A coalition of liberal political groups is pressuring Biden not to choose defense expert Michèle Flournoy as secretary of defense, arguing that the Obama administration veteran could push for a “potentially catastrophic” military confrontation with China.
RootsAction, Code Pink and other liberal organizations released a statement Monday opposing Flournoy, long considered Biden’s most likely choice as Pentagon chief. Biden did not name anyone to the Defense Department post when he rolled out other national security advisers last week, amid questions about whether he had settled on Flournoy.
“We urge President-Elect Joe Biden and U.S. Senators to choose a Secretary of Defense who is unencumbered by a history of advocating for bellicose military policies and is free of financial ties to the weapons industry,” the statement said. “Michèle Flournoy does not meet those qualifications and is ill-suited to serve as Secretary of Defense.”
The liberal groups cited Flournoy’s support for a troop surge in Afghanistan and for U.S. military deployments or action in Syria and Libya, “policies resulting in geopolitical disasters and tremendous human suffering.”
The statement also criticized Flournoy for other policy positions and accused her of “ramping up a Cold War with China.”
“Flournoy’s approach to China is potentially catastrophic,” the groups wrote. The statement cited congressional testimony earlier this year in which Flournoy warned that the United States risks losing its strategic military advantage against China.
The United States should project massive military capability as a deterrent and should be planning now for what that might entail, she said. Flournoy cited, as one potential example, an analysis of what U.S. capabilities would be required “to credibly threaten to sink 300 military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships within 72 hours.”
“Such a capability would certainly pose a fundamental dilemma for any great power contemplating aggression, forcing them to consider whether it’s worth putting their entire fleet at risk,” Flournoy told the House Armed Services Committee in January.
Although Flournoy’s testimony also recommended finding ways to cooperate with China on global problems, the liberal groups said her posture was too warlike.
“At a time when we must work with China to fight the coronavirus and save the planet from an existential climate crisis, Flournoy’s approach would undermine such efforts by preparing for war with China,” they wrote.
The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of the statement, in which the groups threatened to lobby senators against confirming Flournoy, should Biden nominate her.
“RootsAction.org has a 1.2 million active list of supporters in the U.S., and we’re geared up for an all-out push for a ‘no’ vote, if it comes to that,” said Norman Solomon, national director of that organization.
The statement was also signed by Progressive Democrats of America, Code Pink, World Beyond War and Our Revolution.
It follows statements of support last week from Flournoy by some Democrats, including Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who sits on the Armed Services Committee, and members of other liberal-leaning groups. Speier noted that Flournoy would make history as the first female defense chief.