Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced his presidential campaign on Thursday, opening a long-shot bid against Hillary Rodham Clinton and a field of Democratic rivals for the party's nomination.
Webb, in an announcement posted on his campaign website, acknowledged he would face major hurdles but vowed to bring an outsider's voice to the 2016 race.
"I understand the odds, particularly in today's political climate, where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money. I know that more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars," Webb wrote. But he said the nation "needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us. We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process."
Webb, 69, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, surprised many Democrats when he became the first major figure in the party to form a presidential exploratory committee last November.
Webb's opposition to the Iraq War — his son Jimmy served in the war — played a central role in his surprise Senate election in 2006 against Republican Sen. George Allen.
Webb on Thursday once again emphasized his early opposition to the Iraq War, which Clinton voted to authorize in 2002, and criticized the Obama administration's foreign policy in his campaign announcement. He reserved particular scorn for the administration's decision to launch a military intervention in Libya.
"I would not have been the President who used military force in Libya during the Arab Spring. I warned repeatedly that this use of our military did not meet the test of a grave national security interest, that it would have negative implications for the entire region, and that no such action should take place without the approval of the Congress," said Webb on his campaign site.
He described the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya as "inevitable" given the instability in the region. The Benghazi attack happened during Clinton's tenure as secretary of state and critiques of the response to the incident have dogged her ever since.
Although Webb's stance on the Iraq War has earned him a reputation as a foreign policy dove, the former senator also criticized the White House's diplomacy with Iran and promised to "meet and defeat any international terrorist movement that threatens our international security."
"We will work with our NATO allies to restore stability in Europe, and with our friends in the Middle East, particularly Israel, our most stable partner and friend in the region, to reduce the cycle of violence and turmoil in that part of the world," he said.
Webb has said U.S. foreign policy has been "adrift" since the end of the Cold War and called for a new foreign policy doctrine that would outline the circumstances in which the U.S. would use military force.
Webb has made frequent trips to the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, but early polls show him trailing in a field dominated by Clinton that also includes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
Al Jazeera and Associated Press