Coalition of the Willing or Coaltion of the Coerced?

A large majority of Americans are opposed to the United States going to war alone. Thus far, the U.S. government has failed to convince the United Nations Security Council to back a war with Iraq. And some in the White House would even prefer to not deal with the United Nations at all. Hence, the Bush Administration has shifted to a strategy of attempting to impose a resolution authorizing war on the Security Council, while simultaneously assembling what it calls a “Coalition of the Willing,” a large number of nations supporting the war. If Bush fails to get approval from the United Nations for war, he will claim the right to move ahead with a military attack with this informal and unauthorized coalition. Although the Bush Administration has not yet released a list of the coalition members, officials have claimed in press interviews that they number more than 40.

The Institute for Policy Studies has analyzed the relationship between the United States and the nations in the Security Council and those in Bush’s non-UN coalition. Are these allies supporting the United States on the merits of the case, or is their support of the U.S. war effort more a result of coercion, bribes, and bullying?

Although Administration officials have said publicly that they will not attempt to bully nations into supporting their Iraq policy, there is ample precedent for the United States using coercion to garner support for its military actions overseas. In 1990, for example, the U.S. government bribed China with post-Tienanmen Square diplomatic rehabilitation and renewal of long-term development aid to prevent a veto of the UN resolution authorizing the 1991 Gulf War. The votes of several poor countries on the Council were purchased with cheap Saudi oil, new military aid, and economic assistance. And when Yemen, the sole Arab country on the Council, voted against the resolution authorizing war, a U.S. diplomat told the Yemeni ambassador, “that will be the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” Three days later the U.S. cut its entire aid budget to Yemen.

Hence, the U.S. public should carefully scrutinize any claim by the Bush Administration that they have assembled a “coalition of the willing.”