The Coalition of the Willing
Ethics of Development in a Global Environment
TA Sahil Khanna
5 June 2003
The coalition of nations willing to support the United States’ invasion of Iraq includes countries that have not traditionally been American allies, let alone military powerhouses. Many would argue that this mishmash of thirty generally small nations did more to refute the legitimacy of the second American conflict with Iraq than it did to support the invasion. The international press has repeatedly mocked the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’. The press claims that these countries did not join the coalition in order to help liberate the Iraqi people, but because they were motivated by self-interest. The derision of the press is also due to the fact that aside from the United Kingdom and Australia, the coalition failed to provide any significant combat assistance to the United States. In fact, some of the countries that signed on with the U.S. are physically incapable of providing such help because they do not have armed forces. Popular support for the invasion was negligible outside of the United States, even in the countries that announced their support, be it symbolic or otherwise. This includes Great Britain where “a majority [of the public] oppose[d] military action.”
This overwhelming lack of support stands in stark contrast to Gulf War I where George H.W. Bush had significant international military support:
The 1991 Gulf War coalition included 34 countries, many of whom provided substantial military assistance, and many of whom were from the Arab world. Twenty-one of those 34 countries do not support U.S. efforts this time, including France, which sent 17,000 troops, and Syria which sent 19,000 troops in 1991.
Administration officials have furnished the list to demonstrate, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued, that the current coalition ‘is larger than the coalition that existed during the Gulf War in 1991.’ But that 34-member group was an actual military coalition, with all members providing troops, aircraft, ships or medics. By that standard, there are only about a half dozen members of the coalition in the current war.
The official public list of the United States’ allies as of March 21, 2003 contained the following 31 countries:
Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.2
Additions since then have included:
Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Kuwait, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Palau, Portugal, Rwanda, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Uganda.2
Together, these nations comprise roughly 10.4% of the world’s total population. Their combined GDP is $20.6 trillion, which according to the White House accounts for roughly 60% of the world GDP2. However, if we remove the United States, that number drops to 34% of the world GDP. Furthermore, if we also remove Japan, whose only support is their willingness to receive reconstruction contracts, then this figure drops even further to 17% of the world GDP. Couple this economic evidence with the fact that the people of the coalition countries did not overwhelmingly support the war, and we see that true non-U.S. coalition supporters accounted for perhaps less than 8% of the world GDP.
U.S. $9,039,463,831,225.64 Japan $5,651,488,411,652.14 Coalition of Willing $5,878,259,280,540.73 $20,569,211,523,418.50 5
Coalition of Willing
To get a better sense of who composed the coalition, we can examine the graphic below. This is perhaps the most effective evidence of the lack of worldwide support for the invasion. As we are about to see, even those committed to the coalition did not provide much assistance to the United States.
The contributions of the coalition countries were as follows:
Albania Provided overflight rights for U.S. warplanes; signed February 5th letter of support; offered 70 non-combat soldiers.8
Australia Provided 2,000 troops; 14 Hornet fighter jets; transport ships.8
Bahrain Base for U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet
Britain 42,000 troops; ships and planes.
Bulgaria Decontamination forces; overflight rights; Black Sea base; signed February 5th letter of support.
Croatia Signed February 5th letter of support.
Czech Republic Decontamination forces; overflight rights; signed January 30th letter of support.
Denmark Offering 50-100 special operations troops; signed January 30th letter of support. Deployed a submarine and small naval destroyer.
Egypt Access to air bases, Suez Canal, Overflight permissions.
Eritrea Public political support
Estonia Signed February 5th letter of support.
Ethiopia Public political support
Hungary Use of base for training Iraqi opposition; possible overflight rights; signed January 30th letter of support.
Iceland Public political support
Israel Bases for Patriot missile batteries; storage of arms and other material.
Italy NATO and Italian bases; overflight rights; signed January 30th letter of support.
Kuwait Bases for about 70,000 U.S. troops.
Japan Post-conflict reconstruction assistance
Jordan Quietly hosting U.S. commandos.
Latvia Signed February 5th letter of support.
Lithuania Overflight rights; signed February 5th letter of support.
Macedonia Signed February 5th letter of support.
Netherlands Non-combat troops; Patriot missile batteries to defend Turkey.8
Oman Bases for warplanes and about 28,000 U.S. personnel.
Palau Public political support.
Poland Signed January 30th letter of support; 1,500 peace-keeping troops.12
Portugal NATO bases and Portuguese air base in the Azores; signed January 30th letter of support.
Qatar Central Command headquarters; bases for 3,500 U.S. military and warplanes.
Romania Special operations teams; signed February 5th letter of support; Opened airspace and strategic ports on the Black Sea.8
Saudi Arabia U.S. air command center at Prince Sultan Air Base outside Riyadh.
Singapore Public support of the invasion
Slovakia Signed February 5th letter of support.
Slovenia Signed February 5th letter of support.
Spain Bases at Rota and Moron; signed January 30th letter of support; non-combat troops.
United Arab Emirates. 3,000 troops; bases, ports for U.S. warplanes and ships.
Turkey NATO air bases
As this list evidences, even the countries that openly chose to support the United States did not do so in a significant manner. In fact, due to treaty obligations, the vilified French would have provided more help than most coalition nations had Saddam used biological or chemical weapons.9 Most of the listed countries do have military forces of some sort, so the absence of these forces is almost an implicit condemnation of the invasion. In fact, The Netherlands issued this statement of reassurance to its people:
The Netherlands Government ... supports a possible action against Iraq. Whereas the Netherlands will not participate in any military action, it will continue to deploy its Patriot missiles in Turkey, for the defense of this NATO partner.6
Taken together, all of this suggests that while the members of the coalition may have had very strong objections to the invasion at some level, there were external pressures that weighed more heavily upon these countries that caused them to join the coalition. We shall see that, as with most international issues, politics and economics played very strong roles. Few, if any, of these countries can be considered to have acted altruistically. Though the State Department has every reason to keep the actual list of incentives under tight wraps, we can see from the following list that many of these countries have very obvious motivations and incentives for becoming involved in a war that otherwise largely lacked any relevance to them.
Albania NATO aspirant.
Australia Bolstering ties with USA. Fast-tracking of free-trade agreement.9 As an indication of how much President Bush appreciated Australia’s military assistance with Iraq, Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard was given insider treatment at President Bush’s ranch, “he was given a precious seat at the table for Mr. Bush’s strategy session with the American negotiators with North Korea.”
Bahrain Bolstering security ties with USA. “See[s] the United States as a guarantor of their security against big neighbors: not only Iraq, but also Iran and Saudi Arabia.”1
Britain Bolstering relationship with USA. Reconstruction contracts.9 As a result of Britain’s military support in Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair was an honored guest at President Bush’s Texas ranch.
Bulgaria Pending NATO membership.
Croatia NATO aspirant.
Czech Republic Bolstering relationship with USA.
Denmark Bolstering ties with USA, NATO.
Egypt Additional U.S. aid.
Estonia Pending NATO membership.
Ethiopia Attempting to gain the United States’ support in what has become a protracted and violent border dispute with Eritrea.
Hungary Bolstering ties with USA.
Israel Wants $12 billion aid/loan package on top of its current $3 billion annually.
Italy Bolstering ties with USA. Italian Prime Minister “Berlusconi sees his closeness to Bush as part of an effort to portray himself as a global power broker.”1
Kuwait Still thankful for the liberation efforts in 1991. Relies upon the U.S. for much of its oil sales. Bolstering security ties with USA. “See[s] the United States as a guarantor of their security against big neighbors: not only Iraq, but also Iran and Saudi Arabia.”1
Japan Bolstering ties with the United States. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was invited to President Bush’s Crawford ranch and was treated to a last-minute surprise: “Mr. Bush invited his house guest to sit in on his highly classified morning intelligence briefing, the daily global review of terrorist threats, loose nukes and brewing hot spots.”12
Jordan Military and economic aid as well as a proposed free trade agreement.9
Latvia Pending NATO membership.
Lithuania Pending NATO membership.
Macedonia NATO aspirant.
Oman Continued regional security.
Philippines Bolstering ties with the United States. The New York Times reports that:
Mr. Bush pulled out all the stops for the president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – even enduring a formal news conference in the East Room, one of Mr. Bush’s least favorite venues – to make clear to her constituents half a world away that they would be rewarded for allowing the American military to pursue terrorists on their territory.11
Poland Poland's president is a potential candidate for the position of NATO secretary-general and will need the U.S. to support his bid. President Bush recently visited Poland, “to thank [Poland] for supporting American policy in Iraq when other, bigger members of the Atlantic alliance campaigned vociferously against it.” The visit, “signals that Poland, in the enthusiastic eyes of Washington, has become an important ally, even a special friend – to be distinguished from obstructionist allies in old Europe, notably France and Germany.”12 Along with this new status, Poland expects to share in the spoils of Iraq. “We would like to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq – to build factories, roads, and bridges, as well as democratic structures,” said Przemyslaw Grudzinski, Poland’s ambassador to the U.S. Some of this stems from Poland’s desire “to recover some of its $700 million debt from Iraq, ‘not necessarily in cash but, if possible, by more permanent participation in the Iraqi economy, to the benefit of both countries.’”13 Poland has been granted an opportunity to do just that as its 1,500 soldiers “command one of four occupation zones in Iraq.”12 Control of one-quarter of Iraq is a potentially very lucrative “thank you” from President Bush.
Portugal Bolstering ties with USA.
Qatar Bolstering security ties with USA. “See[s] the United States as a guarantor of their security against big neighbors: not only Iraq, but also Iran and Saudi Arabia.”1
Romania Pending NATO membership. The Associated Press reports:
Romania is among eight countries behind the former Iron Curtain that have lined up behind Washington -–partly out of gratitude for American support during the Cold War, and partly because they expect U.S. backing in their quests to join NATO and the European Union.8
Saudi Arabia Support for Saudi security.
Singapore “A free trade agreement lowering tariffs and quotas, the first with an Asian country, was signed recently.”9
Slovakia Pending NATO membership.
Slovenia Pending NATO membership.
Spain Strengthening ties with the United States. Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is considered to be politically sympathetic to the current administration. He is oft labeled a neoconservative “who shares President Bush’s stark, right-vs.-wrong view of the world.... The Sept. 11 attacks in the USA struck a chord with Aznar who is battling Spain’s own problem with attacks by Basque separatists.”1 The Prime Minister has also been a distinguished guest at Mr. Bush’s ranch.
United Arab Emirates. Support for regional security.
Turkey The ability to deploy Turkish troops in Iraqi Kurdistan. 10
While the State Department may not have ever come out and explicitly stated that the coalition members have received or will receive these incentives in return for their support, it would be foolish to believe that no causality exists. Every country in the coalition clearly had something to gain from membership. Whether the nation was looking for assistance in the NATO application process, is politically sympathetic, desires the opportunity to recoup lost investments or partake in the spoils of peace, seeks to receive additional economic aid, wants to bolster security ties with the United States, or is merely practicing good business by not angering one of its largest consumers, no country in the coalition can say that it joined for entirely altruistic reasons.
A perfect case study of America’s ability to exert political force with its economic influence is the status disparity between the American-Chilean free trade agreement and the American-Singaporean free trade agreement. Chile and Singapore concluded free trade negotiations at about the same time – November of 2002.
Then came the war, which Singapore strongly supported. On Tuesday, [May 11, 2003] Bush and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong signed the free trade pact.... [Chile] has had a different experience. Chile and the United States were on the verge of signing their trade pact, which would have been Washington’s first with a South American country. But the trade deal was put on hold after the rancorous debate in the United Nations Security Council, in which Chile – supported by a poll showing 85 percent of the Chilean public opposing U.S. military intervention – refused to back a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. ‘To be absolute honest, the signing of the agreement has been influence by our decision at the Security Council,’ said Andres Bianchi, Chile’s ambassador to the United States.9
These radically different experiences clearly demonstrate that the United States is manipulating its powerful economic influence to garner coalition support.
The international community indicted the United States with warmongering and furthering imperialism as soon as the possibility of an attack on Iraq was mentioned. The real surprise came when a host of nations voluntarily became complicit in the United States’ aggression towards Iraq. In light of the paltry military contributions made by the coalition of the willing and especially because of economic, political, and strategic incentives given to the coalition members, we must come to the conclusion that the coalition was primarily motivated by self-interest. The willing nations have cemented their position in the United States’ favor for the time being. It will be interesting to see how long they are willing to maintain them if the United States perpetrates further acts of aggression.
Anderson, Sarah, Bennis, Phyllis, and Cavanagh, John. “Coalition of the willing or coalition of the coerced?” The Institute for Policy Studies, 26 February 2003, <http://www.ips-dc.org/COERCED.pdf>
Armstrong, David. “Allies rewarded with trade pacts.” San Francisco Chronicle, 11 May 2003, sec. I.
Bernstein, Richard . “Bush Visit Will Lift Poland to Status of Special Friend.” New York Times, 29 May 2003
“Fact Sheet: Coalition Contributions to the War on Terrorism.” U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Pakistan, 25 May 2002, <http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/pk1/wwwh02052502.html>
“Gross Domestic Product at Market Exchange Rates by Region with Most Countries.” International GDP Information, <http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/other.html#GDP>
Kole, William J. “Anti-Iraq coalition shows some limits.” Associated Press, 19 March 2003
Milbank, Dana. “White House Notebook: Many willing, but few are able.” Washington Post, 25 March 2003
Sanger, David E. “President Rewards Like-Minded Leaders with State Visits.” New York Times, 27 May 2003
Schifferes, Steve. “US says ‘coalition of willing’ grows.” BBC News US Edition, 21 March 2003, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2870487.stm>
Slavin, Barbara. “U.S. builds war coalition with favors - and money.” USA Today, 25 February 2003, sec. A
Weisman, Jonathan. “War Will Be Mostly an American Effort.” Washington Post, 19 March 2003, sec. A
“What allies are offering and getting in return.” USA Today Online, 27 April 2003, <http://www.usatoday.com/news/2003-02-25-unwilling.htm>
Whitmore, Brian. “US war allies from East Europe seeking payback.” Boston Globe, 20 April 2003, sec. A
 Barbara Slavin, “U.S. builds war coalition with favors - and money,” USA Today, 25 February 2003, sec. A
 Steve Schifferes, “US says ‘coalition of willing’ grows,” BBC News US Edition, 21 March 2003, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2870487.stm>
 Dana Milbank, “White House Notebook: Many willing, but few are able,” Washington Post, 25 March 2003
 Sarah Anderson, Phyllis Bennis, and John Cavanagh, “Coalition of the willing or coalition of the coerced?” The Institute for Policy Studies, 26 February 2003, <http://www.ips-dc.org/COERCED.pdf>
 “Gross Domestic Product at Market Exchange Rates By Region with Most Countries,” International GDP Information, <http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/other.html#GDP>
 Jonathan Weisman, “War Will Be Mostly An American Effort,” Washington Post, 19 March 2003, sec. A
 “Fact Sheet: Coalition Contributions to the War on Terrorism,” U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Pakistan, 25 May 2002, <http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/pk1/wwwh02052502.html>
 William J. Kole, “Anti-Iraq coalition shows some limits,” Associated Press, 19 March 2003
 David Armstrong, “Allies rewarded with trade pacts,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11 May 2003, sec. I.
 Unless otherwise noted, this information largely came from “What allies are offering and getting in return,” USA Today Online, 27 April 2003, <http://www.usatoday.com/news/2003-02-25-unwilling.htm>
 David E. Sanger, “President Rewards Like-Minded Leaders With State Visits,” New York Times, 27 May 2003
 Richard Bernstein, “Bush Visit Will Lift Poland to Status of Special Friend,” New York Times, 29 May 2003
 Brian Whitmore, “US war allies from East Europe seeking payback,” Boston Globe, 20 April 2003, sec. A