By Adam Levine
For Republican candidate Newt Gingrich, covert activity seems to be the strategy of choice when it comes to thorny national security issues. The latest target: Cuba.
"I'm talking about using every asset available in the United States, including appropriate covert operations, to maximize the distance," Gingrich said on Monday during the NBC debate between Republican candidates. "Bring together every asset we have to minimize the survival of the dictatorship and to maximize the chance for freedom in Cuba."
It's not that covert activities are not happening in different parts of the world, but it is hardly talked about by the government as openly it seems as it is by Republican candidates running to be the next command-in-chief.
Gingrich is not shy about touting covert activities, having already said such strategies should be used against Iran and Syria. On Syria, Gingrich said last year the United States should "replace" President Bashar al-Assad and "do everything we can, indirectly and covertly - but without American forces - to help."On Iran, Gingrich has called for "maximum covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian program" including killing their scientists and disrupting their systems.
Gingrich's model, as he explains it, for both Iran and Cuba, is how President Ronald Reagan worked with others to bring down the Soviet Union.
"I'm talking about using every asset available to the United States, including appropriate covert operations, to maximize the distance, what Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher did to the Soviet empire, bring together every asset we have to minimize the survival of the dictatorship and to maximize the chance for freedom in Cuba," Gingrich said Monday night. He's previously said similar things about Iran.
Gingrich also argues covert activity needs to be a solely American enterprise.
"I will ask the Congress to liberate the intelligence community so we can once again go back to effective covert operations, and to effective intelligence gathering," Gingrich said in December at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum. "And not be forced to rely on pseudo allies such as the Pakistanis who have - who clearly had to be conspiring to hide Bin Laden for eight years since he was hiding in the national military city."
Gingrich's competitors are not shy about invoking the covert option, either.
Romney has called for the "covert and overt activities" to aid dissidents in Iran. At CNN's foreign policy debate he urged covert action against Syria.
"This is the time for us to use not only sanctions, but covert actions within Syria to get regime change there," Romney said.
Santorum said last November that not only should America use secret operations against Iran to stop their nuclear program, but also advertise it.
"We need to say very clearly that we will be conducting covert activity to do everything we can to stop their nuclear program. And that means using covert activity like may have occurred at the missile site," Santorum said.
But what's good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander, in Santorum's opinion, especially if that gander is President Barack Obama.
Soon after saying the United States should be open about secret plans against Iran, Santorum criticized Obama for "not being able to keep a secret of anything good that he did for even more than 24 hours," such as the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound.
Retired Army intelligence Major Gen. James Marks told CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr last fall that its a bad idea to talk openly about secret action.
"We don't have to talk about that, nor should anyone who wants to go into public office, so what we see with current debates and discussions about covert operations, specifically against Iran or other potential nations or entities should be eliminated. That needs to stop," Marks said.