Bernie Sanders

The Iraq War Was the Biggest Foreign Policy Mistake in Decades. Biden Voted For It. Sanders Did Not.

Sanders: "16 years ago, the United States invaded Iraq. I opposed it at the time, warning of unintended consequences."


Bastiaan Slabbers/Sipa USA/Newscom

Today marks 16 years since the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which destabilized the Middle East, emboldened terrorist organizations who thrived in the subsequent chaos, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The decision to invade Iraq was one of the most devastating, costly errors the U.S. government has ever made.

Most of the people running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination were not in Congress in 2002, and thus did not vote on the matter. But Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders—arguably the two frontrunners—were both U.S. senators at the time, and both cast votes. Biden voted to authorize the Iraq War. Sanders voted against it.

To repeat: Biden got one of the most pivotal foreign policy issues of the last 50 years completely wrong. Sanders got it right.

This is worth bearing in mind as some in the media attempt to spin Biden's foreign policy experience as a boon, and Sanders' lack of the same as a negative. A recent Politico article claimed that world leaders are clamoring for Biden, who brings "heavyweight credentials to a 2020 Democratic field lacking in national security experience." According to the article:

Foreign leaders view Biden "as a safe and consistent pair of hands on foreign policy and that's what they're looking for," said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, who also attended the Munich conference. "They're comfortable with him. It's plausible he can win. He's a known face on foreign policy."

Meanwhile, the articles notes that Sanders "was criticized early in the 2016 primary campaign for lacking foreign policy advisers and failing to focus on global issues in his stump speeches."

It's true that Sanders spends more time discussing domestic issues. But when he does talk about foreign policy, the noninterventionist vision he outlines is smart and consistent. He has urged the U.S. not to get involved in Venezuela, and has even applauded President Trump for meeting with North Korean President Kim Jong-Un.

When it comes to foreign policy, it's conceivable that Sanders is in fact the most libertarian candidate for president in 2020. Foreign policy is not the only issue that matters, of course. But given how much authority Congress has delegated to the executive branch, it's especially important that whoever occupies the White House is ideologically disinclined to start another war.

"16 years ago, the United States invaded Iraq," wrote Sanders in a statement on Wednesday. "I opposed it at the time, warning of unintended consequences. We are still dealing with those disastrous consequences today and will be for many years. We need a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy, not war."

NEXT: Florida Republicans Advance Bill That Would Sharply Limit Restoration of Voting Rights to Felony Offenders

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Everyone did stupid things when they were the ripe young age of 60.

    1. Hey look you ran to another thread to avoid the shame of being caught trying to scam 10k.


      1. Stop harassing me. You’re boring.

        1. YOU wanted to be ME bitch, and then you ran.

          Just admit you’re a scammer and a liar and I’ll stop accepting your bet.

          1. I’m a scammer and a liar. Now go away.

              1. If anyone sees Tony trying to bet again, accept as much of his action as he’s willing to give and I’ll cover it all plus 10%.

              2. Say “I’m a tedious little bitch” and you’ll win another Internet.

                1. But then I’d be a liar like you admitted you were you cowardly scamming fuck.

                  1. Everyone saw you make excuses Tony. It’s why you’re so salty. You got caught.

                    1. You didn’t say you were a tedious little bitch, thus you lose the internet. Better luck next time, you autistic cunt.

                    2. Except you admitted to being a liar and a scammer, so everything you said there was by your own words a lie.

                      I win again.

                    3. And it absolutely warms my heart that you I caught you and you’re so salty about it.

                    4. “Tony|3.20.19 @ 5:47PM|#

                      I’m a scammer and a liar.”

                      Lol I will Always have that. Always. I win forever.

  2. So no expansion to American Bloc nations under a President Sanders? No annexation-occupation of satellite-states as buffers against capitalist invasion?

  3. The “Bush Lied, People Died” lie pushed by the press and Democrats is a fucking disgrace, and has been incredibly detrimental to politics and our foreign policy. Plenty of Democrats had access to the same intel as Bush. The Clintons and Al Gore were convinced Saddam was restarting his WMD program. The report given to Congress before the vote actually went into some of the doubts, which did manage to change one congressman’s vote, but nobody else even bothered to read it.

    Yes, Bush is the one who led the way, but making them the only fall guy allows Democrats and the intelligence community off the gook. Bush didn’t lie to Congress. They all saw what they wanted to see, and ignored the doubts, and everybody was still blinded after 9/11.

    By blaming it all on Bush explicitly lying, we let Democrats absolve themselves of all blame and make such a disaster even more likely in the future. In conclusion: fuck the press and fuck Democrats. Many of them are as responsible for Iraq as Bush, especially the Clintons.

    1. Good point.

      Also, and unfortunately, McCain was let off the gook.

      1. That is one hell of a typo.

    2. “By blaming it all on Bush explicitly lying”

      American public is also to blame for letting Bush get away with his lying.

      “Many of them are as responsible for Iraq as Bush, especially the Clintons.”

      I don’t see how the Clintons were as responsible for the invasion of Iraq as Bush, who was commander in chief at the time.

      The good thing about Bush was that he seemed to learn from his mistakes. He resisted calls to invade Iran, and he came to terms of withdrawal with the Iraqi government, which was no mere puppet but enjoyed some legitimacy with the Iraqi people.

      1. Did you even read his post you idiot. Bush didn’t lie.

        1. In that case he’s a fool. If he was duped by unscrupulous underlings and really believed that Iraq was producing proscribed weapons and was about to give them to al Qaeda.

          1. Considering the intelligence was developed by Bill Clinton mainly and Hillary pushed for the invasion in Congress… Fuck off partisan dipshit.

  4. Nobody absolves the Dems. Everyone with a brain knows that it was a two-party mugging of a weak-ass MidEast country.

    1. “Everyone with a brain knows that it was a two-party mugging of a weak-ass MidEast country.”

      The only party which put up a spirited opposition to the war was ANSWER, literally a Stalinist umbrella of small groups of activists.

  5. More than a little hyperbole in that opening paragraph, Mr Soave.
    1. The Middle East was destabilized long before the start of the US invasion of Iraq. Granted, that didn’t make it any better but it didn’t make it all that much worse either. The Middle East has been a disaster since at least WW1.
    2. Emboldened terrorist organizations – Yeah, like they weren’t already emboldened by the 9-11 attacks.
    3. Most devastating, costly errors the US government has ever made – Big in absolute dollars but after adjusting for inflation, I’m not even sure the Iraq war gets into the top ten.

    1. World War I comes to mind

      1. Yes, because letting Germany keep half of France was an option.

        1. Germany was going to take half of France how? The line of the Western Front was something like eighty miles inside France at the furthest (and actually inside prewar Germany at points in the south). And almost none of that territory would have been worth the trouble of annexing and holding; Germany took almost all of the stuff that could be plausibly integrated in the Franco-Prussian War. A victorious Germany would have been able to take colonies and reparations from France, nothing more.

          The course of honor would have been a real, true neutrality. The course of self-interest would have been threatening to enter the war on the side of Germany if the French and British didn’t sell us their non-self-governing possessions in the Americas at a good price.

          1. Ultimately we didn’t contribute all that much to the war anyway. We were only involved in force for a few months, and largely used ineffective tactics resulting in high casualties. In the end we served as little more than a morale booster for French and British soldiers

            1. Anerican entry into the war ended any chance for Germany to achieve anything but defeat. The resources, including manpower, added to the allies meant Germany had two choices: capitulation sooner, or capitulation later from an even weaker position.
              The US made acceptance of the harsh Versailles Treaty viable for the Germans, rather than an eventual stalemate resulting in status quo ante bellum.
              We don’t know how the latter would’ve changed subsequent developments, but it would’ve been less likely for the Nazi Party to come to power.

            2. We contributed plenty to the war.

              First, when we were pretending to be neutral, we allowed the British to freely violate it. It was an act of war against the United States for the Royal Navy to forcibly limit our grain shipments to fellow neutrals. If we’d asserted our rights in an evenhanded manner by any of 1) protecting our right of trade with neutrals with naval escorts for trade convoys, 2) embargoing trade with the Entente until they stopped interfering with our trade with neutrals, or 3) never insisting Germany limit submarine warfare while the British interfered with our trade, well, the Central Powers would have been significantly better off.

              And, sure, our entry into actual combat was “late”. But without our entry, it’s still not clear the Entente could have won. The French Army had mutinied in early 1917 and could not be used for offensive operations thereafter. Only the morale boost to the French caused by the arrival of US forces made any offensive operations including the French even possible. Similarly, the entry of the US was a major factor in Ludendorff’s decision to launch the Spring 1918 offensive in hopes of forcing a victory. Minus US entry, German lines not depleted by a massive offensive and reinforced by troops drawn from the Russian front would have been far stronger against any much weaker (being British-only) Entente offensive.

    2. “Granted, that didn’t make it any better but it didn’t make it all that much worse either.”

      Over a million people met an untimely death thanks to the war. Why try to minimize the suffering? Out of some loyalty to Bush?

      “Yeah, like they weren’t already emboldened by the 9-11 attacks.”

      After the Iraq invasion, they were emboldened far beyond mere attacks. They set up their own state, ISIS, in Iraq and Syria, killing untold thousands.

    3. Oh, hell, stability on the Middle East has been the exception, not the rule, for something like eight thousand years.

  6. Sanders > Biden because Iraq is a nonstarter.

    Sanders was an apologist for socialism in Venezuela going back as far as Chavez, and Sanders was still refusing to denounce Maduro as a dictator as recently as a month ago.

    “Florida Democrats are denouncing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for refusing to call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro a dictator ? a politically explosive issue in the nation’s biggest swing state.

    Sanders also would not say whether he considered Venezuela’s assembly leader, Juan Guaid?, as the nation’s interim president”

    —-Politico, February 21, 2019…..o-1179636?

    Sanders is a self-described socialist, anyway, so foreign policy is beside the point. Fuck socialism. Fuck Bernie Sanders.

    1. It’s amazing how few people manage to be anti-war without going full “the Vietcong were the good guys”.

      The biggest problem with the anti-war movement is that it is full of anti-Americans who are convinced that we are on the side of the bad guys fighting the good guys, when it is almost always bad guys fighting slightly worse bad guys. Which is why non-interventionism is the preferable term to me. We shouldn’t even be involved in other countries’ wars. Let them fight it out.

      1. Most of the people on the right who opposed the war did so right up until the moment it started. After that, being anti-war to a lot of them was like being opposed to the Vietnam War–and they didn’t want to be any part of that.

        I opposed invading Iraq in 2003 for the same reasons that Bush Sr. opposed deposing Saddam Hussein in 1991–and those had nothing to do with being anti-American. I just persistently argued that the war wasn’t in America’s best interests–and I argued that I hoped I was wrong.

        It’s just like Trump trade war with China. I oppose Trump’s trade war, and even if he gets a better agreement than we had because of it, I’ll still say that the risk of the trade war escalating and not being resolved wasn’t worth what he’s likely to get. That being said, I hope I’m wrong.

        For the best interests of the USA, I hope I’m terribly wrong about the trade war with China and Trump is right–just like I hoped I was wrong about Iraq and democracy would flourish in Iraq like a tropical forest in the desert. When the USA does the wrong thing, I’m hope I’m wrong.

        If the USA goes socialist, I hope it’s wildly successful, it ends poverty and racial disparity, and everybody gets free healthcare and free education for life–and it doesn’t have any negative consequences at all. The chances of that happening if we go socialist are absolutely zero, but for the sake of the USA, I’ll hope I’m horribly wrong–even as I oppose it.

        1. Two guys on the Right I can think of were against the Iraq war.

          Pat Buchanan.
          Donald Trump.

          Funny how it’s always the people the Top Men hate the most who get it right.

          1. Brent Scowcroft

            “Don’t Attack Saddam”

            —-WSJ, Aug. 15, 2002


  7. think Biden’s “chop it up” theory on Iraq was okay but he’s still a thief who shouldn’t be president

    1. Give the Kurds their own country, build a wall around it, and then let everybody else in the region shoot and invade each other to their hearts delight.

      1. >>>build a wall around it

        worter verboten!

      2. “Give the Kurds their own country, build a wall around it…’

        … and America will pay for it. Bullets, bombs, wall and all.

    2. Yeah, I thought Biden’s idea of chopping it up into Sunni-Shia-Kurd states was kinda bonkers but, looking back, he was right.

      1. Sure, but he was the one who royally f’d up the 2010 Iraqi election, forcing them to keep Maliki in power even though the coalition party won

        1. Suspicious that the administration would undercut the first sign/step of civil peace and stability in Iraq, especially in light of the later “deals” with Iran.
          No, much better for Biden and Obama to ensure Shia dominance, and civil strife, in Iraq.
          Wouldn’t want to jeopardize Iran’s Shia band to Syria and the Mediterranean, nor allow Iraq to succeed and let Bush/US off the hook

    3. It’s funny how Mr. Moderate Democrat’s solution to the problems in Iraq was to break it into ethnostates.

  8. Neither of them is an acceptable candidate for many reasons, and should be composted.

  9. Sanders got it right” a broken old rusted watch is right twice, the problem is no ever knows when its right, same goes for Bernie

    1. How’d Bernie do on Venezuela?

  10. When it comes to foreign policy, it’s conceivable that Sanders is in fact the most libertarian candidate for president in 2020.

    If one “forgets” about Tulsi Gabard

    1. “Gabbard”

      my keyboard’s “b” is dying

    2. If Gabbard’s foreign policy aligns with libertarian non-interventionism, it’s only a coincidence. Her main objective is to help Russia. She’d be calling for a US invasion of Canada if that’s what Putin wanted.


    3. And Vanilla Ice is the best rapper compared to an abbey of Trappist monks.

    4. “Sanders was an apologist for socialism in Venezuela going back as far as Chavez”

      I think the Democrats are set on going with a woman as candidate. Tulsi may well be an improvement over Trump for anti-war types. Trump surprised me with the lengths he was willing to go to with North Korea, even calling the ‘military exercises’ provocative and unilaterally cancelling them. I’m worried that his efforts will come to naught, given the historical role of congress in stymieing presidential peace initiatives in the region.

  11. Today marks 16 years since the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which destabilized the Middle East, emboldened terrorist organizations who thrived in the subsequent chaos, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The decision to invade Iraq was one of the most devastating, costly errors the U.S. government has ever made.

    You want to know the worst part? The neocons who controlled the GOP back then were never as scary as the alt-right white nationalists who control it now. The Iraq War was a mistake, but for sheer depravity it cannot compare to Orange Hitler’s draconian war on immigration.


    1. Likey

  12. Biden is retarded and also responsible for mass incarceration. Sanders is a commie puke. Fuck both of them, and fuck choosing between a douche and a turd.

  13. “I opposed it at the time, warning of unintended consequences. We are still dealing with those disastrous consequences today and will be for many years.”

    “Unintended consequences”, says the socialist.

  14. Eh, seems to have worked out okay for the Kurds. They don’t have to be worried about getting gassed at least.

  15. ” Biden got one of the most pivotal foreign policy issues of the last 50 years completely wrong. Sanders got it right.”

    You don’t know that he got it right. The unintended consequences of Sander’s policy preferences were not realized. You can argue that the Iraq policy we implemented failed. You can not argue that an Iraq policy we did not use succeeded.

    1. Not invading a country because it didn’t attack us and didn’t have invisible WMDs has some arguably good justification behind it.

      1. That is nonresponsive to what I wrote.

        1. Okay, should be sacrifice 5,000 American soldiers on the premise that not invading Norway might be a bad idea in some potential universe?

          1. Again, a policy untried cannot be a success or a failure, just an unrealized potential.

            That being said, I know of no argument existing that Norway should have its government changed by force of arms. They don’t seem to make trouble with their neighbors, nor are they run by a literal fascist regime brutalizing their own population.

            1. I’m sure the hundreds of thousands if Iraqi dead at our own hands appreciate our good will.

      2. Between the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and Bush’s invasion in 2003, there were three possible US policies on Iraq:

        1) Let Saddam Hussein conquer and rule the Arabian Peninsula, giving him control of the cheaper-to-extract half of the world’s known oil reserves and the city of Mecca. And as a consequence making him the indisputable leader of the Arab world with a stranglehold on the world economy, set on a collision course to a regional nuclear war with Israel.

        2) Station US troops in Saudi Arabia forever, an irritant provoking escalating terrorist attacks (Khobar Towers, Kenya & Tanzania Embassies, USS Cole, 9/11) on the US.

        3) Utterly break Saddam Hussein’s state, leaving something in its place too disunified to conquer its neighbors.

        Pick your poison, but don’t fucking pretend they weren’t all poison.

        1. Foreign Policy is often trying to figure out what the least worst choice is.

        2. How was Saddam going to conquer Arabia?

          1. Just because his military was easily crushed by the world’s sole superpower doesn’t mean it wasn’t strong enough to roll over the Kuwaitis, Saudis, etc.

  16. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $30h ? $72h?how? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance? on something new? after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

    Heres what I’ve been doing? ,,,


  17. Google is now paying $17000 to $22000 per month for working online from home. I have joined this job 2 months ago and i have earned $20544 in my first month from this job. I can say my life is changed-completely for the better! Check it out whaat i do…..

    click here ======?? http://www.TheproCoin.Com

  18. I have a number of friends who are Bernie Bros and would fully agree with this article.

    A part of me got me thinking, if an Economic Socialist is one of the most Libertarian candidates for the upcoming elections, then that really speak ALLOT about the other candidates

  19. Reason – we are against US intervention but ok with open borders so people can mess with us.

    Again, no-one has stated why leaving Saddam, who everyone thoughts had WMD (all intelligence agencies of the West) in power. Sure he killed his own people. Not our problem. Just like if someone is being beat in the home next store is a-ok.

    The issue didn’t come on toppling Saddam. The issue is how it was handed afterward.

    (And people who say it was horrible decision seem to ignore that Iraqis with their first taste of freedom walking over bombs to vote while we can’t even get off the couch to vote here)

  20. Bernie was right on this one. However, if he is elected, we may turn into the paradise he claims Venezuela is.

  21. Fuck Biden and Sanders.

    Fuck the entire democrat/progressive/socialist/communist party

    Everyone else, have a nice day.

  22. The mistake in Iraq was not invading, but not leaving as soon as Saddam was dead. ‘Nation Building’ was an idea full of possibilities, almost all of them bad.

    But we HAD to invade Iraq. We were still at war with them; Saddam had never come within shouting distance of meeting the terms of surrender from the Gulf War. After 9/11 we needed the Middle Eastern States to take us seriously, and allowing Sddam to flout the terms of surrender was just not on.

    “Pick a fight with us, surrender on terms, and we will wander off and ignore it if you promptly violate those terms.” isn’t a message we could afford to send right then.

    1. Would the public have gone along with it without 9/11? Was 9/11 not used to justify the occupation of that country? We “had” to invade?

      Is this a libertarian website? People aren’t even really saying yes anymore.

    2. The problem was the spider-hole he was hiding in.

      If you look closely at the timeline, you’ll notice that the birth of the insurgency against US forces largely happened in the time period between when we tracked down and killed his sons (July 22), and when we finally got him (December 14th). If he’d died alongside his sons in July, we could have withdrawn declaring victory before the insurgency got hot in September.

      Instead, we caught him after the insurgency got off the ground, and the result was we could not plausibly declare victory and go home. Now, it’s arguable we should have pulled out anyway, sure, but nobody in Washington thought we should look like we were turning tail and running; certainly not all the “Pottery Barn Rule” Democrats.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.