Before the political press and partisans focused on speeches at the Conservative Political Action Conference, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) gave a speech to an American Israel Public Affairs Committee gathering in New York earlier in the week. He hasn’t often ventured into foreign policy, but since he is both a surrogate for Mitt Romney and someone who surely must be on the short list for vice president, his views should be carefully examined.
A typical Christie zinger got the most attention: “I admire Israel for the enemies it has made.” But in fact his speech was more than a series of one-liners.
Most important, he came down unequivocally on the side of an internationalist, forward-leaning foreign policy:
We can’t pull up the drawbridge that connects America to the rest of the world. That simply doesn’t work. And as we learned to our horror a decade ago, we as a country and a people are vulnerable to terrorists armed with box cutters, bombs, and viruses, be they computer generated or man-made.
Out of the rubble and the ruins, and out of the destruction, we were reminded that evil men guided by an evil ideology can do great harm to us; that no nation, no state, and no city is beyond their reach. And so we need to remain vigilant together and be prepared to act together with our friends and allies to discourage, deter and defend against aggressors all across the world against our nation and Israel.
Now Christie, never one to shy from some colorful illusions, translated that idea this way: “And this is a different fact of life that I was taught by my Sicilian mother in New Jersey, but applies just as much to Israel and the United States in this dangerous world we live in. Weakness invites aggression. And individuals, and nations, need to have the backs of our friends without compromise, and without exception.”
He also made the case that he really is no novice when it comes to national security. He said he gets his understanding “ not from my time in Trenton — it’s from my time as United States attorney for New Jersey, the first United States attorney in the post -9/11 era.”
He cited two formative cases during his time as U.S. attorney. The first was the abduction and murder of Daniel Pearl: “Because the e-mail that his captors sent to lure him to the site of the kidnapping went through the Dow Jones server in South Brunswick, N.J., I now came face to face, in my first two weeks as U.S. attorney, with the responsibility of trying to save Danny Pearl’s life and to capture his adductors. Unfortunately, even though we moved as quickly as we could, we could not move fast enough to avert tragedy.”
The second was the Fort Dix terrorist plot. “The Mount Laurel Police Department called the FBI, along with my office; we began a year’s-long surveillance which led to the uncovering of a plot to kill American servicemen and women at Fort Dix, New Jersey. The Fort Dix six were ultimately arrested, indicted and convicted by our office for the plot to kill American soldiers on American soil. They were sent to prison for life, and they sit there tonight.”
He told the AIPAC audience how these experiences informed his thinking. Most important: “America should stand by its friends and its democratic allies, even, and sometimes especially, when it’s unpopular to do so. And you know I know, that it may not be fashionable in some of the chancelleries, the foreign ministries and salons around the world to talk about why America stands with Israel — but that’s no excuse not to be saying, and saying it loudly.”
Next, he made the case that Israel and the United States are bound together by common values and are threatened by the same enemies.
Israel’s enemies hate her for the same reason they hate America. There’s a reason that America is referred to as the “Great Satan” and Israel is referred to as “Little Satan.”
We both believe in self-government, we both believe in democracy and unalienable rights.
From what I understand, the Knesset and Israel’s free, vibrant news media make Trenton seems like a cordial and sleepy atmosphere. You’ll find that hard to believe, if I say so myself.
Americans and Israelis both believe in free enterprise, accountability, in transparency, and in rewarding excellence.
We both believe in the rule of law and limits on the power of the state. We both believe in peace through strength. . . .
Since September 2000, 1,218 Israeli civilians have been killed in terror attacks. That would be the equivalent of over 48,000 Americans murdered by terrorists in the same period.
And then he turned to Iran.Unlike President Obama, who often characterizes Iran’s nuclear-weapons program as a threat aimed at Israel, Christie asserted that “stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability must be a top priority of the United States of America. Any president, Republican or Democrat, who allows such a thing to occur on his watch, would be acting in a way that is profoundly against the national security interests of the United States and the security interests of our friends in Israel.”
Throughout the speech he had a very Christie-like refrain: Don’t mince words. He urged U.S. policy makers to “[t]ell them the truth about the difficulty of the solutions. Treat them like adults rather than children, not like other politicians. “ He urged that “we tell some simple truths to our friends and our adversaries around the world.” And he declared: “ [W]e need to speak that truth out loud. It makes us uncomfortable. It is a difficult set of words to string together, but we know that ignoring it will not make it go away, any more than ignoring our problems at home will make them go away either. America needs no introduction, but it is time that we start to live up to our greatness again. By telling the truth to each other and being willing to listen to those hard truths. There is simply nothing more important if America wants to continue to lead a free and hopeful world.”
That insistence that we distinguish friend from foe, act strongly in favor of U.S. interests and eschew namby-pamby diplomatic talk tell us a lot about his world view. And it suggests that conservative hawks should be very glad (in addition to agreement his domestic views and admiration for his record of accomplishments governor) to see him on the presidential ticket.