Christie’s ‘first instincts are good’ on foreign policy, say defense hawks

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s first significant comments on foreign policy were generally warmly received by defense hawks contacted by The Daily Caller.

“Given the governor’s lack of experience in foreign and defense affairs, I would say his first instincts are good,” Gary Schmitt, director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Program on Advanced Strategic Studies, told TheDC. “And good on two levels: one, substance, which is don’t let poll numbers drive Afghan policy; two, sense of what it means to be a chief executive and the requirement for leadership. Both a solid foundation to build on.”

In an interview on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tuesday night, Christie was asked about whether he supports withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan.

“I wouldn’t do it now,” Christie replied. “But I would be guided by what our military advisers told us to do. But I do think that capturing bin Laden and killing bin Laden was one of the real goals of the original Afghanistan intervention. And I’m not a nation-building kind of guy.”

Asked about America’s role in the world, Christie said, “America’s always got to be the leader.”

“Now, do I think there has to be shared sacrifice among other nations in the world who want a stable and secure world? Absolutely, there has to be,” he added. “But I don’t think that America can ever abdicate its leadership role in the world because of who we are and where we’ve come from. We are the symbol for the world for freedom and liberty.”

“It’s not exactly the Sermon on the Mount – not a lot to glean from his comments, but as far as they go, they are reassuring about his commitment to American leadership in the world and American commitment to fighting and winning the long war,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Stephen Yates, president of DC International Advisory and former deputy assistant for National Security Affairs to Vice President Dick Cheney, told TheDC that though the interview provides “limited material from which to draw broad conclusions,” there is “much to like and nothing objectionable.”

“Christie touches on a short list of themes that a majority of Americans (and most Republicans) embrace — American exceptionalism, the need to project power, willingness to sacrifice and accept risk in defense of moral and security imperatives, aversion for nation-building. This is pretty mainstream center-right material,” he said.

Though Christie continues to deny in emphatic terms that he has any intention of running for president in 2012, many Republicans are begging the boisterous governor to jump into the Republican field. Yet while he is beloved among grassroots conservative activists for the tough line he has taken on spending in New Jersey, until last night’s interview little, if anything, had been known about Christie’s foreign policy views.

While Christie’s comments were generally well received by defense hawks, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, told TheDC that more than anything the CNN interview along with Monday night’s Republican primary debate in New Hampshire reflect the lack of seriousness with which foreign policy issues are being treated by the media.

“The problem with the questions in the New Hampshire debate or this interview is that it reflects a fundamental lack of seriousness about discussing national security,” Bolton said. “It is a reflection of how the Obama administration wants to treat it and how the media are treating it, how John King treated it in New Hampshire. ‘So what’s your bumper sticker answer on Afghanistan: withdrawal troops, don’t withdrawal troops?’ This is just not the way to have a debate.”