Who Is Michèle Flournoy, Biden’s Rumored Pick for Pentagon Chief?

Yves here. Hoo boy The presumed Biden choice of Michèle Flournoy for the Pentagon looks as dismal as feared. WSWS says it out loud: Biden, Democrats prepare right-wing administration.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

Michèle Flournoy and Joe Biden (source)

Despite all the focus on domestic and economic matters in the current election, foreign policy, never really discussed, should bear at least equal scrutiny.

Will Biden’s “defense policy” (quotes because America’s defense policy is really a war policy) turn more hawkish than Obama’s, thus reflecting the Hillary wing of that cabinet? Or will Biden continue the “no stupid wars” admonition that kept Obama from initiating bloodbaths in Syria and Iran?

Time will tell, of course, but one of the chief indicators will be his pick for Secretary of Defense, the person who will reflect, influence and implement his foreign policy. On that pick, there’s almost near consensus — Michèle Flournoy. (See here, here, here and here.)

So who is Michèle Flournoy?

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies, admittedly no fans of America’s forever war, have written a nice run-down of her history and policy positions, and it’s not a pretty one — unless you’re a fan of America’s forever war, in which case you’ll be find it wonderful to behold.

Some samples from their article:

As assistant secretary of defense for strategy under President Bill Clinton, Flournoy was the principal author of the May 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which laid the ideological foundation for the endless wars that followed. Under “Defense Strategy,” the QDR effectively announced that the United States would no longer be bound by the UN charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force. It declared that, “when the interests at stake are vital, …we should do whatever it takes to defend them, including, when necessary, the unilateral use of military power.”

The QDR defined U.S. vital interests to include “preventing the emergence of a hostile regional coalition” anywhere on Earth and “ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.”

In June 2002, as Bush and his gang threatened aggression against Iraq, Flournoy told The Washington Post that the United States would “need to strike preemptively before a crisis erupts to destroy an adversary’s weapons stockpile” before it “could erect defenses to protect those weapons, or simply disperse them.” When Bush unveiled his official “doctrine of preemption” a few months later, Senator Edward Kennedy wisely condemned it as “unilateralism run amok” and “a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other country can or should accept.

Flournoy’s career has been marked by the unethical spinning of revolving doors between the Pentagon, consulting firms helping businesses procure Pentagon contracts, and military-industrial think tanks like the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), which she co-founded in 2007.

In 2009, she joined the Obama administration as under secretary of defense for policy, where she helped engineer political and humanitarian disasters in Libya and Syria and a new escalation of the endless war in Afghanistan before resigning in 2012.

 • As Obama’s under secretary of defense for policy, she was a hawkish voice for escalation in Afghanistan and war on Libya. She resigned in February 2012, leaving others to clean up the mess. In February 2013, when Obama brought in Chuck Hagel as a relatively dovish reformer to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary, right-wing figures opposed to his planned reforms, including Paul Wolfowitz and William Kristol, backed Flournoy as a hawkish alternative.

From 2013-2016, she joined Boston Consulting, trading on her Pentagon connections to boost the firm’s military contracts from $1.6 million in 2013 to $32 million in 2016.

 • In 2016, Flournoy was tapped as Hillary Clinton’s choice for secretary of defense, and she co-authored a CNAS report titled “Expanding American Power” with a team of hawks that included former Dick Cheney aide Eric Edelman, PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan and Bush’s National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. 

The report was seen as a view of how Clinton’s foreign policy would differ from Obama’s, with calls for higher military spending, arms shipments to Ukraine, renewed military threats against Iran, more aggressive military action in Syria and Iraq, and further increases to domestic oil and gas production — all of which Trump has adopted.

In 2017, Flournoy and President Barack Obama’s Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken founded their own corporate consulting business, WestExec Advisors, where Flournoy continued to cash in on her contacts by helping companies successfully navigate the complex bureaucracy of winning enormous Pentagon contracts.

(Remember that name, Tony Blinken. He’ll turn up again too.)

There’s more in the article, but this should be enough. Michèle Flournoy, as Secretary of Defense, will be the hawk from hell and put a gleam in every war contractor’s eye.

I keep warning that all this killing will come back to us — will blast our malls and movie palaces, our sports arenas and apartment complexes — but warnings like these go well unlistened-to, drowned by the voices of hubris and spread of empire that infuse what passes for minds in the DC world.

I suspect (with no evidence yet) that on the domestic and economic front, the Biden administration will be a centrist-flavored disaster. But if Michèle Flournoy — or anyone like her — is picked for Secretary of Defense, his foreign policy will be even worse, a banquet of blood and a grave risk to us all.


(For those who like my work, I’m launching a Substack site. You can get more information at neuburger.substack.com. If you decide to sign up — it’s free — my thanks to you!)

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  1. Janie

    And some of my friends are shocked that I’m not over the moon about Trump’s defeat. Thanks for spelling out details for me to quote.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Michèle Flournoy. Also known as one of Hillary’s Harpies (or Valkyries) along with Samantha Power and Susan Rice – the later who will also be in Biden’s cabinet. Not long ago Flournoy was all for the US attacking Syria which might have led to “complications” with Russia. Hillary had a whole squad of these pro-war women in her circle which included Madeleine Albright but I can no longer find the article talking about the others. Here is Pepe Escobar’s take from 2016-


    1. Dirk77

      I think Christine Fox, who was acting deputy sec of defense for awhile under Obama, might have made the list. But her personality and views hardly puts her in the warmonger category, so if she was, it wasn’t a serious name on the list.

    2. WobblyTelomeres

      God save us from all these women that think they need to strap on a Doc Johnson and go wave dicks with the Pentagon boys to be taken seriously.

      1. DJG

        Wobbly Telomeres: I’ll put it this way. What we are seeing is how much upper-middle-class America[tm] consists of men and women with the same depleted moral compass. Further, the pandemic is a great leveler, and I’m not sure that white-lady career = feminism is going to survive as a movement. White-lady career = feminism will survive as class warfare, though.

        I also think that it sure would help if all women were required to sign up for the draft, just as all young men still do. It would be a clarifying moment for Tiffany, Young Warmonger, to realize that brunch might be interrupted by getting shot at in Iraq.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          DJG: I was coarse. I believe we are saying the same thing and bow in deference to your superior phrasing.

          1. DJG

            WT: Nay. It is just that, in these colorful and vividly catastrophic times, I did not expect the equipment reference. A clarifying time for us all, indeed.

            1. Susan the other

              Well, WT, I liked your wording. Couldn’t agree more. I’d add to it – women feel obligated to show how tough they can be – but when push comes to shove I doubt any of us (anyone not in the military) can imagine just how fast testosterone rises. Men keep their cool only to a certain level and then they just all go ballistic at once. Look at a street brawl. So, in a way, it’s good to have the girls in control as that scenario is less likely to happen, maybe. And Old Joe seems so mellow. At least for a vetted warmonger (actually I don’t think we should trust him at all). I really think it’s time to elect a labradoodle or a schnocker for president. Let them sniff crotches and make evidence based decisions. No?

              1. Greg

                I’m not sure that female groupthink is superior to male groupthink, in the way you describe. Anyone who has experienced the hell on earth that is the collective disapproval of a modern HR department can attest to the same-but-different blind ragefest that women can come up with.
                I understand home owners associations and PTA boards are similar, but have no experience of those.

          2. Scott1

            Dismal or Right Zest? Michele Flournoy for Pentagon Chief To DJG & Wobbly, yes to the critical view that DJG has so well explained what is the result of who is acting in the world of Western powers that from England, & then the British Empire could not detach at home from class war at home and abroad every day. Think “House of Lords” The “Commons” & there you have it to be for real the appointment of a war prime minister recognized as their known buddy who liked war more than anyone else they knew.
            Every surviving nation has to recognize that it needs to give the job of war to those who are destined for it, and love it. Most of us and especially those of us would would be spent, have their lives spent for their country are not war lovers. When we are called to participate we have to be made to love war as much as Churchill did.
            While there were war lover Generals like MacArthur, or Patton the US won as much as it did employing the Executive Eisenhower who in some way was incredible, for he stole the actual just an idea from the nation and its leader he defeated. It has done a lot for me and the rest of us to ride in our cars out there on the superhighway, the AutoBahn. That is a right illustrative historical outcome of the Roman model in regards to their defeat & respect for the ideals of the Greeks.
            The gods led us to ethics.
            I meant to just say that it was a consequence of my reading of the book by General Eichenbeirgerer “The Road to Tokyo” that I realized he had a zest for killing the enemy.
            If I am the top guy, or even a member of the top guys running the nation, I’d hire Generals who had a Zest for killing the enemy. I would. For one thing you can be sure your enemy seeks to be defended by professionals who have a zest for killing the enemy.
            We are an enemy and we have enemies.
            I mean I do not know this woman, but it is not necessarily a bad thing if she is a war lover.
            If it is my duty to defend the nation I have to have in the service defenders, but it is to me and the civilian government to make clear who the enemy is, and whether or not we must start killing them.

            1. WobblyTelomeres

              I agree. When killing MUST be done, I would want some damn good killers on the job. Chesty Puller for the win[1].

              However, we in the US repeatedly place dullards and narcissists in charge of our government. These same presidents defer national security decisions to those in charge of the war machine. It is this deference that I object to. And your last sentence shows you do as well.

              If deference is to take place, I certainly prefer a Smedley Butler or Jim Mattis over someone whose first response is “kill ’em all” lest they be called pus****. I place Michele Flournoy, Mike Pompeo, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton in that latter group. And Madeline Albright.

              [1] you may notice a preference for marines. My oldest served in Afghanistan, in the marines, and on a call home, asked me if I had ever read “War is a Racket”. I wept. Apparently, it was widely circulated among the enlisted.

      1. Discouraged in WI

        I did hear her on a panel a couple of years ago comment that for the last several elections, the American people had elected the candidate who talked about stopping the constant warfare. Not that any of them did that, of course. Would that make her less eligible for consideration for a position?

  3. Dirk77

    If the DC Blob were at least competent, but dancing from disaster to disaster with all authority and no accountability, there doesn’t seem to be much of a feedback to learn. I guess that happens in a country with so much to destroy. I keep hoping the slide of the US would be gradual, like the UK’s, but perhaps the UK’s drop was softened by the presence of the US. There is no one to soften the drop for us. The Peloponnesian war has been discussed on NC in the past. And when I read about Flournoy here it came to mind first.

    On a more positive note, perhaps as he exits, Trump will pardon Snowden and Assange, as one last eff-off to The Serious People. If there is a petition circulating, let me know!

  4. shtove

    Seeley observed of the British empire in 1883: “we seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.” What he meant was that conquest had been necessitated by the defence of trade routes against foreign interruption. “Oh silly me! I seem to have immiserated some, slaughtered others. But capital is content.”

  5. Palaver

    Washington DC will overcome the gridlock, cross the aisle, and look under the mattress for the next war stimulus.

    Wimpy Dems tend to go after easy targets, a country that needs an extra push into the abyss and a slow enough trajectory to demand constant reauthorization. Quagmire = billable hours. Russia and China are off the table. So where to invade next?

  6. pjay

    This is a useful warning about Flournoy which also nicely describes how the Swamp works (revolving doors, consultancies, “think” tanks, etc.). But regarding the last four years, I think the first sentence was perhaps most important — and understated:

    “Despite all the focus on domestic and economic matters in the current election, foreign policy, never really discussed, should bear at least equal scrutiny.”

    My own view is that if you want to understand the ferocious “resistance” to Trump, Russiagate, impeachment, etc., then foreign policy is *central*. Yes, the Clinton campaign, the Democrats, and the PMC (see Lambert’s excellent discussion) used TDS to mask their own failures. But the real force behind our collective insanity has been the foreign policy/national security Establishment. Competing factions within the Blob united to get rid of the outsider Trump, who, for several reasons, was a threat to their ongoing projects.

    Not only is Flournoy the ultimate “insider” Swamp creature, but she ties together these neolib and neocon factions, as this article points out. The fact that she is almost unknown to the general public illustrates the problem. Most US citizens are completely oblivious when it comes to foreign policy. But underneath the the WWF-style political theater of the last four years, the foreign policy concerns of the Blob have been the driving force.

    1. tegnost

      yep. I was looking at the picture in the c news article and wondering who tony west called when he got the early release news about the pfizer vax the night before anyone else saw it.
      I think you’re supposed to capitalize “Winning!!!!”

      1. tegnost

        After posting this I checked on insider trading for congress and it turns out it’s no longer ok so I guess I jumped the gun a bit. At the same time I don’t see why they got the info early.

        1. flora

          West and Biden aren’t in Congress. And, they have relatives who also aren’t in Congress — brothers and sons and the like. ;)

  7. Ep3

    Revolving door of Clinton and Bush employees.

    It’s like we are a monarchy here in the US. King Clinton and King Bush have remained in power this whole time, swapping out their lords and ladies as if they are on the same team.

    Which makes me wonder, because I was not following as closely, but maybe why Trump was revered by all these institutional/career bureaucrats was he wasn’t tied to the RNC and DNC political machines. If his Secretary of Defense retired/quit, he wouldn’t goto the great big book of political suck ups to fill the position. Instead promoting those that were loyal to him (good or bad). Just a guess.

    1. flora

      Can’t argue.

      Here’s a funny, (it only hurts when I laugh), Caitlin Johnstone article headline:

      Biden Will Have The Most Diverse, Intersectional Cabinet Of Mass Murderers Ever Assembled

      Well you’ll be happy to know that the next US president and his crack team of ventriloquists are assembling a cabinet of mass murderers that’s as diverse, inclusive and intersectional as America herself.


  8. Ancient1

    Just as I thought. Biden is the Trojan Horse for Obama and the Clintons. We have gone from the frying pan into the fire. I am so sorry for the people of this nation as we move into the future. Is there no possibility that we can change or is it too late?

  9. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    You’re going to start hearing about ‘barrel bombs’ and ‘gassing his own people’ again very soon. In fact I just heard on National Pentagon Radio some maudlin piece about the suffering people of Idlib, Turkey’s terrorist stronghold in Syria.
    White helmts will be rebranded since they blew their own cover too many times. But then people forget, don’t they?

    1. Greg

      That bit of info hasn’t dispersed as widely as you’d think, based on how much transparency we’ve seen in these parts about the white helmets. The netflix thing was very popular with people I’ve talked to (well-meaning but busy people), and all of them took it as factual without question.

  10. polecat

    Nice to know that that Ceiling of smokin hot Glass ashtrays, is all radiant and bright like, as can be deployed .. with nary as such a broken ‘pain’ … pottery war-shards be damned!

  11. cyclist

    …..Time will tell, of course, but one of the chief indicators will be his pick for Secretary of Defense, the person who will reflect, influence and implement his foreign policy…..

    So, let’s be honest and just get rid of the State Department. And go back to the old days when the DoD was the War Department.

  12. HH

    It should be noted that the MIC blob now has the temerity to name the Secretary of Defense even before the conclusion of the Presidential election. Flournoy’s name magically appeared in a dozen publications as the “leading candidate” for SecDef months before the Biden victory. Flourney is one of dozens of studious and articulate warhawks who are systematically groomed by Blob institutions for political roles in sustaining the US war machine. The Blob doesn’t even pretend to hide its machinations any more. It considers itself invincible.

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