Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 8 March 23 - 29, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Militarily Limited Coalition
By Col. Dan Smith (Ret.)
weeks, the Bush administration has claimed it has many partners in its anti-Iraq
"coalition of the willing." But until recently it repeatedly declined
to name those on the list or to indicate the contribution each is making to the
reluctance is understandable on many counts. Some governments are wary of the
adverse reaction that might manifest itself among their peoples from any
revelation of significant support for the U.S. war effort. By not showing its
hand, Washington has been able to maintain psychological pressure on undecided
states who will want to be counted as part of the winning team once the fighting
stops. And just possibly, the White House might be embarrassed by the paucity of
militarily significant support from its coalition partners.
Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) noted in a late February,
2003 report that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage claimed that 21
countries had granted access rights and another 20 overflight rights. Culling
through world media reports, IPS identified 34 of these 41 countries, which they
listed in their report, Coalition of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced?
Tuesday March 18th, the State Department released a list of 30 countries willing
to be named as part of the coalition, and claimed the support of "another
15 or so." Those named were: Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan,
Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia,
Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia,
the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain,
Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan.
countries named by the State Department that are not on the list compiled by IPS
are: Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Eritrea, Iceland, South Korea, the
Netherlands, Nicaragua, and Uzbekistan. These nine, together with the IPS-identified
34, total 43 countries. Germany, which reportedly has sent a small support
detachment to the Gulf, would be the 44th coalition participant.
of the world's 197 countries is more than 20%, a not totally inconsequential
number. But in the absence of substantial troop commitments, geography comes in
to play as a determinant of the significance of any "contribution" to
the coalition. And with diplomacy declared dead by the White House, all that
counts now is what a country adds militarily.
of the new nine are believed to be sending troop units; indeed, two--Afghanistan
and Colombia--have major internal security problems, Eritrea has just emerged
from a devastating war with Ethiopia, and South Korea is confronting a suddenly
very belligerent North Korea. Moreover, all of the new nine lie outside transit
zones for U.S. forces heading to the Gulf.
two countries have committed forces in any number: Great Britain (40,000) and
Australia (2,000). The Czech Republic and Bulgaria have sent chemical and
biological defense units of about 150 personnel each, although when given the
opportunity to return home, some Czech troops opted to do just that.
the Gulf Cooperation Council countries--Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United
Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman--either host U.S. forces or have allowed
pre-positioning of equipment.
stance may be shifting from refusing to permit U.S. ground troops to transit its
territory to launch a northern front against Iraq. But what the Bush
administration really wants is overflight rights. Otherwise, to reach Iraq from
the Mediterranean Sea, planes and missiles would have to transit Israeli (which
might be a further inducement to Saddam Hussein to attack Israel) and Jordanian
airspace. Jordan is already, though nervously, allowing U.S. Special Forces to
operate from its territory.
NATO allies are a mixed lot. Contributions from Britain, the Czech Republic, and
Bulgaria have been noted, as has Turkey's current indecision. Spain has en route
naval and air bases that transiting U.S. forces could use, but along with
Portugal, Madrid has declined to commit troops.
other NATO countries and candidate countries identified as coalition partners
are not known to be troop contributors and are geographically remote from the
routes used to flow troops and materiel into the Eastern Mediterranean and the
Gulf. Thus their contributions would be militarily insignificant. These
countries include: Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland,
Romania, and Slovakia.
its status as a neutral, Austria barred both land transit and use of its
airspace to U.S. troops wanting to move from Germany to Italy for embarkation to
the war zone. This effectively removed Italy, a strong U.S. supporter, from any
meaningful contribution (it, like Spain, offered no military forces), although
it will obviously not restrict deployment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade from
Vincenza. Austria's move, together with Greece's opposition to the war,
geographically boxed NATO candidate countries Croatia and Slovenia--as well as
the former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia and Albania--from any role in
helping to transit U.S. forces based in Germany.
there are the (again) geographically removed Central and East Asian
countries--Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Japan, Philippines--and Costa Rica, the
only country in the entire Western hemisphere to declare support for the United
sum, from information available as of mid-March, the type of military support
that can be expected from the 44 countries on the combined list are:
the world-wide "coalition of the willing" doesn't seem so large or so
Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a military
affairs analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at www.fpif.org)
is a retired U.S. army colonel and Senior Fellow on Military Affairs at the
Friends Committee on National Legislation.)
March 14, 2003