Waging War: Alliances, Coalitions, and Institutions of Interstate Violence

By Patricia A. Weitsman | Go to book overview

2
FIGHTING WITH FRIENDS

Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations
that recognizes the legitimacy of our action [in Afghanistan]
.

— Barack Obama, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York,
December 1, 2009

AS THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY unfolds, much has been revealed about the nature of multilateral warfare. While the United States has never fought a major war alone, in the contemporary era, coalition size has grown dramatically. The unthinking assumption that the larger the coalition is, the better, pervades strategic planning and decision makers’ rhetoric. This assumption goes hand in hand with the idea that the more partners one has in war, the more legitimate is the military action. Yet neither of these assumptions may be true. Large coalitions bring with them coordination problems in terms of taking action and making decisions. Higher numbers of friendly-fire fatalities may result. Large coalitions may result from small states seeking side payments for action rather than being motivated by the legitimacy of the mission. Operation Iraqi Freedom had one of the largest coalitions in history, yet it was never widely viewed in the international community as a legitimate enterprise.1

The principle that bigger is better underpins American military partnerships in war and peace. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization originally had twelve signatories. During the forty years of its operation during the Cold War, the alliance gained just four member states. Since the end of the Cold War, the alliance has added twelve new members, with several others participating in the Membership Action Plan, and future additions are likely.2 The war-fighting coalitions that the United States constructed to fight its contemporary wars have numbered between twenty-five and fifty partner states. Even during the era of George W. Bush, when the international community condemned the United States for being unilateralist, the coalitions it used to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq were as big as the United States could possibly make them.3

-14-

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Waging War: Alliances, Coalitions, and Institutions of Interstate Violence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acronyms xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Fighting with Friends 14
  • 3 - Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield 48
  • 4 - Operation Allied Force 74
  • 5 - Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force 99
  • 6 - Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War in Iraq 132
  • 7 - Operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector 164
  • 8 - Conclusion 188
  • Notes 199
  • Index 265
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