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Christie’s Awful, Dishonest Foreign Policy Speech

Chris Christie’s speech [1] 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.

18 Comments (Open | Close)

18 Comments To "Christie’s Awful, Dishonest Foreign Policy Speech"

#1 Comment By SDS On May 18, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

“Nothing says “leadership” like sending poor conscripts to invade an impoverished, wrecked country that poses no threat to anyone.”

Or, for that matter; sending young American volunteers… We’ve had too much of that already….

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 18, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

” . . . has made America weaker and less reliable in the world. He damaged the credibility of the Presidency. ”

The credibility problem has less to do with an integrity to word. But rather, a the utter floundering and mess our actions have led to in the Middle East and careless advocacy in the Ukraine, encouraging a violent revolution of a democratically elected government, and then failing to support that conclusion — all of that does not bode well for US credibility.

As a conservative, it is very hard to support my side of the isle when the evidence suggests otherwise. But I prefer being out as opposed to being in advocating damaging policies.

Even if I understand that the promotion of Sec Clinton, by a party utterly devoid of a moral moorings of any kind suggests that we have to meet the challenge. I think it is a miscalculation. One can be promilitary, pro-exceptionalism and not be utterly “lousy strategic policy.”

One can also acknowlege error with a change of course and not appear to be a simpering weakling.

#3 Comment By Kolya Krassotkin On May 18, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

Next question, Governor Christie: Were those alliances even worth all that blood and sweat and money in the first place? Most of us think “Not”.

#4 Comment By JEinCA On May 18, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

My favorite political bumper sticker so far this year says “Vlad 2016: Impale Them All!”. That pretty much somes up my feelings toward all the major candidates both Democrat and Republican. Maybe we should run a horse for President. It would be an improvement.

#5 Comment By Charlieford On May 18, 2015 @ 4:51 pm

Shorter Christie: “The Houthis are coming! The Houthis are coming!”

There will be no end to this idiocy, I now realize. They simply don’t know what else to do to stir up the voters. They can’t lay out plans to improve things here at home because they don’t believe government can do any good.

So, it’s always Oceania being threatened by Eurasia or Eastasia or both.

#6 Comment By Junior On May 18, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

The quickest way to shut down these hawk’s “credibility” argument is to bring up Putin’s invading of Georgia under “tough-talkin-and-actin” Bush’s watch in 2008.

I wish this blowhard, Chritie, would stop wasting everyone’s time with his nonsense and instead be doing the job of gaining credibility with his constituents of New Jersey that elected him to run the state. There are people who are STILL suffering from Hurricane Sandy because of his “mishandling” of funds. And there are many more that will be suffering for YEARS to come from his settlement with Exxon which sold New Jersey residents down the toxic river.

How about some “credibility” with the people that trusted and elected him to act in their best interest? The man is nothing more than a self-serving opportunistic con-man and should be treated as such at every turn.

#7 Comment By Junior On May 18, 2015 @ 7:44 pm

“I wish this blowhard, Chritie, would…”

Correction- I meant to say blowhard, Christie.

Didn’t mean to misspell his name and hate to give him the respect of writing his name correctly, but didn’t mean to and his actions dishonor him far more than any unintended appearance of juvenile name calling could ever do. That’s right, a man who refers to himself as Junior doesn’t want to appear juvenile 🙂

#8 Comment By icarusr On May 18, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

Apparently it’s perfectly fine to disparage, ignore, belittle and outright ignore longstanding allies – oh, I’m thinking the likes of France and Germany – in the run up to an illegal war, as long as the Prez is a Republican and the object is the launching of said war. Suddenly, however, Yemen becomes an “ally” for which American blood has been spilt.

Exactly which plant are we living on?

#9 Comment By a spencer On May 18, 2015 @ 9:30 pm

Where does this currently sixth or worse candidate expect to win?

Iowa? No.
New Hampshire? No.
South Carolina? No.

Florida! The Giuliani strategy!

#10 Comment By El_longhorn On May 19, 2015 @ 12:28 am

Christie is making Rick Perry look like the smartest, most successful governor in the race.

#11 Comment By Harry Colin On May 19, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

I truly hope that even Christie is not as bone-chillingly ignorant as his remarks would seem to indicate; I’d feel better if we knew he was simply mouthing such stupidities at the behest of some uber-hawk donor. Thus he’d be just another fully-owned puppet doing his master’s bidding – we expect politicians to grovel on command. But to think he actually believes the nonsense drooling out of his mouth is frightening. He should stick to his colossal mismanagement of New Jersey.

#12 Comment By jk On May 19, 2015 @ 2:36 pm

I recall a time where the pundits disparaged Senators from running for President since they were not in an executive decision making capacity such as a State Governor or CEO.

I believe these pundits are not saying anything about the State Governor as effective President hypothesis anymore.

#13 Comment By Chris Herter On May 19, 2015 @ 4:19 pm

Mr. Larison,

Enjoyed reading this piece. Perhaps you could help clarify something out of Christie’s speech for me. When he said: “Or that with Iranian support, the moderate Syrian opposition has been sidelined by extremists and ISIS?” What exactly does that mean. Is he saying that Iran is supporting al Nusra, ISIS, and other extremist groups or do you think he is saying that because of Iranian support for Assad, the conflict increasingly became sectarian and it was the more extreme groups that prospered in this environment to the detriment of the supposedly moderate opposition? If he saying that Iran is providing support to anti-Assad extremists, then he and his speechwriters have no idea what they are talking about, right?

#14 Comment By Daniel Larison On May 19, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

Thanks for the comment and question. I don’t think even Christie could be so clueless as to suggest that Iran is backing any part of the Syrian opposition, but that is how that line reads. My guess would be that your interpretation of his statement is the right one. That is, he was trying to say that Iran’s support for Assad had contributed to intensifying sectarianism and that this drove people to support Sunni extremist groups at the expense of the so-called “moderate” opposition. That isn’t what he said, but in context that makes the most sense. However, this requires us to believe that the so-called “moderate” opposition was not going to be marginalized over the course of the war anyway. Christie’s implication that this happened because the U.S. didn’t attack Assad’s forces is also very strange, since Sunni extremists and ISIS in particular would have benefited most from a U.S. attack on the Syrian government.

#15 Comment By Chris Herter On May 19, 2015 @ 4:50 pm

Thank you for your quick response. I agree. Striking Assad and weakening the regime in 2013 would have been disastrous for the U.S. The problem with the GOP candidates is that they attack Obama because he didn’t enforce his red line, no matter the consequences that would surely have ensued if he did enforce it, all for the sake U.S. “credibility.” Where Obama really is at fault, however, is in drawing the red line in the first place.

I’m no expert but as far as the “moderate” opposition is concerned, I don’t think that it has ever been marginalized since it never existed. As far as I can tell, this was from the very beginning a Muslim Brotherhood revolt against the secular Assad regime that was portrayed by the administration and much of official Washington as being part of the so-called Arab Spring.

Again, thank you for your response and I look forward to reading more!

#16 Comment By != brain_surgeons On May 19, 2015 @ 5:50 pm

“he was trying to say that Iran’s support for Assad had contributed to intensifying sectarianism and that this drove people to support Sunni extremist groups at the expense of the so-called “moderate” opposition”

Funny how the interventionists get all nuanced and imaginative in connecting Iran to the rise of groups that it manifestly opposes, but can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that US support for the Iraqi Shiite militias drove millions of Iraqi Sunnis into the arms of ISIS – not to mention that we effectively armed them by sloppy, promiscuous distribution of weapons to weak, demoralized forces who skedaddled at the first sign of danger, leaving behind huge arms caches for ISIS and others to capture.

#17 Comment By gocart mozart On May 19, 2015 @ 7:11 pm

The Outlaw Jersey Whale speaks.

#18 Comment By Toad Hall On May 19, 2015 @ 11:52 pm

“leaving behind huge arms caches for ISIS and others to capture.”

Ah, for the good old days when we took one for God and Country from a Russian, Czech, or Chinese weapon. These days God is conspicuous by His absence, Country is watching Monday Night Football, and The Enemy (whoever that happens to be this week) is equipped with our own ordnance.