Fact Check

Did Biden Say in 2020 He Would Use Military Power 'Responsibly' and 'as a Last Resort'?

When Biden was running for the presidency, his Twitter account stated he would not go back to “forever wars” in the Middle East.

Published Jan 12, 2024

 (The White House/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via The White House/Wikimedia Commons
Claim:
In 2020, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden posted the following on Twitter: “As President, I will use military power responsibly and as a last resort. We will not go back to forever wars in the Middle East.”
Context

Critics pointed to the January 2024 U.S. bombing attacks against Houthi militants in Yemen amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict as evidence that Biden had broken his 2020 promise to use military power "responsibly and as a last resort."

As U.S. President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen in January 2024, many online brought back his old promises about U.S. involvement in the Middle East. It was claimed that Biden wrote in a Twitter (now X) post, in 2020, when he was running for president, “As President, I will use military power responsibly and as a last resort. We will not go back to forever wars in the Middle East.”

Social media users shared screenshots of the post, arguing it was indicative of Biden’s “hypocrisy” in the light of the recent airstrikes.

The screenshot is accurate, as Biden did indeed tweet that statement on Feb. 7, 2020. The original post is still available on X. We thus rate this as a Correct Attribution.

The tweet was posted the same day as a Democratic candidates’ presidential debate took place. During the Feb. 7 debate, Biden and then-candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders sparred over their respective roles in the Iraq War vote nearly two decades prior. Biden had voted for a resolution authorizing the use of force, while Sanders opposed it. Biden admitted during the debate that he made a “mistake” trusting then-President George W. Bush to use diplomacy.  

Cut to four years later, as the Israel-Hamas conflict continued into January 2024. Biden’s 2020 tweet went viral again after the U.S. and U.K. launched what The Associated Press described as a "massive retaliatory strike using warship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets" against the Houthis, a militant group in Yemen. Biden said the U.S. airstrikes in Houthi-controlled Yemeni territories were a “direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea.”

According to the U.S. military, the Houthi fighters — who are believed to be backed by Iran — had launched a number of drone and missile attacks on international shipping lanes in the Red Sea. The Houthis said the missile launches were meant to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. They mainly targeted commercial vessels with ties to Israel, though U.S. Naval Central Command said the most recent attacks had no direct connection to Israel.

The Houthis, who had ignored previous ultimatums from the U.S. and other countries, said through a spokesperson that there was no justification for the U.S.-led attacks, according to NPR's reporting. "They committed foolishness with this treacherous aggression, and they were wrong if they thought that they would deter Yemen from supporting Palestine and Gaza," the spokesperson said.

Sources

Hansler, Jennifer and Oren Liebermann, Haley Britzky, Natasha Bertrand, Kevin Liptak, Alex Marquardt, MJ Lee. “US and UK Carry out Airstrikes against Iran-Backed Houthis in Yemen | CNN Politics.” CNN, 11 Jan. 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/11/politics/us-strikes-houthis-yemen/index.html. Accessed 12 Jan. 2024.

Kranish, Michael. “Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden Continue to Spar about the Iraq War — Nearly 18 Years Later.” Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2020. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bernie-sanders-and-joe-biden-continue-to-spar-about-the-iraq-war--nearly-18-years-later/2020/02/08/7bb78a62-38ac-11ea-a01d-b7cc8ec1a85d_story.html. Accessed 12 Jan. 2024.

Liebermann, Oren. “US Navy Shoots down Barrage of Houthi Missiles and Drones Launched from Yemen over Red Sea, US Central Command Says | CNN Politics.” CNN, 10 Jan. 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/09/politics/us-navy-houthi-missiles-drones-red-sea/index.html. Accessed 12 Jan. 2024.

“READ: President Joe Biden’s Statement on Strikes against Houthi Targets in Yemen | CNN Politics.” CNN, 12 Jan. 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/11/politics/read-biden-statement-airstrikes-houthis-yemen/index.html. Accessed 12 Jan. 2024.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.