This is from a section about principles undergirding the positioning of U.S. forces abroad. “America’s defense posture should provide a stabilizing influence abroad and be welcomed by the host nation. Forward stationing and rotational deployment of U.S. forces are designed to contribute to regional security and will be enhanced, lessened and reshaped as necessary to reassure allies and partners and strengthen deterrence. The United States will work closely with allies and partners to maintain an appropriately tailored military presence that serves a constructive role in maintaining regional security.”
As I was writing this post, Farley tweeted that the QDR has “lots and lots of basic boilerplate about importance of allies and interagency partnerships.” OK, fair enough. But consider that this document has an international audience. If I’m from a foreign partner military — or a foreign intelligence service — I take away a distinct message from the prevalence of this message, boilerplate or not. I also would not have read this line in previous QDRs: “[A]ugmenting our overseas presence is not always the most effective method to achieve our strategic objectives.” Also, this, about the future of U.S. forces in the Middle East: “the United States will reshape its defense posture to assure partners of a credible, long-term commitment to mutual security relationships and to deter regional actors from aggression while balancing that requirement against the regional sensitivity to a large, long-term U.S. force presence.”
Can you call that boilerplate? Well, yeah. “The U.S. will do good stuff, but will remain mindful of the risks of turning good stuff into bad stuff.” But the place to instantiate what it means — deterring Iran; getting out of Iraq and pretty much Saudi Arabia; returning to a pre-Desert Shield offshore balance? — isn’t the QDR. And the 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 page 57.