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Pentagon Official Will Give Big Afghanistan Speech to Neocon Think Tank

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, one of the Obama administration’s most influential officials shaping Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, will give a talk on Monday at the American Enterprise Institute elaborating on President Obama’s speech and adjusted strategy. It’s hard not to read too much into this, but I’ll try my best.

AEI is an odd venue for Flournoy for two reasons. First, she co-founded the most influential think tank of the Obama era, the Center for a New American Security. And second, AEI is the locus of neoconservatism, the ideology that, more than any other, encouraged the United States to ignore and under-resource the Afghanistan war during the Bush administration. The left is, I think it’s fair to say, decidedly unhappy with Obama today, and is comparing him to former President George W. Bush. Flournoy’s speech will seem to them something like the last scene in ‘Animal Farm.’

Chances are, Flournoy is speaking to AEI in order to solidify support for the war on the right, which has reacted generally positively to Obama’s speech, notwithstanding its deep antipathy to the president himself. Flournoy’s task will be to see how deeply she can entrench that sentiment and tamp down the rancor that the president identified as deleterious to the war. That puts the right in a box: how to support a war without bolstering Obama?

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