FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – The Indo-Pacific continues to be a region of strategic importance to U.S. national security, deserving closer attention and understanding. The Army University’s Command and General Staff College’s Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted a panel discussion on “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Indo-Pacific: Building the Quad for Great Power Competition” on Sept. 14 at the Lewis and Clark Center, Fort Leavenworth, KS to help broaden the understanding of diverse and complex social and geo-political current events affecting the region and the world in support of U.S. national security.
As Dr. Mahir Ibrahimov, director of CASO, and moderator for the panel said, “…Geopolitics is never ‘black’ and ‘white’ and always requires a flexibility in your options to explore…” and continuous education and research. The central topic of this CASO panel was the pros and cons of building the Quad or quadrilateral security dialogue as an informal strategic forum consisting of the U.S., India, Australia, and Japan.
“It’s essentially a platform to discuss regional security issues, defense cooperation, and common challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, which originates from the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when the four countries formed the so called ‘Tsunami Core Group’ and it evolved since then,” Ibrahimov said. Each panel member provided their specific perspectives on the Quad and related issues in the region.
They included: Ambassador Stephen M. Young, former director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Ambassador David H. Shinn, career diplomat, former Ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia; LTCOL Paul Mostafa, the Australian Army, CGSC; and Dr. David Hunter-Chester, a senior research analyst, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, G-2.
QUAD Nation’s Adjustments to Mutually Beneficial Support
Mostafa discussed the adjusted defense budget outlined in the Australian Defense Strategy Review, which the panel discussed is something many countries within the Quad and world are doing to be more mutually beneficial both to their own nations as well as the Quad and surrounding regions.
Adjustments in military budget procurements is a way the Australian Defense Force is making these mutually beneficial steps in national security by adjusting investments into items more useful platforms such as long-range weapons and lateral maneuver vessels.
“We’re trying to compliment this idea that the Quad needs to be seen as something other than just an anti-China grouping,” Mostafa explained. Quoting the Indian Prime Minister, he furthered his stance on the Quad’s importance of having a clear mission and vision moving forward of “standing for something, not against something.”
These investments in support to the Quad being a mission based and not an alliance against single strategic powers, complimented Shinn’s expertise on the need to harness purview and understanding of the strategic power of the Indian Ocean, which holds not only political but economic influences on national security in the region.
The Indian Ocean’s Role in National Security
Increased port calls, under water naval intelligence collection, control as top export and import partner of countries touching the Indian Ocean, naval exercises and the establishment of a naval base at Djibouti are just a few of the ways China has made their presence and power in the Indian Ocean. Shinn expanded by introducing the topic of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has seen recent expansions with intensions to bring global south closer to China aimed at the expansion of its influence.
“While China’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean remains modest, it’s economic and political influence…is significant and growing. China is the only country in the world, that has an embassy in every Indian Ocean littoral nation and island country,” he said. “The U.S. still has the strongest naval presence in the Indian Ocean today but increasingly it’s being challenged by China”.
This challenged presence coupled with the multiple military commands’ divided responsibilities creates “bureaucratic stove piping” with no real common-sense way of resolution to a wholistic strategy. “The Quad and “AUKUS”, Australia, United Kingdom and U.S., are key components of U.S. policy in the region and aimed at containing China’s rise in the Indian Ocean,” Shinn said.
The Quad’s Accomplishments and Future Endeavors
As “an Army Brat” returning to Fort Leavenworth was a homecoming for Young, and an “honor” to be part of the discussion, sharing his Indo-Pacific expertise, starting with an assertion that China’s “only two friends are beleaguered Russian and totalitarian North Korea”.
Young used words such as belligerent and authoritarian to describe China’s recent policies that have all but alienated them from the rest of Asia and the world even with middle grounders like Mongolia and Vietnam. “The Quad is still a work in progress, but all signs are that Australia, U.S. and Japan, as well as some other countries of the region, are determined to counter Chinese territorial aggression,” Young said.
Quad: ‘National Security Diamond’
With more than five decades of scholarly research on Japan, Hunter Chester provided insight to the maturation of Japan’s Post-War ‘domestic anti-militarism’ to one of two prime ministers being the first international leaders to suggest the creation of Quad.
Japan’s Post-War anti-militarism norm has driven Japan to pursue what they call comprehensive security with important economic and diplomatic dimensions. A path laid in the early 2000’s by late prime minister Shinzo Abe that veered from the fear of dictatorship riddled militarism, laid the framework for the Quad and a later U.S. adopted free and open Indo-Pacific strategy, which he call, ‘a democratic security diamond’, Hunter Chester explained.
This path has allowed current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, despite continued fear of militarization, to see and understand the economic and diplomatic importance of the Quad, plus the steps necessary to make Japan a formidable value, added to the Quad diamond.
According to Hunter Chester, he has pledged to increase the country’s defense spending, much like Australia, pushing this particular bucket of spending higher for the first time since the 1970’s. “Fumio’s work continues to drive Abe’s and now Japan’s ‘comprehensive security’ approach,” Hunter Chester explained.
“That’s the kind of outlook that produced Abe’s original vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, one that requires cooperation with like minded democracies. The four countries of the Quad remain a cornerstone of that vision,” he said. During the questions and comments session, an interactive discussion followed in ‘a full house’ of the Arnold Conference Room, as well as joined by audiences through a livestream.
This panel is part of a seminar series discussing issues of operational and strategic importance to the U.S., which CASO in coordination with CGSC, universities, think tanks, interagency and other partners conduct every two to three months, which is also live streamed on CGSC’s Facebook page.
Audience reach is across Army schools, Centers of Excellence, Regionally Aligned Forces, Security Forces Assistance Brigades, in addition to deployed or deploying units, Joint, Interagency, Multinational, partners and beyond.
Source: US ARMY