Election 2020

Tulsi Gabbard, Iraq War Veteran and Skeptic of America's Wars, Will Run for President in 2020

The Hawaii congresswoman will be a voice for humility in U.S. foreign policy.


Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii), a veteran of the Iraq War and critic of America's interventionist foreign policy, says she will run for president in 2020 with a message of peace.

CNN reports that Gabbard will announce her plans to seek the White House on Saturday's edition of The Van Jones Show, which is slated to air at 7 p.m. A formal announcement of her candidacy will follow in the coming weeks, Gabbard said in comments released by CNN on Friday evening.

Gabbard says she will run on a platform that includes criminal justice issues and climate change, but she tells CNN that America's ongoing wars will be her central focus.

"There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace," Gabbard said, according to CNN. "I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement."

Gabbard has earned her right to be critical of those conflicts. In 2004, she volunteered for a 12-month tour of duty in Iraq while serving in the Hawaii Army National Guard, leaving her seat as a state legislator to do so. She was deployed a second time, to Kuwait, in 2008.

Since entering national politics in 2012—when she became the first Hindu elected to Congress—she has been an outspoken critic of the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy. She opposed the Obama administration's interventions in Syria as being "against America's national security, international credibility, economic interest, and moral center" and has called for putting an end to the Afghanistan war "as soon as possible."

She's also reached across the aisle to work with libertarian-minded Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) to nudge America's foreign policy in a less warmongering direction. Gabbard co-sponsored the House version of Paul's bill to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia and backed Amash's amendment to defund the National Security Agency over its warrantless surveillance program.

She's also been critical of her own party, calling out Hillary Clinton's track record of supporting foreign wars during the 2016 presidential primary. "Sec. Clinton has a record and positions that will take us into a future that will include more interventionist wars of regime change," Gabbard told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in March 2016.

Gabbard has already secured a veteran of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I–Vt.) 2016 campaign as her campaign manager, CNN reports. Gabbard had endorsed Sanders in 2016 after falling out with the Democratic National Committee over its handling of the primary and her opposition to Clinton's foreign policy views. While her support for Sanders' economic message may turn off libertarians for obvious reasons, it's difficult to imagine there being anyone in either major party primary who will be more critical of America's wasteful and seemingly endless post-9/11 wars. Her participation in the race will raise the profile of some important issues, for which libertarians should be glad.

She's also got a chance to be a strong candidate. She's young and cool—she surfs; she wants to end marijuana prohibition!—and isn't afraid to be an unorthodox, nonpartisan voice. She will certainly stand out in a Democratic field that figures to be crowded.

Being a fourth-term congresswoman from a small state (and a religious minority to boot) may prove limiting to Gabbard's presidential ambitions. But the last three general elections have been won by the major party candidate who staked out the more dovish position on America's foreign wars—so don't count her out right away.