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Mr. Gingrich argued less than two years ago that President Obama should have “quietly tried to push” Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak out of office.

But he now questions whether even U.S. indirect intervention in Egypt to back the overthrow of the longtime Egyptian leader and U.S. ally might have been a mistake. “Here’s a simple question: ‘Is Egypt really better off than going back to Mubarak since it’s hard to argue that the Muslim Brotherhood’s dictatorship is better than Mubarak?’” Mr. Gingrich said.

The former speaker added that U.S. military action in Syria would risk a repeat of interventionist foreign policy mistakes.

“I explicitly would not go into Syria,” he said. “I would look at the whole question of how we think of the governments in other countries,” he said.

He said the result may be another military dictatorship in Egypt and that would be better than rule by the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood.

“It’s hard to argue the chaos in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Lebanon make for a better future,” Mr. Gingrich said.

The fear of many in the United States and Israel is that the Arab Spring is bringing not Western-style democracy but simply replacing secular authoritarians with militantly Islamic religious governments that are hostile to Israel and the U.S., he said.

“I certainly would have allied myself in the 1970s and 1980s with the strategy of intervention and defeating the Soviet Union, but there is definitely a reflection point for conservatives and Republican Party leaders on how we have approached our major national security questions,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I am not alone in asking the question: ‘Are we making progress after the Arab Spring?’”

A top official in the George W. Bush administration, which oversaw the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns and occupations, offered partial agreement with Mr. Gingrich.

“People want to know if Gingrich has really changed his opinion — his point of view — because if he has it will make an impact,” said former Bush political director Matt Schlapp.

“There are plenty of conservatives and Republicans who think that those decisions to go into Afghanistan and Iraq were overly aggressive,” said Mr. Schlapp. “But I believe the vast majority of Republicans are hoping these life-and-death decisions we made in Afghanistan and Iraq were the right decisions to combat terrorism.”

Mr. Gingrich said the U.S. “should begin to focus narrowly on American interests” rather than on attempting to change systems of governance abroad to our liking.

“I think we really need a discussion on what is an effective policy against radical Islam, since it’s hard to argue that our policies of the last 12 years have effective,” he said.

Mr. Gingrich repeated comments he expressed in an interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio show supporting Mr. Paul in his extended contretemps with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a fellow Republican. Mr. Christie sharply criticized what he called the “esoteric, intellectual debates” he said Mr. Paul and his allies were staging in the face of the need for stronger security polices in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I consistently have been on the side of having the courage that Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have, and I think it’s sad to watch the establishment grow hysterical, but, frankly, they’re hysterical because they have no answers,” Mr. Gingrich said on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

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