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Coalitions of the Willing

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Advocat, Jan 30, 2003.

  1. Advocat

    Advocat Viral Memes a Speciality Staff Member

    There's been a lot of talk about this topic recently, but why is it suddenly so popular and what does it mean?

    "Coalitions of the willing" is mainly a European invention, first making a major appearence in the European Union Treaty of Amsterdam, 1997.

    This treaty mentions the concept of "coalitions of the willing", in which EU/NATO members (the terms are used somewhat interchangably) were allowed to choose "constructive abstention" from EU military commitments they might find contentious.

    NATO developed this theme to a higher degree in the 1999 paper: Coalitions of the Willing - NATO and Post-Cold War Military Intervention. Here, NATO calmly set forth the premise that it's defensive mission in Europe is already precisely laid out, and that missions outside those boundaries -- whether inside or outside Europe -- could best be met by nations acting in "ad-hoc coaltions of the willing".

    An interesting idea, but what does it really mean? In essence, it means that nations can decide to band together to take military or other action without having to report to, or work within the strictures of, regional or international agencies such of the European Union Defense Alliance or NATO.

    Under the direction of regional/international agencies, offensive action would be highly limited by policy. With "Coalitions", offensive as well as defensive actions are possible, as there are no overwatch organizations limiting their actions.

    Militarily, there is no doubt that Coaltions are more flexible and effective than an institutional military. Politically however, Coalitions may have damaging effects.

    Under the Coalition policy, organizations such as NATO, the UN and the EU could easily be undermined, as independent and temporary Coalitions are formed, take action then dissolve, ignoring these regional agencies. NATO and European Regional Secuity - Fissures in the Bedrock.

    Given the preceeding, there are some concerns that such temporary Coalitions will actually disrupt attempts at regional unity, circumventing the EU, NATO, the UN or other organizations. Diplomacy - New Agendas and Changing Strategies takes a look at some diplomatic/policial issues for the upcoming decade. Some wonder why a country would want to work under enforced political limitations when it could make a deal to join a Coalition under a beans-for-guns or similar trade? Others fear such Coalitions will lead to the "bad old days" of 18/19th century Europe, with countries making quick alliances for personal gain at the expense of neighbours.

    The US has tried to head off this line of thinking in the Bush Doctrine National Security Strategy Preamble, where it says: "We are also guided by the conviction that no nation can build a safer, better world alone. Alliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom-loving nations. The United States is committed to lasting institutions like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States, and NATO as well as other long-standing alliances. Coalitions of the willing can augment these permanent institutions. In all cases, international obligations are to be taken seriously. They are not to be undertaken symbolically to rally support for an ideal without furthering its attainment."

    The US seems to have latched on to the concept of Coalitions to allow it to take swift action without world political debate. Of course, the prime requirement of Coalitions is that countries must agree to join of their own free will; thus either sufficient reason to take action -- or sufficient inducement to join -- must be presented. Where sufficient reason for action or inducement is lacking, countries will be slow to to take part. This is the reason for the present clouded environment on Iraq.

    Why are so many small countries joining the present US Coalition? Besides finding sufficient reason to take action, a possibility is they may seek the possible benefits of being a <b>direct</b> ally of the US and other Coalition member countries, where before they may have only worked through the offices of the EU or NATO. Indeed, it is the policy of some countries, such as Britian, to maximize their position in Coalitions with the US: Maximising The UKs Influence In The Formation And Conduct Of Future Coalition Operations (1999).

    The logical consequences -- and danger -- of the Coalition concept, once generally accepted, is that <b>any</b> set of countries can decide to form a coalition for <b>any</b> justifiable reason... justifiable being a very murky concept and a hard word to define. The only limits on their actions will be fear of political, economic or military actions by larger/more powerful countries or coalitions.

    <small>Edit - Additional Material</small>
  2. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Very nicely done and put forth, Advocat. :)

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