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."