By now you’ve probably heard Joe Biden’s claim that world leaders “begged” him to run for president to “save the world” from President Trump. It’s true that Biden’s many years in Washington have given him lots of experience in foreign policy. In fact, that was clearly behind Obama’s choosing of Biden to be his running mate since Obama had basically zero foreign policy experience when he ran for president, and Biden filled that void.
But it didn’t really work out. The eight years of the Obama-Biden administration were plagued by endless foreign policy failures that certainly raises questions as to what good Biden’s foreign policy credentials were as Obama’s vice president—especially since it took Donald Trump being elected president to clean up their messes. Five of these Obama-Biden foreign policy failures are mentioned below, but there are plenty more.
To Biden’s credit, he has been publicly critical of Obama’s mishandling of Syria—a major foreign policy blunder of their administration. But there are plenty of other failures Biden hasn’t separated himself from yet. The biggest question, of course, is whether Biden’s primary opponents will make him answer for these failures… or will they let Trump call him out for them?
5. The rise of ISIS
Barack Obama dropped the ball by failing to address the rise of ISIS, despite warnings from his daily intelligence briefings. He was quick to dismiss ISIS as a “jayvee team” in order to perpetuate the myth that he had contained the terrorist threat in the Middle East, only to sit on his hands as ISIS expanded their territory, taking control over large portions of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere in the region. The failure of Obama-Biden foreign policy to contain the threat is underscored by the fact that a drastic change in strategy under President Trump has resulted in “100 percent” defeat of the ISIS caliphate in just two years.
Where was Joe Biden when ISIS was created and spread all over the Middle East? If Biden’s experience is so great, why didn’t Obama-Biden policies contain and destroy ISIS while Trump’s did? Do Democrats really want to nominate someone whose messes Trump had to clean up?
4. The Libya quagmire
It takes an act of Congress to declare war. As U.S. senator, Biden was a strong advocate of Congress’s sole role in the ability to declare war. But for some reason, when Obama decided to unilaterally commit the United States to a war in Libya, Biden was unable to convince Obama that going there was a bad idea. In fact, when Muammar Gaddafi was ousted, Biden effectively endorsed the mission and how it went down, calling the war a success compared to other military operations. “NATO got it right,” he said during a visit to Plymouth State University in 2011. “In this case, America spent $2 billion and didn’t lose a single life. This is more the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward than it has in the past.”
Of course, it was only after Libya went to hell that Biden claimed that he disagreed with the decision to go into Libya, but failed to convince Obama over Hillary Clinton’s position to go into Libya. Obama had chosen Biden on his foreign policy credentials, but Obama, according to Biden’s story, didn’t heed his advice? Biden had more foreign policy experience than Hillary, but his concerns were ignored. If Obama didn’t have confidence in Biden then (as Biden suggested) why should anyone have confidence in Biden now? Regardless, Biden’s flip-flop on war powers should be alarming to anyone, regardless of party. After eight years of Obama treating the presidency like a dictatorship, it’s not a stretch to say that Joe Biden would similarly abuse his power if it meant projecting the appearance of strength and success. Despite calling the illegal Libyan war a success, the country they destroyed became a safe haven for terrorists. Trump will really enjoy calling Joe out for that.
3. Losing Iraq (and Afghanistan)
In 2008, Obama campaigned on the idea that his opposition to the war in Iraq meant he had better judgment when it came to matters on the world stage. Nevertheless, by the time he took office, the war in Iraq had already been won. Not only had it been won, but Joe Biden tried to credit the Obama-Biden administration for Iraq’s success. “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I think it’s going to be one of the great achievements of this administration,” he said in a 2010 interview with Larry King.
It was not.
But he didn’t just stop there. He went on the explain to Larry King his involvement in Iraq. “I’ve been there 17 times now. I go about every two months, three months. I know every one of the major players in all the segments of that society. It’s impressed me. I’ve been impressed, how they have been deciding to use the political process, rather than guns, to settle their differences.”
Biden was eager to pat himself on the back for his role in Iraq’s stability, but in light of the mess he and Obama made of that country, what would he say now? Obama was so desperate to fulfill his promise of withdrawing from Iraq (and focus on the “right war” in Afghanistan) that the situation in Iraq deteriorated drastically: Territory was lost, ISIS took over, and Iran was filling the void America left there. Was this what Biden meant when he said Iraq would be “one of the great achievements” of the Obama-Biden administration, which he, by his own words, was directly involved with?
And what exactly happened with the “right war” in Afghanistan that Obama and Biden wanted to focus on? They lost that war, too. It took Donald Trump to clean the messes left by Barack Obama and Joe Biden. If Biden’s Democrat rivals don’t make him answer for that, Donald Trump will.
2. The Iran Nuclear Deal
Democrats still try to hold onto the myth that the Iran Nuclear Deal made America safer. But, the deal was so bad Obama didn’t even try to get Senate ratification for it.
As bad as the deal was, it was Joe Biden who was given the job of increasing public support for the deal, as well as trying to sell it to Democrats who weren’t sold on it. Biden even promised that if Iran violated the deal that the administration would act. Iran did violate the deal multiple times, but the response from the administration was crickets because Obama was so desperate for a deal that he didn’t want anything to get in the way of that. Iran kept violating the terms of the deal after Obama and Biden left office so that ultimately it took the Trump administration to hold Iran accountable by restoring sanctions against Iran and officially getting us out of the deal.
Will 2020 Democrats bring up the Iran Deal as a failure of Obama-Biden policy? If they’re smart they will. Now that Biden is in the race they have nothing to gain by pretending that the Iran Deal made us safer.
1. The failed Russian reset and election interference
Improving relation with Russia was a priority of Obama from the beginning of his presidency, and Biden was neck deep in that effort. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted to establish a “Biden-Putin Commission” to help achieve better relations. What exactly did this “Russian reset” entail? On Obama’s watch, Russia annexed Crimea, built up a presence in the Middle East, propping up both the Assad regime in Syria, and the Iranian mullahs.
Apparently, for the Obama-Biden administration, the “Russian reset” was all about capitulation—even at the expense of the United States national security.
The Obama-Biden administration took such a weak approach to Russia that they approved the transfer of 20 percent of America’s Uranium mining capability, and utterly ignored Russian attempts to interfere with the U.S. election in 2016. In fact, the Obama-Biden administration gave a “stand-down” order in response to Russian cyber-attacks in the summer of 2016. Many Democrats still hold onto the belief that Russia succeeded in hacking our elections and delivered Trump a victory. It seems like the Obama-Biden administration’s overall weakness with Russia, and their inaction when Russia was actively trying to interfere with our elections would be a significant line of attack for Biden’s primary opponents.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in July 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis