Quadrennial Defense Review 2006 - A Farewell to Unilateralism?

Posted in Other | 14-Mar-06 | Author: Dieter Farwick

WSN Editor-in-Chief Dieter Farwick on the Red Square: "NATO is more a political alliance than a military one."
WSN Editor-in-Chief Dieter Farwick on the Red Square: "NATO is more a political alliance than a military one."
Without any doubt, studying the “QDR 2006” is a must for everyone who wants to get an insight into US security and defense policy. Especially for someone like me who examines the 100 page review from a German perspective.

QDR 2006 identifies “four priority areas for examination:

  • Defeating terrorist networks
  • Defending the homeland in depth
  • Shaping the choices of countries at strategic crossroads
  • Preventing hostile states and non-state actors from acquiring or using WMD.”

A lot of unforeseen events and developments happened after the release of QDR 2001 which was published only a few weeks after 9/11, which I happened to experience live in Washington DC. For me, it was quite obvious that this murderous attack would change world politics for a long time.

A lot of the “lessons learned” from the period between September 2001 and early 2006 found their way into the hearts and minds of those who put together QDR 2006 – after the political experience with “willing” and “unwilling” partners, with the “war on terrorism”, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the conflict in and around Israel, the damage control after the hurricanes Katrina and Wilma and the emergence of new world powers – China and India – on the horizon. The world is in transition from the years of a unipolar world dominated by the lone superpower, the United States, to a world that will be more multipolar with power centers emerging in Beijing and New Delhi.

For a foreigner, the attitude of the US government is somewhat surprising. The attitude is very pragmatic and characterized by Realpolitik – especially towards China. On the one hand, China is described as the only “conventional and traditional threat” for the US and on the other hand the US reaches out to China as a partner for trade as well as for financial and economic cooperation. Reading the survey it becomes obvious that the US accepts that China is on its way to becoming a world power, but it keeps the powder dry when looking to Taiwan.

To contain China and its influence and power in Asia and beyond, the US government – especially Condoleezza Rice – has shifted the emphasis of US foreign and security policy to Asia. The crowning of this multi-pronged effort was the recently agreed nuclear deal between India and the US.

QDR 2006 names other countries in Asia that the US government regards as significant allies and partners such as Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines that China might perceive as a kind of encirclement. This is a prudent way for the US to keep its status of being an Asia-Pacific power against the wishes of China to minimize or even neutralize the US status quo in the region.

It will be interesting to follow this political competition in the future. I think both governments know that war between them is not a favorable option.

QDR 2006 makes it quite clear that Europe is at the level of third priority, behind Asia and the Broader Middle East.

Being “NATO-minded” and with some years of experience working in NATO headquarters, I was pleased to read about the significance of NATO as a provider of security and stability: “NATO remains the cornerstone of transatlantic security and makes manifest the strategic solidarity of democratic states in Europe and North America.” NATO is as strong and efficient as NATO nations want. In the past, some European observers had the feeling that the US government regarded NATO as a “tool box” from which the US could pick and choose the tools it needed.

One question mark that I place is behind the statement that the US prefers “dynamic alliances” instead of “static alliances.” Is NATO “static” or “dynamic?” The answer depends on the resolve of the 26 NATO nations to make NATO strong and efficient. As “primus inter pares,” the US has to play a leading dynamic role within NATO. This starts by making NATO the political forum where worldwide security and stability issues are discussed in order to prevent the outbreak of conflicts.

NATO is more a political alliance than a military one. NATO has to orchestrate elements of soft and hard power. In close cooperation with about 20 partners of the Partnership for Peace Program, NATO at 26 should be a respected global player.

I understand that the US wants to avoid lengthy discussions with European partners whose rhetoric is much stronger than their military capabilities.

Quadrennial Defense Review 2006.
Quadrennial Defense Review 2006.
It was interesting to listen to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at the conference in Munich in February 2006 where her message was loud and clear: NATO first!

NATO faces three challenges: Afghanistan, Iraq and the NATO Response Force (NRF). These litmus tests will decide about the future of NATO. QDR 2006 applauds NATO’s role in Afghanistan, which will gain even more importance this year. NATO needs a long haul to stabilize Afghanistan beyond Kabul. NATO nations have accepted the call to strengthen their troops. I hope that they will deliver what they promised.

Iraq is a very difficult problem for NATO. 19 out of 26 NATO nations were or are part of the “Coalition of the Willing.” Nations that opposed the war are not willing to have NATO involved as an alliance on the ground. This is difficult to change. At the very least, NATO should and could as an alliance do even more to advance nation building in Iraq and the training of Iraqi civil agents, police force and military outside Iraq.

QDR 2006 shows trust and confidence in the development of the NATO Response Force that will be operational in January 2007. Exercises with the NRF show the progress in nations’ contributions as far as quality and equipment are concerned.

QDR 2006 addresses an important issue for any coalition or alliance: Interoperability. The US is obviously prepared to enhance the technological support of partners and allies to enable synergetic affects on the ground.

Due to QDR 2006, the crystal ball offers no clear picture of the future – neither political nor military aspects. The catchwords are change, transition, uncertainty and surprise. The planning horizon until 2025 has been labeled: “Expect the unexpected.” In his statement, Donald Rumsfeld calls QDR 2006 “A roadmap for change, leading to victory ”

Future permanent change and uncertainties are not what strategic planners like, but that’s a fact of life. Since the end of the Cold War, world development has become unpredictable. There is only one certainty: The war on terror will be a “long war.” The same is true about the duration of military commitments in peacekeeping operations around the globe.

The experiences of the last 4-5 years have made it gin clear that national and international cooperation has to be enhanced. Intra-agencies, inter-agencies and international rivalries and incompetence must be overcome to better cope with manmade and/or natural disasters. These lessons have led to a myriad of coordinating offices that I doubt will work together efficiently.

One major lesson learned leads to the focus on civilian and military personnel: “The central reality that success depends on the dedication, professionalism and skills of the men and women in uniform – volunteers all.” Overseas commitments with long duration and the loss of many lives and many casualties have put a strain on personnel.

Qualification and motivation of personnel must – due to QDR 2006 – be enhanced through the recruitment of well-trained, highly motivated “joint war fighters” and civilian “nation builders” who possess language skills, information technology skills and cultural awareness.

QDR 2006 makes it clear that US forces have to be capable of fighting in “irregular warfare” as well as in traditional and conventional “high intensity warfare” – even though “irregular warfare” seems to be the more likely – now.

Therefore, US forces have to be both “light” and ”heavy” to meet different challenges. But all fights have to be “joint and combined” based on further developed “network centric warfare” capabilities in C4 ISR. This system of systems should allow “massing the impact” instead of massing the troops. “Massing the impact” includes the nuclear option “which remains a keystone of US national power.”

QDR 2006 asks for more “jointness” in weapons procurement and equipment. There is no longer the need for all services to be able to fight on their own, if and when “jointness” is the new strategic “law.”

One assessment is certainly correct so that the phrase “one size fits all” is no longer true. The US must have more tailored capabilities to deter- and if deterrence fails – “to defeat advanced military powers, regional WMD states, or non-state terrorism.”

As the crystal ball does not offer a clear assessment of the future threat, US forces can no longer be “threat based” but instead have to be “capability based.” But the emerging capabilities no longer allow US forces to fight and win two parallel “major conventional operations.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "A road map for change, leading to victory."
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "A road map for change, leading to victory."
QDR 2006 addresses the issue of the force stationing posture. A balance must be found between the permanent stationing of US forces and material abroad and stationing at home. In this question, strategic transport plays a vital role.

“Prevent, deter and defeat” remain the three basic tasks acknowledging that deterrence and denial have a different meaning in “irregular warfare” and in “asymmetric warfare.” There is no doubt that preemptive strikes are valid options: “At the operational level, the United States must be able to prevent or disrupt adversaries’ ability to plan and execute operations rather than being forced to respond to attacks after they have occurred.”

QDR 2006 demands “principles of transparency, constructive competition to encourage innovation, agility and adaptability, collaboration and partnership and a shift of emphasis to meet the new strategic environment.”

QDR 2006 addresses – based upon the experience in Iraq- a sensitive issue: The readiness and individual qualifications in many ministries do not meet the standards that well-trained, “battle-hardened” military HQ and soldiers meet on short notice. QDR 2006 asks for the “unity of effort for complex interagency operations abroad,” because: “The United States will not win the war on terrorism or achieve other crucial national security objectives…by military alone.”

This is in my view a crucial issue for any operation abroad – be it the UN, NATO, the EU or any “Coalition of the Willing.” There is no equivalent “civil corps” that is well trained and capable for any quick reaction. Soldiers often have to take over missions they are not trained for.

QDR 2006 is correct in demanding an organization that can fill this gap that causes setbacks in nation building from the beginning of any operation. There is no clear cut between conflict and post-conflict operations. There has to be an overlapping effort as early as possible.

When it comes to the resources that the US government and governments of other countries put into their defense budgets, I have a feeling of great envy from a German perspective. The US defense budget is about 20 times higher than the German defense budget.

In spite of this huge amount of money, QDR 2006 asks for more efficiency and the deletion of unnecessary redundancies. My experience tells me that under the label of “jointness” any force planning has to follow a top-down approach to overcome the special interests of the services. It’s a waste of money, time and effort if and when the planning follows a bottom-up approach.

This is easier said than done. There is a lot of old thinking. To meet the requests made in QDR 2006, the political and military leadership need strong nerves – parallel to the ongoing military operations abroad.

Conclusions and recommendations

QDR 2006 outlines the full spectrum of all elements relevant for national security and stability from: the new strategic environment to national interests via risk and threat assessments to a “grand strategy” and to force planning at the end.

It’s a good democratic exercise to explain to the American taxpayer as well as to the national and international public the present and future American security policy.

This review is not a recipe on how to cope with present and future challenges. It is an in-depth analysis and a program for the next 20 years. A plan is a plan. Some programs will never become reality, because new events and new lessons learned will lead to new questions and answers.

I would appreciate it if all major players in the world would put a similar document on the table. Those documents are trust and confidence building measures on the one side. On the other side they are instruments of deterrence and denial, telling potential adversaries what they have to expect from the US superpower if and when these adversaries prepare or execute hostile acts.

In my view, QDR 2006 asks the right questions and gives all in all sound answers. The quest for “jointness” asks for new thinking for military planners. There will be a lot of hurdles on the way ahead, but there is no alternative to it.

From my personal view the new thinking of more multilateral operations and the US objective to strengthen partnerships around the globe is major progress. Based upon common values and common objectives, there is a good chance that the US with its allies, friends and partners will prevail.

My recommendations:

  • The US should promote a peaceful transition into the future multipolar world

  • The unavoidable competition with China should exclude military aspirations on both sides

  • The US should act as a cooperative “hegemon”

  • The US should further strengthen alliances to improve worldwide security and stability

  • The US should strengthen NATO as the alliance for stability and security “out of area”

  • NATO nations should seize the chance and develop long missing political resolve and capabilities to enable burden sharing, division of labor and role specialization within NATO

  • Crisis and war prevention should be the common objective of the US and its partners, friends and allies. But if and when deterrence and denial as well as extended political and diplomatic activities fail, the US and its partners must fight and win together