WASHINGTON – Republican lawmakers at an evangelical conference this month lambasted the Obama administration’s handling of recent global events, highlighting what they called a lack of leadership.
“All of these things are happening, in my opinion, because of a lack of clarity and principle in American leadership in the statement of who we are,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” event.
He said leadership abroad requires making sure “our friends know who our friends are, and that our adversaries know who they are as well.”
“Leadership is about telling who you are and what you stand for, and then speaking it directly, loudly, and understandably so that not only your supporters know who you are, but the people who are against you know who you are, too, and have respect for where you stand,” Christie said.
In his first time addressing the social-conservative group, Christie said Obama’s “pulling back of American influence and American ideas across the world is having catastrophic effects.”
He slammed the president for failing to “speak clearly, profoundly, and inspirationally” about the nation’s role in the world.
“Whether it is drawing a red line in Syria and then not enforcing it, hurting America’s credibility and allowing the Russian leader to fill the vacuum of leadership in a way that will not be good for the world, and then watching how that movement moves from Syria to now causing the issues they are causing in Iraq,” Christie said. “All of these things are happening in my opinion because of a lack of clarity and principle in American leadership.”
Many of the speakers addressed the situation in Iraq where the American-trained army collapsed against an offensive mounted by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Sunni tribes displeased with the government of President Nouri al-Maliki.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who spoke before Christie, criticized the president for the conflict in Syria and how it may have contributed to the ongoing turmoil in Iraq.
Christians fled Iraq for Syria during the 2003 invasion because they were afraid of the Shiite government that the U.S. helped install, Paul said.
“President Obama is arming Islamic rebels in Syria. The vast majority of Christians in Syria are on the opposite side of the war. We are arming Islamic rebels who are intent on killing Christians,” he said.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) listed “the horribles” that have happened in recent weeks due to President Obama’s belief in “fantasy foreign policy,” where “good intentions equal success.”
Bachmann cited the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the crisis in Ukraine, and ISIL’s lightning advance toward the Iraqi capital as examples of the foreign policy of a president who “does not understand what works and what does not work in the real world of real bad guys.”
“Terrorists are on the march in Iraq. Terrorists so brutal, so violent, that even al-Qaeda has renounced them. These terrorists virtually in a blitzkrieg took over one-third of Iraq. In a stunning display where they have taken not only American tanks, American trucks, and American high-powered weapons. They have also now reportedly taken chemical weapons caches,” she said. “This is a direct result of the foreign policy failures of Barack Obama.”
The speakers, however, failed to provide any concrete steps for what the Obama administration should do in Iraq.
Paul came the closest to providing something clear, saying there should be no foreign aid for any country that persecutes Christians or threatens Israel. He also said the U.S. should not provide aid to Syrian rebels who “are intent on killing Christians” allied with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“There is a war on Christianity going on and sometimes you are being asked to pay for it,” Paul said. “I say not one penny to any country that persecutes Christians.”
He urged Republicans to be cautious when it comes to projecting the nation’s strength abroad without thinking first about the unintended consequences of those actions.
“[President Ronald] Reagan spoke often of peace through strength, and I fear that some in our nation, some in our party have forgotten the first part of the sentence, that peace should be our goal even as we build our strength,” Paul said. “Even when we’ve tried through good intentions to make the world a better choice, our actions have often backfired.”