Every few years since 1996, the Department of Defense has released the
Quadrennial Defense Review, a comprehensive examination of the tasks
facing the U.S. military. The Pentagon's second QDR since September 11, 2001 leaked
this weekend ahead of this morning's scheduled release. The 128-page
report surveys the military's future--from the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan to practices for hiring contractors to its
role in global humanitarian crisis. Bloggers, reporters and military
insiders are parsing the QDR, picking out the big and unexpected
changes in the U.S. military and its challenges ahead.
- Why The QDR Matters Robert Farley counters
liberal critics who dismiss the QDR military bloat that
fails to address more pressing concerns. "The US military is a huge
organization of organizations, and by virtue
of its size even small course corrections affect the lives of millions
of people." Even "lip service" on, say, increased humanitarian work can
make a huge difference.
- Less Boats and Planes, More Human Terrain Spencer Ackerman reports a reduced emphasis on fighting a conventional war. Instead, "missions include supporting civilian authorities, improving
cyberspace capabilities and performing counterinsurgency,
counterterrorism and stability operations."
- Ends 'The Long War' Against Terror Robert Farley finds
what could be the most significant detail: zero mentions of "the long
war," a phrase that has dominated the military by defining the war on
terror in cold war-like terms. Farkins thinks the military now sees
each threat, such as in Afghanistan or Yemen, as distinct rather than
part of a monolithic, Soviet-like enemy. "What it lacks in narrative,
however, it makes up for in general good sense."
- Declaring War on Climate Change Erik Loomis sees
efforts within the military to curb energy consumption and, more
importantly, a push to consider military threats caused by climate
change. For example, rising sea levels change naval dynamics and
evaporating resources can worsen many poverty-based conflicts.
- Liberal's Dream: Focus On Multilateralism Spencer Ackerman cheers, "[T]he more emphasis placed on multilateralism and collective security in
our basic defense planning documents the better, as far as I'm
concerned. This is a foundational premise of liberal internationalism.
And it's a 'central elemen[t] of U.S. security strategy,' according to
- Little Focus on China's Naval Ambitions The U.S. Naval Institute's official blog
writes that "preventing and deterring more conventional conflict" is
addressed, but the blogger worries that China's expanding naval
presence sees insufficient attention. "The inherent danger in such a
practice is the strategic space it gives
potential adversaries to maneuver and accomplish long-term goals - like
establishing overseas bases."
- Emphasis on Health Christopher Albon,
who specializes in conflict health, sees his field expanding.
"[H]umanitarian disasters are mentioned as one such area where the US
could have a national security interest in strengthening weakened
governments against natural disasters." But it focuses heavily on Asia,
to the exclusion of other areas. "The DoD discusses at length
partnering with Asia and Oceanic states to
improve their capacity to respond to humanitarian crises and natural
disasters. Africa and South America are only briefly mentioned."
- 'Teach-Coach-Mentor' Missions Spencer Ackerman finds
500 personnel now dedicated to guiding foreign militaries. An
alternative to direct U.S. involvement, Ackerman says this tactic was
utilized effectively in the Philippines and could be applied in Yemen.
- Proves Pentagon's 'Limited Relevance' Matthew Yglesias thinks the report demonstrates "that for all the vastness of its budget,
the Department of Defense has a limited relevance to the international
relationships that really matter." On our relationship with China, trade and monetary policy is "far, far, far more
significant" to Americans that the country's defense posture. He concludes, "it seems pointless to try to
draw a budgetary distinction between 'security' and 'non-security'
agencies. Our interests around the world are inherently connected to
the impact of the world on events inside our borders."
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