Michèle Flournoy | September 7, 2021
Professor Peter Feaver and Michèle Flournoy discussed American strategic defense policy. In the wake of U.S. troops withdrawing from Afghanistan and the subsequent Taliban takeover, competition with China and tense relations with Russia, many challenges and opportunities lie ahead for American security.
This event was not recorded.
Event summary by Peter Connolly:
On September 7th, Professor Peter Feaver hosted the Honorable Michèle Flournoy via Zoom for a discussion on American Defense Policy and the challenges and opportunities it faces. Michèle Flournoy was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2009 to 2012. As the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, she became the highest ranking woman to serve in the Defense Department.
The event touched on President Biden’s Afghanistan exit from Afghanistan and how it plays into the administration’s longer term strategy, as well as its broader impact on American defense policy. Flournoy, drawing on her experience in the Defense Department, spoke about how the U.S. will be shifting to a mix of drone strikes, special operations raids and local partners as their primary counterterrorism strategy going forward and ability to disrupt jihadist activity. She did mention though that without military bases in Afghanistan, the U.S. will struggle in getting local cooperation and intelligence that was vital to rooting out terrorist networks in Afghanistan. She compared those extensive efforts with the cost of being in Afghanistan, both monetarily and in the lives lost. She spoke about related issues that factor into the strategy and decision calculus, including the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.
Flournoy also spoke about how the Biden administration is pushing its Defense Department to shift its focus towards countering China in the Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions. China is developing hypersonic weapons and more advanced weapons systems including a class of stealth fighters. The Defense Department will invest a lot of resources so that the U.S. can maintain its strategic advantage in weapons and military systems.
During the Q&A, the audience asked a number of questions including about how the Obama administration’s experience in Afghanistan impacted President Biden’s decision. Flournoy said that Biden as Vice President had always advocated for a troop drawdown in Afghanistan and more special forces and other long range counter terrorism measures. Other questions addressed the lessons learned from the withdrawal in Afghanistan, leverage that the U.S. has over the Taliban, and the issues of women and minority rights under the Taliban.