Thursday, March 20, 2003
Interesting comparison of the coalitions for the 1991 Iraq war and the current one:
While the glib comment would be "hey, there's the same number of countries on our side this time as last time" and the mocking rejoinder would be, "hey, your new coalition is a bunch of countries you could buy on eBay" there is a real pattern to the change. The big difference is: the first coalition was a coalition of the Western Alliance and the Arab League, who had a common interest in upholding the principle that a country (Kuwait) can't simply be erased by an act of aggression. The new coalition is a coalition of Countries With Real Enemies Who Would Like America On Their Side.
The countries who joined the list are ex-Communist bloc countries (Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania; throw in Ethiopia, Eritrea, El Salvador and Nicaragua if you like as well), and countries looking for U.S. help (Colombia, fighting the FARC narco-terrorists, the Philippines, fighting al-Qaeda-allied separatists, and Japan, nervous about North Korea). The major dropouts are major Western countries trying to protect themselves by abandoning the U.S. (Canada, France, Germany), some minor ones with no particular reason to sign on to a war if they don't have to (Greece, Norway, Portugal), and Muslim countries who are opting out of a war against a Muslim country because they can (Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria). Of the latter, none are necessary for this war; all the bordering countries are on-board except Syria, and we are frankly better off not fighting beside the Baathists of Damascus. If Pakistan or Egypt were becoming unhelpful in the fight against al-Qaeda because of the Iraq campaign, that would be a real, and significant cost. But we don't actually need them to publicly support the Iraq war.
As for the Western defections: the only ones that matter are Canada and Germany. Canada, because they have been a valuable ally in war and peace, and we don't want to lose them. I'm a frank Canadophile - by which I mean that I like Canadians, the people, the land, the culture, not that I like the government in Ottawa. I'd hate to think the country has gone beyond the point of no return in being a useful ally. Germany, because it has been a crucial U.S. ally for 50 years and losing them means seeing Europe become a decisively anti-American power (well, decisively anti-America, anyhow). I don't think we'll have stalwart support long-term from Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, etc. if Franco-Germany really sets out to "balance" America. I think they'll see which side of their bread is buttered and cozy up to Brussels. As I've blogged before, I worry that Germany's anti-American trend reflects a fundamental change in the ideological makeup of the country post-reunification. Be a damned shame if Maggie turned out to be right about this. But she did warn us.
In any event, this war is only "unilateral" in the sense that it did not have French approval. We have clear authorization for the use of force from the UN, and had it even if 1441 didn't exist. We have the support of the countries most directly threatened by Saddam Hussein (his Gulf neighbors) and a coalition of allies, some significant (Britain, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Australia, Japan), some . . . not (Albania, Estonia, El Salvador). What we don't have is a united West. That is a real loss. I wonder if it can be recovered.