Pivot to Democracy: The Real Promise of the Quad

Alyssa Ayres in War on the Rocks

Malabar 2017 Exercise

Ships from the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the U.S. Navy sail in formation, July 17, 2017, in the Bay of Bengal as part of Exercise Malabar 2017 (US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder/COMSEVENTHFLT/Flickr). 

January 3, 2019

The following is an excerpt from a piece written by Asia 21 Young Leader Alyssa Ayres ('06) for War on the Rocks on January 3, 2019. 

One year ago, the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi delivered the most iconic image to date of the “Quad”: admirals from Australia, India, Japan, and the United States on one stage. The four admirals — the Australian and Indian naval chiefs, the head of then-U.S. PACOM (renamed as INDOPACOM in May 2018), and the head of Japan’s joint staff — stood shoulder-to-shoulder soon after the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy call for renewed quadrilateral cooperation, and just weeks after the first Quad gathering since 2007. The image of four militaries in concert, as it were, took on outsized symbolism by showing the potential of four great democracies to secure the Indo-Pacific.

flurry of articles highlighting the military potential the Quad represents followed. Given its less-than-alliance-level formation, however, and some of its members’ various hesitancies about regular military activities involving all four, a maritime and military-heavy emphasis may well be a vision too freighted with outsized expectations. More importantly, by over-militarizing the idea of the Quad, and limiting its scope to maritime security, analysts and policymakers will miss a strategic opportunity to focus on protecting what binds these four countries together in the first place: democracy. A broader agenda encompassing the range of civilian security and technology issues now coming to the fore will better fulfill the Quad’s promise.

That agenda should continue to include counterterrorism, and also work to counter violent extremism more broadly. It should also include cooperation on questions of emerging technology, as next-generation developments like 5G and autonomous vehicles present new potential threats to privacy and security. A civilian security Quad agenda should also take up — in dialogue with the tech sector — the malign ways once-utopian social media platforms can be used as vectors for hate, recognizing that better information about how bad actors have exploited such platforms in open democracies can help lead to better solutions. Finally, against a backdrop of state-sponsored influence operations and shadowy election meddling, the Quad countries should talk as well about this threat and share approaches on how to secure ourselves against it.

Read the full article here.