Former vice president Joe Biden is fighting to claim credit for the Obama administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Iraq, which created a vacuum of power that led to the rise of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.
During the first Democratic debate, Biden knew that he would face an attack on his vote in the Senate to authorize war with Iraq. Indeed, moderator Rachel Maddow of MSNBC posed the question:
You have made your decades of experience in foreign policy a pillar of your campaign but when the time came to say yes or no on one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of the last century you voted for the Iraq war. You have sent said you regret that vote but why should voters trust your judgment when it comes to making a decision about taking the country to war the next time?
Maddow’s question was almost a setup for what many observers had anticipated would be an attack by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who turned to Biden and said: “One of the differences—one of the differences that Joe and I have in our record is Joe voted for that work, I helped lead the opposition to that or which was a total disaster.”
For his part, Biden told Maddow that while he voted for the war, he was responsible for the withdrawal:
I made sure the president turned to me and said Joe, get our combat troops out of Iraq. I was responsible for getting 150,000 combat troops out of Iraq and my son was one of them. I also think we should not have combat troops in Afghanistan. It’s long overdue. It should end.
But what is odd is that Biden would want to claim credit for the withdrawal at all. At the time, Biden was seen as the relative voice of reason within the administration, who had developed a rapport with the Iraqi government that could allow a deal to be negotiated that would keep some U.S. troops in the country to ensure stability.
Yet Obama pulled the plug, and when American troops carried out a hasty, premature withdrawal, the country was left vulnerable — both to ISIS and to Iranian influence. Obama called ISIS the “JV team,” but it would go on to wreak havoc in the region and carry out terror around the world.
Biden’s history of positions on Iraq is a maze of U-turns. He voted against the Gulf War in 1991 and went on to vote for the Iraq War in 2002. When the latter bogged down in a fight against a terrorist insurgency, Biden proposed partitioning the country along sectarian lines.
Still, Biden is widely regarded as the leader in the Democratic presidential primary field on matters of foreign policy.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.