View Full Version : High Price of Coalition Operations

08-31-2006, 07:08 AM
31 August New York Times commentary - The High Price of Friendship (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/31/opinion/31weitsman.html) by Patricia Weitsman.

According to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United States has engaged in more multinational operations since the end of the cold war than it did in the preceding 90 years. Relying on one’s partners to fight wars makes sense. After all, it is better to fight with your friends at your side than alone, right?


When waged for the wrong reasons, coalition warfare is more costly and less effective than fighting alone. Coalition warfare requires a high degree of joint planning, consultation and cooperation. The presumption is that this loss of autonomy is more than compensated by having coalition partners provide additional troops on the ground and share the burden of fighting.

Are these in fact the reasons the United States has been using coalition warfare to prosecute wars in the contemporary era? Not exactly. Rather, the United States has used its partners to garner legitimacy for its foreign policy objectives...

This partnership has come at a price. At President Bush’s request, in May 2005 Congress created a $200 million Coalition Solidarity Fund that supports coalition partners in Afghanistan and Iraq. For example, Estonia received $2.5 million in Coalition Solidarity Fund money to support its troops — about 40 in Iraq and 80 in Afghanistan. Albania, with its 120 or so troops in Iraq and 35 or so in Afghanistan, received $6 million, as did the Czech Republic, which has roughly 100 troops in Iraq and 60 in Afghanistan. (The Czechs are expected to withdraw their troops from Iraq by the end of the year while sending approximately 100 new troops to Afghanistan.)

Last year, the United States paid to airlift Poland’s 2,400 troops to Iraq, built their camps and provided equipment. Poland also received $57 million in solidarity funds, although this has not stopped it from drawing down its troops in Iraq. (While Poland recently added 50 troops to its force of 100 in Afghanistan, it may completely withdraw its military from Iraq in 2007.) Mongolia’s contribution of roughly 180 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan earned the country its first presidential visit and a possible free trade agreement...

Once the United States — and its remaining coalition partners — emerge from Iraq, we would do well to re-examine our growing reliance on coalition warfare and develop benchmarks to help us determine whether building a coalition makes sense...

Merv Benson
08-31-2006, 02:42 PM
She makes some good points. There have also been political costs to the multilateral fetishism. The "Mission Accomplished" speech was about telling those who had promised to help in Iraq after Saddam was defeated that it was time to come through. In hindsight, we would probably have been better off without the speech and without the "help." In reality this multilateralism was about appeasing unappeasible domestic critics who were charging that our efforts to liberate Iraq were "unilateral."

I do, however, think that the relationship with Poland has intangible benefits that go well beyond what is happening in Iraq.

Tom Odom
08-31-2006, 04:39 PM
This seems to be a single case analysis extended beyond its limited intellectual reach. Clearly she focuses on the Iraq case; and she resolutely refuses to look any deeper into that case as an example of coalition warfare. I suggest reading Ricks on this aspect of what coalition members agreed to do versus what they were asked to do after Baghdad fell.

But the larger issues of coalition warfare or the many cases where coalition warfare have provided needed support and legitimacy, she largely ignores, notably Desert Shield and Desert Storm as well as WWII, Korea, and Vietnam to name a few other examples. If we are to use WWII as a marker for what the current threat means, then let's look at the painstaking and often painful efforts put into that coalition effort. WWII cooperation between the US, the UK, and the USSR was often a case of three way tug of war between FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. I don't think however any historian would suggest that unliateralism was the way to go.

GWOT is in my mind very much GCOIN--that is to say, our enemies think, act, and respond like transnational insurgents and as such they draw support from state actors and a global Muslim population. Our GCOIN effort must recognize that and act and react accordingly. I have over the past couple of months used Kaleev Sepp's COIN Best Practices article published in Military Review as a framework for discussions on COIN, often set in Rwanda from 1994-1998. The central tenet of COIN is the population is the objective. In the case of GCOIN that population encompasses the Muslim majority that does not accept Wahabist (al Quaeda) or extemist Shia (Hizballah) interpretations and the greater non-Muslim population of the world. Coalition building is therefore central in that effort.

More importantly, GCOIN means that non-lethal is the method of choice and that implies at the strategic level that non-military are the means of choice. For ourselves, I believe we need to structure our effort accordingly and restructure our national security apparatus to reflect and direct that effort. Do not misunderstand me by thinking that I am against the use of the military or the fact that certain targets must necessarily be killed. I do believe that many such targets ultimately will require a dirt nap. But I believe if you take the current discussions on "tactical" COIN and match them against the strategic fight, the parallels are striking and that they resonate historically.

Coalition warfare expensive? Yes, but non-coalition is most certainly more expensive and I believe ultimately self-defeating in this realm of conflict as set on a global stage.


09-08-2006, 12:34 PM
... via a letter to the editor (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/08/opinion/l08poland.html?_r=1&oref=slogin) of the New York Times.

To the Editor:

Re “The High Price of Friendship,” by Patricia Weitsman (Op-Ed, Aug. 31):

Over the last three years, more than 12,000 Polish soldiers have served in Iraq. While the coalition in Iraq included 24 countries in 2003, that number is now lower. But Poland still remains, and since September 2003, as part of the international stabilization force, Polish forces have led the Multinational Division Central South.

In addition to providing intelligence, logistics and tactics for capturing terrorists and liquidating illegal arsenals of military equipment, Polish soldiers are helping to rebuild electric plants, water-distribution systems, roads, bridges, schools and hospitals. We are also training the Iraqi Army, police and border guards.

Poland continues to be a steadfast member of the coalition, but without some degree of financial-logistic support from the United States, this level of Polish military commitment would not be possible.

The Coalition Solidarity Fund and grants that Ms. Weitsman refers to have not covered Poland’s total expenditures on coalition operations. In fact, one-fourth of Poland’s own defense budget funds, originally earmarked for the modernization of its armed forces, was spent on the war in Iraq.

But the highest expenditure has been paid in the blood and lives of Polish soldiers, firmly demonstrating Poland’s own dedication to promoting freedom and democracy.

(Brig. Gen.) Kazimierz Sikorski
Defense, Military, Naval and Air Attaché
Embassy of Poland
Washington, Aug. 31, 2006

09-09-2006, 07:19 PM
When it comes to Iraq I sometimes (cynicaly) wonder if these small countries (Slovenia included) are there just to pad the list of countries in Coalition of the willing. Frankly how much difference does few dozen more troops make? Unless they are specialists in high-demand jobs (mine clearing etc) or have some skills that help interact with locals I doubt there is much difference.

Of course this isn't about small contingents that pay for themselves but rather those who only contribute troops while US picks up the check.

01-25-2007, 07:52 AM
I would somewhat agree with Aktarian, and although current troop levels from the Baltics in both Iraq and Afghanistan are relatively small, most are specialist. Additionally, the USG only provides air transportation from Frankfurt to Afghanistan or Iraq. Thereafter, the freebies stop for the Baltics.

The Latvians no longer feel an obligation like Estonia's politicians.

On Dec. 27, two Latvian soldiers were killed and three injured in an explosion. The peace-keeping troops were out on a patrol when an IED exploded under their Hummer vehicle.

RIGA - Defense Minister Atis Slakteris announced that the unit of Latvian peace-keepers sent to Iraq on Jan. 2 would probably be the last rotation to participate in the international mission.

Slakteris said that unless the situation in Iraq changed dramatically, Latvia would cease sending any more units to the Gulf state. After the current rotation period expires, about 10 representatives of the Latvian National Armed Forces may stay in Iraq.

However the Latvian Military Commander expresses things like a Soldier:

National Armed Forces commander Juris Maklakovs expanded on the MOD's point ov view, that Latvia would gradually reassign soldiers to the international mission in Afghanistan, but this was the decision for politicians.
“My responsibility is to prepare soldiers for missions. Where to send them is a decision for politicians to make.”

01-25-2007, 08:44 AM
Jan 03, 2007, TBT staff

VILNIUIS - A farewell ceremony for Lithuania’s LITCON-9 contingent that is leaving for an international mission in Iraq will be held in Vilnius on Jan. 3.

Captain Nerijus Kackauskas is the national representative of LITCON-9. Comprised of some 50 servicemen from the Iron Wolf Brigade, the contingent is led by First Lieutenant Rokas Noreikis.
Before leaving for the mission in Iraq, the servicemen will go to Denmark for one-month pre-mission training. The contingent is planned to leave for Iraq in February. LITCON-9 will serve with the Danish battalion in the British-led multinational division near the city of Basra in southeastern Iraq.

Some 60 Lithuanian troops currently serve in the US-led international peacekeeping operation Iraqi Freedom.

This is a fairly large contingent for any of the Baltics. Estonia's total military force (reserves and NG) is 7,000.

Regards, Stan

01-25-2007, 09:51 AM
Jan 10, 2007, By Elizabeth Celms

Despite the recent deaths, which Defense Minister Atis Slakteris said were due to “hatred and cruel fanaticism,” little debate has been stirred over the necessity of Latvian soldiers in Iraq.

Hmmm, quite a change of heart in the last 8 days !

Gets a little clearer.....

"Everyone knows that we [Latvians] need America. We’ve got to participate in Iraq for the United States, for our allies," Atis Lejins, head of the Latvian Institute of Foreign Affairs, told The Baltic Times. "We die for America in hope that they will die for us."

Now something really profound from Foreign Affairs:

Commenting on the decision to decrease Latvia’s contingent, Lejins admitted that it was about time.
“Recently, the situation in Iraq has changed. There’s no point being there anymore. We’ve done our duty. If the Iraqis want to fight each other, we won’t stand in the middle,” he said.

Wonder if Kerry provided the Latvians with his secret on ending the Iraqi war :D
Regards, Stan

05-25-2007, 02:16 PM
I dont think this is a zero sum equation. Clearly when you have multinational forces working togeather there are diverese goals. Having a unified command is very useful and the problems of international military HQ's and Armies have been studied in depth. The question really is what the different groups get out of their partnership, some allies have hurt their partners in wars while others are helpful.
The US speant a lot of money on Australian and Korean (among others) forces in Vietnam.
As it is the US is doing most of the work and spending most of the money in Iraq and A-Stan but the contributions of the other countries should not be overlooked.
The military contractors in Iraq can make $1,000 a day. Wars cost a lot of money. Clearly after the Americans the military contractors and then the British are making the biggest contribution but I think that America's $200 million on allies is better spent money than some of the weapons they develop and produce.
Just my 2 cents

05-27-2007, 02:28 AM
From wikipedia

[edit] Incentives given by the U.S. to coalition members
Many nations received monetary and other incentives from the United States in return for sending troops to or otherwise supporting the Iraq war.[76] Critics of the Bush Administration such as Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, has said this approach smacks of "bribery"[77] Below is a partial list of some of the incentives offered to coalition members:

Turkey - Turkey was offered approximately $8.5 billion in loans in exchange for sending 10,000 peacekeeping troops in 2003. Even though the US did say the loans and the sending of troops to Iraq were not directly linked, it also said the loans are contingent upon "cooperation" on Iraq.[78]
Singapore - In May 2003 the Bush Administration signed a free trade agreement with Singapore, the first with an Asian country. In announcing the deal, President Bush hailed Singapore as "a strong partner in the war on terrorism and a member of the coalition on Iraq." Asia Times columnist Jeffrey Robertson argued was a reward for Singapore's support of the Iraq invasion.[79] [80][81]
Australia: In 2004 the Bush Administration "fast tracked" a free trade agreement with Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald called the deal a "reward" for Australia's contribution of troops to the Iraq invasion.[82][83]
Great Britain: As of 2006, the Independent reported that British companies have received at least £1.1bn contracts for reconstruction work in postwar Iraq.[84]
In addition to direct incentives, critics of the war have argued that the involvement of other members of the coalition was in response for indirect benefits, such as support for NATO membership or other military and financial aid. Indeed, almost all of the Eastern European nations involved in the Coalition have either recently joined or are in the process of joining the US-led NATO alliance (namely Bulgaria, Georgia, Albania, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia).[85] Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, for example, said on April 21 that Estonian troops had to remain in Iraq due to his country's “important partnership” with the United States.[86]

At least one country- Georgia- is believed to have sent soldiers to Iraq as an act of repayment for the American training of security forces that could potentially be deployed to the break-away regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.[87] Indeed, Georgian troops that were sent to Iraq have all undergone these training programmes.[88]

El Salvador's President Antonio Saca has been accused of deploying troops in return for membership in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA),[89] and as a member of the right-wing ARENA party that was supported heavily by the United States during the El Salvador Civil War, is certainly influenced by the United States.

Conversely, Greece's non involvement (a poll indicated 90% against the Iraq Invasion), may have led to the US recognising FYROM as 'Macedonia'.[90]