Chris Christie’s view of the world couldn’t be more simplistic–or more wrong:
“I am 52 years old, and I don’t believe that I have ever lived in a time in my life when the world was a more dangerous and scary place [bold mine-DL],” he said. “So many of these problems are solvable, but they’re only solvable through the exertion of strong leadership by the person sitting in the Oval Office [bold mine-DL].”
If Christie believes that he has never lived in a more dangerous or frightening world, he wasn’t paying attention for at least the first twenty-five years of his life. In fact, the world is much less violent and dangerous overall now than it was when Christie was born. On the whole, there are fewer violent conflicts and fewer deaths from violent conflict. Since the end of the Cold War, another global war is far less likely to happen. The threats to the U.S. specifically are smaller and more manageable than the threats the country faced just thirty years ago. There is no empirical basis for Christie’s “belief,” and reams of evidence that prove him wrong. This is something that hawks say to exaggerate threats from around the world so that they can justify expensive, unnecessary policies to counter the threats they have just blown out of proportion.
Christie’s entire statement is ridiculous, but the second part is the more worrying one. It reflects a common, misguided view of the role of the president and an unfounded confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to “solve” other nations’ problems. Many of these problems aren’t going to be solved by “the exertion of strong leadership” by an American president, and more often than not attempts by American presidents to “solve” foreign conflicts with “strong leadership” just makes matters worse. If we should have learned anything from the last fifteen years of blundering around the world, the “exertion of strong leadership” by American presidents is very good at wrecking other countries and destroying their governments, but it hasn’t been successful in resolving a single conflict anywhere.
It might be tempting to dismiss this as a generic call for strong leadership, but it is worse than that. Christie is expressing a dangerous and arrogant overconfidence in the power of the presidency to “solve” international problems. As we can see from the results of the last decade’s policies, this is calamitous when it is put in practice. The good news is that Christie isn’t going to be in a position to do any of this. Unfortunately, he is hardly the only Republican hawk that thinks about the presidency and foreign policy in this semi-magical way.