Zap2it: You’ve been a politician — including becoming speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999 — and political commentator, but you’re also an author of nonfiction books, novels, and books about the Civil War, Pacific War and Revolutionary War. What’s your historical take on all the tension and violence in the Middle East, including in Iran and Syria?
Newt Gingrich: The Iranians are 51 percent Persian. Historically, one of the roles of Iraq was to defend the Arab world against the Persians. What America doesn’t understand is that this goes back at least a thousand, 1,100 years. When you get to Syria, you have traditional Christians; you have Druze, which is an offshoot of (Islam); you have Alawites, which is what (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad is, who represent an offshoot of the Shia world.
You have the Sunnis and the Kurds — all these folks are swirling around in a mixture we don’t understand, and with a history we don’t know anything about.
Zap2it: Speaking of religion, there appears to be a growing phenomenon of young people seeking more traditional or orthodox versions of faith. What do you make of that?
Newt Gingrich: Nihilism and hedonism are often dead ends. I used to say this many years ago when I was teaching in college, that if they could find any sin that wasn’t covered in the Bible, I’d be glad to discuss how the world has changed. Great religions rise in vacuums of spirituality in which people feel emptiness, and they look for some solution that gives them a sense there’s something more to it.