Joe Biden has been wrong a lot on foreign and defense policy. A lot. This year’s presumptive Democratic presidential nominee voted against the 1991 Gulf War, in which the United States and a broad multinational coalition quickly achieved their goals, and in favor of the 2003 Iraq War, and regretted both votes. Years into hostilities, he opposed the troop surges that brought some stability to both Iraq and Afghanistan and even insisted that “the Taliban per se is not our enemy.” He argued for carving Iraq into sectarian statelets even as Iraqis voted for cross-sectarian political lists. And he opposed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. These stances suggest not only that he lacks a philosophy of how to use military force effectively, but also that his instincts on when to use it are often faulty.
Perhaps for that reason, Biden was seldom a major force in American foreign and defense policy during more than three decades in the Senate—even though he served as the chairman of its Foreign Relations Committee. But he has shown an embarrassing tendency to embellish his contributions, such as claiming he was responsible for ending genocide in Bosnia.
Robert Gates, who served as the secretary of defense under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, wrote in his 2014 memoir that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Last year, Gates reiterated his concerns. “I think that the vice president had some issues with the military,” he declared on CBS’s Face the Nation.