November 26, 2013

Flournoy Urges ‘Hedge’ Against China as U.S. Bombers Send a Message to Beijing

Featuring Michèle Flournoy

Source: Defense News

Journalist JOHN T. BENNETT

The U.S. flew two B-52 bombers over a large area of ocean China recently claimed. The U.S. did not, reportedly, inform Beijing of the B-52s presence there despite China’s demand of such notifications. 

Michèle Flournoy is a link to the past of U.S. defense policymaking, having served in various Pentagon posts during each of the last three decades. And she could be its future, with Washington’s rumor mill continuing to turn out speculation she might be the nation’s first female defense secretary.

So it was telling Tuesday when Flournoy provided some comments about the future of the U.S.-China relationship just minutes after news broke that the U.S. flew two B-52 bombers over a massive swath of ocean China now says it owns — and claims the right to defend with force, if necessary — without notifying Beijing.

During an Aspen Institute-sponsored luncheon in Washington, Flournoy offered “two lessons” from past U.S. defense drawdowns that followed American wars she believes should drive the current one.

Flournoy called the relationship with Beijing “the most important strategic question we will face in coming decades.”

What’s more, Flournoy hopes U.S. officials (her former colleagues) will soon finalize “a vision” for U.S.-Sino relations “beyond 2014.”

Washington must “support China” in becoming “a more responsible stakeholder globally,” she said.

But Flournoy quickly turned hawkish, saying America must also “have some hedge” should China continue its

The former Pentagon policy chief said Washington must maintain a lethal military and a robust Pacific presence.

But, the ever-nuanced favorite of the current president and the Democrat’s 2016 presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, added that must be carried out in a way that avoids “feeding or fueling” regional tensions.

“That’s a fine line,” said Flournoy.

U.S. officials claimed Tuesday’s B-52 flight was part of a long-planned exercise. After China’s muscular claim to the area, however, the Obama administration may have just blurred the exact location of that “fine line.”

Notably, William Lynn, a former U.S. deputy defense secretary, told Defense News editors and producers on Monday that due to sequestration the United States might soon loose its ability to deploy military assets in an attempt to deter potential foes. It appears that is not yet the case.


  • Michèle Flournoy

    Chair, CNAS Board of Directors, Co-founder and Managing Partner, WestExec Advisors

    Michèle Flournoy is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors, and former Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), w...