"Coalition of the Willing" now ragged, dwindling, and bickering

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 04:39 PM

President Bush has used the phrase "coalition of the willing" so often to describe the small band of nations that agreed to go into Iraq with us that the phrase is now part of the lexicon of anyone at all political.

Frankly, it never seemed like much of a coalition to me, certainly nothing like the united forces that our president's father mustered for the first Gulf War, and from what I'm reading, it's very little like a coalition now.  It's smaller all the time, and there are some signs of serious breaks between the U.S. and the U.K., which have always been its main partners.

1. First, there's the story in tomorrow's Sydney Morning Herald (which I picked up from the Raw Story site), reporting that "A senior British Army officer has written a scathing critique of the US Army and its performance in Iraq, accusing it of cultural ignorance, moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micromanagement and unwarranted optimism."

The author, Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was involved in a program to train the Iraqi military, says "American officers in Iraq displayed such "cultural insensitivity" that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency."

While finding the U.S. army "full of soldiers showing qualities such as patriotism, duty, passion and talent," Aylwin-Foster claims that "it seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a predisposition to offensive operations, and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on."

Returning this nasty serve, according to the newspaper, is Colonel Kevin Benson, commander of the US Army's School of Advanced Military Studies, who says of the British officer, "I think he's an insufferable British snob."

The original article is available in pdf form on the web site of Military Review.

2. The state of the overall coalition is detailed in a Jan. 10 story from Asia Times where author David Isenberg reports that the coalition, which has been shrinking for some time, has now "declined from a 2003 high of 38 nations and 50,000 troops to 28 nations and about 20,000 soldiers."

Isenberg is not particularly surprised, given that "The credibility of the coalition as an example of staunch international support for the US invasion of Iraq has always been somewhat suspect.."