Resolved: The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue should establish a formal security alliance (essay, bib, evidence)

This file contains the key evidence on the Quad. For the general, “China threat, not a threat” debate, you should download our Great Power Competition file.

One potential November-December resolution asks the question of whether or not the, “The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue should establish a formal security alliance.”

Key Point: I haven’t found a single article that advocates this.  This is the closest I’ve found:

Outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contended in October 2020 that formalizing the Quad could help build a “true security framework” to meet the challenges posed by Beijing. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has asserted that the Atlantic Alliance “must become global” and departing US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun affirmed that some speculative discussions on the prospects of forming an “Indo-Pacific NATO” had taken place on the sidelines of the US-India Strategic Dialogue. Panda


The Quad, short for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a group of four countries: The United States, Australia, India and Japan.  While the grouping is not an alliance that has mutual defense commitments, all of the countries are democracies that share concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior and has worked together on COVID-19 vaccines, climate change, technology innovation, and supply chain resilience.
The resolution asks the question of whether or not these countries should enter into a formal military alliance.

The Pro

The Pro is “tricky” (to be generous) because I’ve yet to find a single article that advocates this. And even if there is one, we will probably only end up with one or two, making this quite difficult to debate. While there are many articles that argue for strengthening the Quad, none argue for it becoming a military alliance.

If this resolution wins and the Pro has to come up with arguments, I suggest the following —

China deterrence. A strong Quad alliance is needed to deter China.

Supply Chains. A military alliance will (somehow) strengthen global supply chains.

Technology development. The Quad is an important mechanism f r technology development. — : Following the recent Quad meeting, the White House released a statement addressing key areas of future cooperation. “Critical and Emerging Technologies” were specifically highlighted and the following topics were addressed.

It was announced that the “Quad will cooperate on technical exchanges and testbed activity to advance interoperability and telecommunications cybersecurity.” Furthermore, the Quad members launched a “consortium of investors that seeks to advance access to capital for critical and emerging technologies within and across the Quad.”  National Defense Magazine

Democracy. An alliance of democracies can serve to protect global democracy – “This geopolitically relevant quartet of partners, consisting of the United States, Australia, India and Japan, was originally constituted to serve as, what former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called, “the Asian Arc of Democracy.”  National Defense Magazine

The Con 

There are a number of arguments against making it a military alliance.

China alienation/backlash/militarization/war.  China opposes the Quad and turning it into a military alliance could alienate China. Con teams will have to argue why an alliance is uniquely bad, as China already opposes the existing Quad, but there is good evidence that China uniquely India entering into an alliance with the US and strengthening the Quad’s military components.

Undermining the Quad. I think the best argument against the resolution is that many articles suggest that keeping Quad commitments at a more vague and open-ended level encourages cooperation with the Quad. If it becomes a military alliances, countries may not want to cooperate for fear of alienating China.  Some members do not even agree on containing China:  “While Chinese expansionism is the central motivating factor, a lack of commonality over whether to “contain China” or, instead, manage China’s influence and rise remains among Quad members, evidenced by the lack of a joint statement.” Panda

At the very least, Panda explains that it’s too early:

Above all, an attempt to institutionalize the Quad must be drawn on a practical and soft security framework that can gradually transform into a cohesive security (and, perhaps subsequently, a military) unit, shaped by the changing geopolitical situation. The goal of the Quad process, as it appears in their respective official statements, is to preserve a “rules-based order” in Indo-Pacific; a soft security framework must be drawn on their political, economic and ideological commonality. More importantly, such a framework must have a non-military connotation even though it would imbibe some maritime security features. Alongside such a soft security apparatus, the institutionalization of the Quad will invariably depend on building an exclusive Indo-Pacific identity, drawing its strength from democratic ideas and norms. The Quad is a political process, tied to immense soft and hard security objectives. Therefore, before (or alongside) exercising its military-economic muscles, the Quad must initiate deeper cultural and ideological diplomacy tracks to build political synergy that could eventually—given the right strategic circumstances—translate to a tighter security, and eventually a military, arrangement in the Indo-Pacific. Like NATO, driven not only by the Soviet threat but also to promote European political integration, Quad states must seek to establish solidarity and synergy before militarization.




Defining the Diamond: The Past, Present, and Future of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. This is a good history of the Quad.

The Quad: the origins of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. This is a shorter history


An Evolving Agenda for the Quad. This article discusses the potential desirability of having the Quad handle a wider range of issues

Operationalizing the Quad. This June 30, 2022 paper discusses the progress the Quad has made in key areas.

Conference Papers. This is a set of conference papers on the Quad.


The Quad Needs a Harder Edge: It’s Time for the Group to Prioritize Its Security Agenda. This is sort of a Pro article in that it calls for a greater QUAD focus on security, but it does not call for the creation of a formal alliance. And, it even argues, “the Quad indeed embodies a different burden-sharing approach to Indo-Pacific security and stability based on looser coalitions and better coordination. And it seeks to offer choices to countries in the region rather than force them to bend to its will.”


Why China is Paranoid About the Quad.  Although this isn’t an explicitly Con article, it argues that China is concerned about India and the US entering into an explicit military alliance.

The Quad; What it is and What it is Not. It doesn’t explicitly say it, but the basic argument in this article is that if the Quad prioritizes military containment it will alienate other countries from cooperating with the Quad

The Quad’s Future is Tied to a Soft Security. This article argues it is too early to develop the Quad as a military alliance

The Quad Finally Delivers: can it be sustained? This article argues for the slow development of the Quad and claims that if it develops into an anti-China alliance that India will be alienated