Conservative foreign policy experts praise Chris Christie but want more specifics

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Veteran conservative foreign policy hands and intellectuals praised Chris Christie’s Tuesday night speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., but said the potential 2012 contender will need to get more specific if he decides to enter the race.

“It is a wonderful speech,” Elliot Abrams, deputy national security advisor for George W. Bush and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Daily Caller. “If he becomes a candidate he’ll have to take these principles and apply them to concrete questions about China, Iran, Venezuela, Turkey, Russia and so on.”

“[There’s] much to like in all issue areas,” said Stephen Yates, president of DC International Advisory and former Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs to Vice President Dick Cheney. But Yates added that there are many questions Christie still has to answer.

“He says we need to limit ourselves overseas to what is in our national interest, but what is in our national interest, according to Christie?” Yates asked.

“Where people struggle for freedom in a vital and volatile region, like the Middle East, what would Christie offer beyond inspiration?” Yates wondered. “Would he train and equip opposition groups? Would he provide funds?  Would he meet with them?”

“There are many choices to be made between the extremes of U.S. coercion (presumably military intervention) and offering inspiration from the sidelines. Hard to tell from this speech where Christie would come down on these hard choices, which he says involve outcomes in which the U.S. has a stake.”

Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute called the speech “refreshing and wise,” but told TheDC that Christie’s words also helped legitimize “strawman” arguments of the left. (RELATED: Christie talks bipartisanship, American exceptionalism at Reagan Library)

“Amidst the swamp of moral equivalence which undercuts policy effectiveness under Obama, Christie’s embrace of American exceptionalism is both refreshing and wise,” Rubin said.

“While Christie’s warning about the limits of American overseas interventions are wise, he shouldn’t legitimize the strawman arguments of the political left who have characterized America as on a mission to remake the world in our image. Liberty can come in a number of hues, but cutting deals with autocratic regimes, as Obama has tried so often to do, will only bring dark clouds to our horizon.”

Despite his desire for more clarity, Yates concluded that Christie was on his way to becoming a force to be reckoned with.

“While there are these important gaps in what Christie has offered on foreign policy thinking to date, much of the foundational pieces of his thinking are quite strong,” he said. “He is clearly someone we will hear more from in the current season, and we should want to hear more from him, especially as his foreign policy and national security strategies continue to evolve.”

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