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Summary

"Yesterday the President met with the leaders of what he calls the Coalition of the Willing, and what everybody else calls England and Spain."

-- Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

The "Coalition of the Willing" is the alliance of countries that joined forces to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, 2003.

The United States originally pursued this aim in the United Nations. At first, the U.S. used existing Security Council Resolutions to justify a war. But the relevant Resolutions (678, 687 and 1441) contained ambiguous wording, designed to prevent the U.N. from being locked into a course of action. The U.N. used these loopholes to refuse authorisation for the war. The same loopholes allowed the U.S. to pursue the war without U.N. retaliation. Attempts to pass a new resolution through the Security Council were threatened with vetoes by France, supported by Russia and Germany. France claimed that the situation was not yet so dire that it required war, but some analysts privately speculated that France was tied to Iraq through under-the-table arms sales.

Eventually, the U.S. abandoned its campaign in the U.N. and instead started gathering allies for an invasion of Iraq. These allies were known as the Coalition of the Willing. The United States and Britain provided the bulk of combat troops for the Coalition's key mission, Operation Iraqi Freedom. France, naturally, was absent from the Coalition; so were Germany, Russia and China. In fact, when you think about it, some of the players in the Coalition were very minor indeed ...

Member States, in Alphabetical Order

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Solomon Islands, Spain, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uzbekistan.

Who's Who in the Coalition Zoo

Blink and you'll miss it; the war in Iraq is over. The nefarious Iraqi regime has folded like a house of cards. Saddam Hussein has been captured and his cronies have disappeared into outer Iraq, or Syria, or some other place that the U.S. can't reach, like France. Maybe they and Osama are playing hide-and-go-seek in the mountains of Afghanistan. Even the Iraqi Information Minister has abandoned his "one-man campaign against the observable facts" and gone underground.

The original Desert Storm operation took 9 days on the ground, with the backing of the United Nations. Desert Storm II: Electric Boogaloo took 27 days, and this time we crashed the party with 35 of our best friends: the Coalition of the Willing.

There's a popular belief that the victory in Iraq is the result of America's ultimate military supremacy, that it maintains an unbeatable fighting force, ready to be deployed to any corner of the earth. This is an easy conclusion to reach, given that the U.S. provided 85% of the troops for the war. But don't be fooled. This victory couldn't have been achieved without the crucial support of America's closest allies.

The Coalition allies might not be the biggest kids in the schoolyard. Not every country can maintain a fighting force on the size and scope of America's. So it's easy to laugh at countries like Albania, which donated 70 non-combat troops to the Coalition Effort. It's easy to laugh, because it's funny. America sent 1400 chefs to the Coalition. Albania looks kind of tiny in comparison.

So, who's in the Coalition? The Australian media has done a splendid job of emphasising the role of Australian troops. This is only natural; these are Australian citizens fighting in our name. Furthermore, your taxes pay for these troops, so it's important to watch the news and find out if you're getting your money's worth. (Well, if you're an accounting student you probably don't pay taxes, and also you're nominally a citizen of Barbados for tax purposes; don't come complaining to me when the Federal Government withholds your anti-terrorism fridge magnet.)

Australia's commitment to the Coalition, in case you're wondering, is 2,000 troops and 150 special forces troops. I asked around, and apparently we're doing a good job. The Americans even let us ride in the front seat of the Humvees for awhile.

To take a broad, international perspective, Australia is the third-largest contributor of combat troops to the war. The other Two Stooges, if you didn't know, are the U.S. and Britain. This partnership is an intriguing idea: the Original Crusaders and the New Kids on the Block, combining their powers for a final showdown in the East. A helpful analogy is the recent duet by Elton John and Eminem. Britain, like Elton John, provided old school credibility and shiny pants. America, like Eminem, provided angry white guys with guns.

But the Coalition is an Equal Opportunity Employer; you don't have to be a great military superpower (like Australia) to be a member. You don't have to be an ailing, outmoded superpower (like Britain) - nobody's checking your Returned Empires League membership at the door. In fact, like Coalition associates Iceland, Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands, you don't even have to have an army. It seems incredible that nations exist in the 21st Century without a military force, but some countries do not face a threat from other nations. Hence, you really only need an army if you think your country's worth invading. Cheer up, little Iceland. I'm sure someone would invade you if there was a worldwide shortage of whatever it is that Iceland exports: penguins and angry Icelandic musicians, for example.

Small contributions of troops, logistics, equipment, air space and air bases, financial support and weapons have been made by Albania, Denmark, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea and Spain (which recently announced plans to withdraw its troops). Some of the contributions are noteworthy - Denmark's supply of medical teams, for instance, or Japan's post-conflict financial support - but the others are fairly low-key. It's kind of like a canned-food drive for the war effort; these provisions may not be tasty or delicious, but at least it's something.

Some countries were obliged to join the coalition, regardless of whether they had anything worthwhile to contribute. Colombia, El Salvador and Nicaragua owed the United States a debt of gratitude for its assistance in the drug wars. I guess if the Iraqi kids get tired of petrol sniffing, Colombia can provide them with Class A "humanitarian relief." Afghanistan and Uzbekistan joined the Coalition to thank America for invading and overthrowing the Taliban. Following this to its logical conclusion, Iraq will be obliged to join the Coalition when it invades Syria, who will be obliged to fight alongside the U.S. against North Korea, and so on. Eventually the U.S. will have every country allied on its side, inadvertently reinventing the United Nations.

Other countries joined the Coalition in order to secure U.S. support on other matters. (Skeptics among you might put Australia in this category. This implies Australia has anything valuable to offer the U.S. in return.) Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Coalition in an attempt to shore up support for local matters. Ethiopia joined the Coalition in an attempt to garner U.S. support for a border dispute with neighbouring Eritrea. The Eritreans joined the Coalition in the hope of securing U.S. support in a border dispute with ... Ethiopia. Well, at least they tried.

Many nations have offered political support to the Coalition. These nations are on the sidelines on the war, cheering for the troops and handing out oranges at half time; the soccer mums of the Coalition, if you will. Providing the Coalition with political support, we have: Azerbaijan (I am not making these names up), Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Macedonia, Mongolia, Micronesia, Palau, Panama, Rwanda, Slovakia and Uganda. Perhaps Mongolia could give us some tips on invading the Middle East; they've had a lot of practice.

Astonishingly enough, some members of the Coalition do not support the war. The Czech Republic and Romania are contributing troops for chemical and biological decontamination, post-conflict and non-combatant troops for humanitarian missions. Which is a super effort, and something that should inspire many other nations around the world. The Czech Republic and Romania have probably made the most meaningful statement of 2003: that if you're serious about humanitarian issues, there's plenty you can do about it.

Behind the face of the Coalition, there are 15 undeclared members of the Coalition. These members provide anonymous political, logistical and tactical support - the wind beneath the Coalition's wings.

There are several good reasons for a nation to hush up its support of the Coalition. Keeping the neighbours happy is one of them. Shortly after the Original Recipe Gulf War ended, many Arab nations joined the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Member nations "agreed to help provide for the defence of Kuwait in the event of a new war with Iraq." It's a good bet that a few GCC nations are on the Undeclared Member list. Countries like Saudi Arabia might be glad to see the back of Hussein, but they would also like to maintain good relations with the rest of the Arab world. Being a member of the American-led Coalition doesn't look good when you try to borrow a cupful of plutonium from the neighbours.

I don't know if the TAB is taking bets, but here's my pick of the undeclared members: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Germany, France, North Korea and Liechtenstein. Keep your eye on Leichtenstein; I think it's the ring-leader. We'll refer to this group as the Axis of Unbelievable.

So, what next? Operation Iraqi Freedom has been declared a success, and the Coalition has achieved its primary goal - the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime. The U.S. will stay in Iraq, under its "you break it, you bought it" theory of international relations. Countries like Australia will withdraw their troops while others, like Romania, will assist the humanitarian effort. The United Nations will congratulate itself on being nobody's patsy, and then it will spend the next six months reminding everyone of just how relevant it is in other regions. It will also consider the downsides of leaving resolutions open to interpretation; the loopholes that allowed the U.N. to distance itself from the war, also allowed the U.S. to pursue the war. Anti-war protesters will start replacing "Iraq" with "Syria" on their placards (my suggestion: "Nothing's sillier / than war on Syria"). And the world's comedians will have to stop copying their jokes out of the headlines, and start writing original material again. Thank you, and goodnight.


A brief summary of the Coalition of the Willing member list can be found at:
http://www.crikey.com.au/politics/2003/03/21/20030321coalitionlist.html

With President George W. Bush’s recent call for a troop “surge” of upwards of 20,000 more Americans to help quell the violence that seems to be escalating in and around Baghdad on a daily basis and now the announcement by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that he’s pulling out an additional 1,700 or so troops, I thought it might be interesting to take a country by country look of just how “willing” the coalition members were in the beginning and where they stand as of now.

All of these numbers come courtesy of Wikipedia and are updated as of January of 2007. They can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S.-led_coalition_against_Iraq

So, who’s left?

United States of America

The original invasion force numbered about 250,000 troops. Today, that number stands at around 132,000. That’s not counting the additional 20,000 that are packing their shit in the next month or so.

United Kingdom

The Brits supplied the invasion force with about 45,000 troops. Today, that number has dwindled to about 7,200. If Blair does indeed pull out an additional 1,700, well, you can do the math.

South Korea

The South Koreans kicked in about 3,300 for the invasion itself. Today, that number is around 2,300.

Poland

The Poles amassed a whopping 194 brave souls to take part in the invasion. To their credit, at their peak of participation, they numbered at around 2,500. Today, they are down to approximately 900 troops.

Australia

I think the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard recently got up in Barack Obama’s grill about his position on the war. For what it’s worth, Australia managed to muster 2,000 troops for the actual invasion. Today, the Aussies number about 1,300.

Romania

They missed the boat when the actual invasion took place but today, there are about 900 brave Romanians in and around Iraq

Denmark

The Danes were probably too stoned on hash to make the invasion party itself but once the effects wore off 460 of them found their way to Iraq. That’s how many of them remain today.

Georgia

The country, not the state here in America, rounded up 500 troops for the actual invasion. As of today, 300 or so remain.

El Salvador

Numbers are hard to come by for the invasion because no El Salvadorians took place in the invasion or if they did, they aren’t saying. Today, there are about 380 of them.

Czech Republic

They too didn’t get a wake up call for the actual invasion but in their prime they numbered at around 300. Today, that number has fallen to around 100.

Azerbaijan

Stayed home and watched the invasion on television. Today, about 150 of them are helping make Iraq safe for democracy.

Latvia

Claimed nobody told them about the invasion. This added to the severe inferiority complex many Latvians already have. They peaked at about 136 troops but have cut that back to around 120.

Mongolia

Missed connecting flight for the invasion. A huge influx of 131 troops has now been trimmed to 100.

Albania

Language barriers precluded the Albanians for showing up for the big dance but over the years have supplied a much needed 120 additional fighting men and women.

Lithuania

Black out dates concerning their frequent flyer miles prevented the mighty Lithuanian task force from taking part in the actual invasion. Undaunted, the rest of the world thought it safe to proceed without their 50 troops.

Armenia

Claim their rented bus got a flat tire on their way to the invasion. Once the situation was corrected, the Armenians chipped in 46 people to the cause. (Not counting bus driver).

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Confusion over who was supposed to drive between the Bosnians and the Herzegovinains caused them to miss the gig entirely. When they got it all sorted out, they numbered 36 troops.

Estonia

After consulting their day calendar they claim they had prior commitments on invasion day. Nevertheless, 41 brave Estonians are helping keep the streets of Baghdad safe and secure.

Macedonia

Problems with rental cars and credit cards kept the 33 rabid Macedonians from overrunning Iraq on invasion day.

Kazakhstan

Foul weather and related delays kept the Kazakhstinians from the big party. Once the weather cleared, they number in at about 29 much needed troops.

Moldova

To their credit, the Moldovians contributed 24 highly trained and highly motivated troops to the actual invasion. Today, that number has been reduced by half.

The following are the counties who for reasons of their own did not take place in the actual invasion. They did at some point commit some troops but have since called them all back home.

Italy

The Italians finally got around to showing up in Iraq in July of 2003 with 1,800 troops. In November of 2006, the last of them headed for home.

Ukraine

Ukrainians first made their 1,650 troop presence felt in August of 2003. They were all home in time for Christmas of 2005.

Netherlands

1,345 Netherland troops called Iraq home from July of 2003 until March of 2005.

Spain

Nobody seems to know for sure when they actually got there but by the time April of 2004 rolled around everybody knew that they were gone.

Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun deployed 600 troops in January of 2004. They said sayonara in July of 2006.

Bulgaria

Woke up one morning and found 462 of their fellow countrymen in Iraq. Called them home in April of 2006.

Thailand

Took a quick look at the harsh Iraqi countryside and decided it wasn’t for them. Their 432 troops headed home in August of 2004.

Honduras

Claiming dissatisfaction with Iraqi cuisine, The 368 Hondurans strapped on their backpacks and called it quits in May of 2004.

Dominican Republic

Claims by the 302 Dominicans that it was just “too fuckin’ cold” had them headed back to their island paradise in May of 2004.

Hungary

After standing around scratching themselves and wondering just what the hell they were doing there in the first place, 300 brave Hungarians shipped out in March of 2005.

Nicaragua

Woke up one morning and discovered they were involved in yet another CIA “black ops” kinda deal. None too pleased, their 230 troops departed Iraq in February of 2004.

Singapore

Claims that there were other “pressing engagements” going on at home, all 192 Singapore troops called it quits in March of 2005.

Norway

Not wanting to miss yet another ski season, all 150 Norwegians left in October 2005.

Portugal

Not wanting to state their reasons in a public forum, 128 Portuguese troops bagged it February of 2005.

Slovakia

Citing matters of their own national security, 103 Slovakians were summoned back home in January of 2007.

New Zealand

All it took was a year for the 61 Kiwis to head for home. They lasted from September of 2003 all the way through September of 2004.

Philippines

Seriously, even though the Philippines have problems of their own, they are located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Unable to adapt to desert conditions, all 51 Filipino troops abandoned Iraq in July of 2004.

Tonga

45 brave Tongan warriors descended upon Iraq. Upon surveying the situation, their tribal chief was heard to mutter in his native tongue "Mogo buku boo boo". When loosely translated this comes across as “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding!” (translation mine). They slipped out under the cover of darkness in December of 2004.

Iceland

Reports that both Icelandic troops committed to the cause woke up hung over in Iraq after getting into a squabble over vodka and a hot tub somewhere in downtown Reykjavik are hard to confirm. Rumors are both men have been sworn to silence and haven’t been seen or heard from in either Iraq or their native land. The rest of the world awaits news of their fate.

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