(CNSNews.com) - Americans must steel themselves for a long and arduous war against the "irreconcilable wing of Islam," which could last anywhere from 30 to 70 years, according to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Addressing a free-market group in Baltimore, Md., Gingrich said the current generation of Americans could witness the destruction of U.S. cities in their lifetime, since Islamic extremists have openly expressed their desire to obtain and use both nuclear and biological weapons.
He singled out the "elite media" and "left-of-center" politicians for embracing a "level of routine cowardice" that works to embolden America's enemies.
Gingrich said policymakers would do well to follow the example of President Reagan who steered America out of the "malaise" of the late 1970s and toward victory in the Cold War.
At a time when Soviet Communism was on the offense, Reagan defied the elite opinion of his time, the former House Speaker argued.
With an eye toward history, Gingrich invoked the "long night in Baltimore" during the War of 1812, applying it to the contemporary struggle against terrorism. Americans have not yet come to terms with the "level of ferocity" that is being directed against them, he argued.
Citing the plot uncovered last summer to blow up U.S.-bound transatlantic flights, Gingrich recalled that the British authorities had arrested a couple with an eight-month-old baby who allegedly planned to disguise bomb material as baby food.
"There are people out there who hate you so much that they are willing to kill their own baby, so long as they can kill you too," he said.
Gingrich said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be taken at his word when he says he wants to "defeat Anglo-Saxon civilization" and "wipe Israel off the face of the earth."
Gingrich expressed support for many of the initiatives President Bush has outlined for Iraq but said it was necessary to do "far more."
The federal bureaucracy now in place was obsolete and ill-suited for the challenges of the 21st century, he said. Without fundamentally overhauling the current homeland security apparatus, the U.S. could face "significant defeats."
Gingrich said a national police force should be created in Iraq, since in his view the local police forces are riddled with corruption. He also called for an end to "catch and release" policies which allow criminals, terrorists and insurgents in Iraq to go free after being detained for a limited period of time.
Gingrich cautioned that a defeat for America in Iraq would energize rogue nations like Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela and terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and Hizballah.
On the domestic policy front Gingrich said it was necessary to "move conservatism to a new plateau" where ideas were translated into tangible policy solutions.
Gingrich credited the Harbour League, the host of Wednesday's event, for entering the political fray in the "blue state" of Maryland, where liberal ideology and the Democratic Party have long held sway.
While they should expect to encounter stiff opposition, Gingrich told his audience to take heart from his experiences in Georgia.
When Gingrich was initially elected to the House in 1978, he was the only Republican member of his state's congressional delegation, and Georgia was one of the most Democratic states in the union.
The situation was completely reversed thanks to efforts of a core-group of committed conservatives, Gingrich explained.
The Harbour League was founded a year ago with the goal of "filling a void" in the public discourse over public policy. Its membership includes "liberty minded" professionals and activist who support free market reforms.
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