The Blog

Enter the Allies

On the eve of war it's time to stop the talk of unilateralism and look at the coalition of nations President Bush has assembled.

1:00 PM, Mar 19, 2003 • By FRED BARNES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

CRITICS of President Bush's Iraq policy will have to give up their favorite line of attack--that he's acting unilaterally against Iraq. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, even before the State Department named 30 countries as members of what President Bush calls "the coalition of the willing" this week, it was clear the United States would operate with dozens of allies, some large like Australia and Italy, some small such as Latvia and El Salvador.

On the eve of war, the anti-Iraq coalition is one of the largest in history--bigger, for example, than the alliance against the Serbs in Bosnia in 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999. The State Department keeps track of these things, counting countries as part of a wartime alliance if they provide some sort of material aid--troops, weapons, supplies, medicine, and so on--to the cause. Mere vocal support doesn't count.

The result: The coalition led by the United States and Great Britain and ready to wage a war of liberation against Iraq is the third largest in the past century. And it may become the largest by the time the war ends. The Gulf War military alliance in 1991 had nearly 50 members and the allied force in World War II had 47 participating countries. At the moment, the coalition put together by the president and British prime minister has 45 members, 30 of which have been willing to go on the record.

The other 15 are mostly Arab countries that are queasy about going public with their support by joining the United States and invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. These countries include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. But American troops man artillery sites in Jordan and have massed, roughly 150,000 strong, in Kuwait. The headquarters for the U.S. forces is in Qatar.

The 30 nations in what the State Department has officially dubbed "the coalition for the immediate disarmament of Iraq" are: Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, U.K., Uzbekistan. Unnamed is Bulgaria, an ally of the U.S. on the United Nations Security Council.

What are these countries offering? Australia is sending 2,000 soldiers, Poland a few hundred. Hungary has set up training camps for Iraqi exiles who will join the invasion. Albania is sending commandos, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia are poised to dispatch chemical weapons cleanup teams. So is Ukraine, the Journal says, though it's not on the official list of allies.

Still, some Democrats are not satisfied. The California Democratic party passed a resolution last weekend criticizing Bush for moving ahead unilaterally against Iraq. And Democratic Sen. John Kerry, famous for his bowing to both sides on the war issue, urged the president to spend another 30 days drumming up "a real multilateral coalition." Sorry, senator, Bush has been there, done that.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.