Joe Biden made it official earlier today that he wouldn’t be running for president, which was a surprise only to Bill Kristol. One thing that he said in his statement was a bit of a surprise in light of who the eventual Democratic nominee will likely be:

Reading from a prepared text flashed on flat screens in the Rose Garden, Mr. Biden argued against the sort of hawkish interventionism Mrs. Clinton has championed in the Middle East and elsewhere. “The argument that we just have to do something when bad people do bad things isn’t good enough,” he said. “It’s not a good enough reason for American intervention [bold mine-DL] and to put our sons’ and daughters’ lives on the line, put them at risk.”

That’s the sort of statement that would have been good to hear at the last Democratic debate, and it is unfortunately one that we are much less likely to hear without either Biden or Webb in the race. It marks a real contrast with Biden’s own foreign policy views as recently as his last presidential bid in 2007-08, when he was upbraiding the Bush administration for not doing enough to intervene in Sudan and saying then that the time to “use American force is now.” Now he explicitly rejects the sort of reflexive “do somethingism” that he used to accept.

As many have observed previously, Biden was against the Libyan war when it was being debated inside the administration, and he is one of the only Democrats in office to have been right about Libya. Biden’s record is somewhat unusual in that he has actually become relatively less hawkish since he became vice president compared to when he was in the Senate. At one time, he was almost impossible to distinguish from Clinton on foreign policy, and in the last four or five years he has consistently been a skeptic about the aggressive measures that Clinton reliably supported. I don’t know why that change happened, but it is too bad for our country–and for the people of several other countries–that those skeptical arguments didn’t win out more often in the administration’s internal debates.

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