manage to keep the Saudis, Syrians, and Iranians from allowing/sending people into Iran to fight us?

    But that's a quibble. Let's take away the important thing here: President Ringrich would have emulated the invasion of Iraq several times over in several different countries.

  7. In my alternate history, President Gush kept the military pressure on the Taliban and al Qaeda throughout 2002 and 2003, including the dispatch of additional forces to Tora Bora, leading to killing of Osama bin Laden during a desperate escape attempt. At the same time, he used America's newly-enhanced militancy and diplomatic leverage to force the return of the UN teams to Iraq and compel their compliance with other aspects of the cease-fire. These teams verified the destruction of the Iraqi WMD capacity while farting in Saddam's general direction in full view of the Iraqi populace and military establishment, leading to a coup.

    President Gush then cruised to re-election by 15 points in 2004, followed by the capture of a fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate in 2006.

  8. In my alternate history, the pretzel won.

  9. We have a winner!

  10. Harry Browne would have brought Afganistan, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia into the US as states with huge libertarian majorites.

  11. President Gingrich? 'Alternate' is too mild a word for that scenario.

  12. This has nothing to do with the substance of the post, but the title ("Alternate History? That's where I'm a viking!") reminded me of a debate that popped up all over the internet a few months ago about the correct interpretation of that Simpsons joke.

    Specifically, when Ralph says "Sleep, that's where I'm a viking" does he mean:

    A) That he is excited to go to sleep because he dreams of being an actual viking


    B) That he is excited to go to sleep because he excels at it (using "viking" as a metaphor for excelling at something)

    The title here seems to imply that his interpretation would be the latter.

    Therefore, he is obviously not to be taken seriously about anything.

  13. Would-be policymakers always like to conflate "I would have done things differently" with "I would have done things better." Naturally, we all get to think we would have done things better. Where the reigns of government is concerned, people need to learn that there's likely constraints on how much better government can do, as governing is not just a matter of making it so but requires the cooperation of lots of people. As a metaphor, there may be better ways to teach a monkey how to play chess, but there's still limits to how far you're likely to get.

  14. lucas, I always thought it was the first -"Viking" is kind of a weird synonym for "excelling". (No offense, Moose).

    "That's where I saw the neocon. He told me to burn things!"

  15. on Earth-1.

    No, no, no. We're on Earth-Prime. Earth-1 has superheroes.

    If Stirling writes up Newt's outline instead of Turtledove, at last we'll get hot ninja lesbians.


    {Delurking after a long absence. I'm back East, jobhunting.}

  16. For many good reasons, it's easy to laugh at President Ringworm or whatever. But since I've used alternate political history to make a libertarian argument against the military draft on my blog, I have to ask openly whether that debate tactic yields bad results always or only sometimes.

    The relevant paragraph from my blog:

    "As a thought experiment, consider what would have happened if the crowned heads of Europe had been politically incapable of conscripting their subjects in 1914 or thereafter. Some unfortunate young men might still have been swept up in early war mania and volunteered for service in the trenches, but their leaders would have had so much trouble replacing them that peace would soon become the only option. Almost certainly, the madness of war wouldn't have lasted long enough to beget the madness of the Treaty of Versailles, which begot the madness of Hitler and another war. The twentieth century would have been much happier."

    Of course, the premise of no draft is far-fetched in the authoritarian world of 1914 Europe. But does the conclusion follow logically enough from that premise for that argument to be a strong rebuttal against, "What about Hitler? Did he justify a draft?"

  17. I'm torn between asking if bin Laden was still running around free in President Ringrich's and snarking that, dude, I so totally helped capture the Mullah of Murder with my abilities of teleportion and the power to cloud mens' minds.

  18. "asking if bin Laden was still running around free in President Ringrich's reality"


  19. The Mid-East has had violence problems for a long time. President Bush, being a man of history and geography, recognizes this and concludes, they like it that way. Therefore, to assist our Mid-East friends, he adds to the calamity knowing they will pat us on the back and thank us ever more.

  20. Alternate History?

    Still am a viking 🙂

  21. In my perfect alternate universe, Steve Bartman was arrested in the bathroom of Wrigley Field during the 7th inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS and held for disorderly conduct, and the Cubs went on to win the World Series.

    As for Iraq? Who cares.

  22. Look, I have no doubt that the Gingy could stand high in the rankings of the annual Cococino County Freelance masturbator contest. What appalls me is that he cloaks himself in that mantle of profound thinking, Robert Heinlein. Golly Gee. let's get ourselves a good mars Rocket

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