Chris Christie’s speech today was remarkable for including many of the most tired and discredited hawkish arguments available. Here he endorsed the “credibility” argument in connection with the Syria debate in 2013:
[Obama’s] unwillingness to stand behind his own words has made America weaker and less reliable in the world. He damaged the credibility of the Presidency. And when the world saw that our word was not our bond, are we surprised at what happened next? Are we surprised that Vladimir Putin chose to annex Crimea and invade eastern Ukraine? Are we surprised that Iranian-backed militias are rampaging across Yemen?
These remarks are a useful reminder that the “proof” for the “credibility” argument is nothing more than relying on the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Hawks claim that things that happened after the abortive 2013 intervention in Syria must have been caused by the decision not to attack Syria. There is nothing to back up this claim. These later events had nothing whatsoever to do with the decision not to attack Syria. Russian actions in Ukraine came in response to political upheaval in Ukraine. Attacking a Russian client in Syria would not have made Moscow less likely to seize control of territory in Ukraine, but this is what one has to believe in order to believe in the fantasy that squandered U.S. “credibility” in Syria had something to do with those later events. Upheaval in Yemen was driven primarily by internal Yemeni rivalries, and those rivalries would have exploded into the current conflict whether or not the U.S. bombed Syria in 2013. There is likewise no connection between current events in Yemen and a U.S. policy decision on Syria eighteen months earlier. Christie’s claims are simply nonsense.
Christie seems to have some difficulty grasping the concept of what an alliance is. While he insists that the administration “doesn’t seem to care about all the blood and sweat and treasure that it took to build those alliances,” he doesn’t cite a single example of an ally that has been neglected or ignored. He complains about the “red line” episode, which had nothing to do with honoring commitments to allies. He makes a lot of noise about the need to support European allies, and conveniently fails to acknowledge that the U.S. is already doing this.
On Yemen, Christie just decided to lie:
In Yemen, [the Iranians have] launched a proxy war that has devastated our ally and represents a clear and present danger to world.
The Houthis aren’t acting as proxies for Iran, and their conflict with Hadi’s government is based in local grievances and political rivalries. Whatever has happened in Yemen, Iran didn’t “launch” it and has almost nothing to do with it. The thing that has done the most to “devastate” the country (which also isn’t an ally) is the Saudi-led war that the U.S. supports. Yemen is a perfect example of how the U.S. errs so badly when it feels compelled to back up its clients against supposed regional threats. The devastation of Yemen is what can happen when the U.S. foolishly sides with its clients in a conflict in which it shouldn’t be involved. If Christie had his way, the U.S. would be doing a lot more of this. Christie goes on to say that “[w]e need to do more to organize our allies into a strong coalition on the ground in Yemen,” because inflicting more death and destruction on that country is somehow necessary and desirable. Nothing says “leadership” like sending poor conscripts to invade an impoverished, wrecked country that poses no threat to anyone.
The good news is that Christie will never be in a position to implement his horrible policy ideas. The bad news is that there are all too many other presidential candidates that appear to agree with his view of the world.