The term coalition of the willing
is a post-1990
political phrase used to describe military or military/humanitarian
interventions for which the United Nations Security
cannot agree to mount a full UN
operation. It has existed
in the political science/international relations literature at
least since UN peacekeeping operations began to run into deep
trouble in 1993-94, and alternatives began to be considered.
documented use of the phrase was by President Bill Clinton in June 1994 in relation to
possible operations against North Korea, at the height of the 1994 stand-off with North
Korea over nuclear weapons.
It has been applied to the Australian-led INTERFET
operation in East Timor, and, in its most
well-known example by George W.
, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq
in March 2003.
Usage over Iraq
In November 2002, U.S.
President George W. Bush, visiting
Europe for a NATO summit,
declared that "should Iraqi President Saddam Hussein choose not to disarm, the
United States will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm
Thereafter, the Bush administration briefly used the term
"Coalition of the Willing" to refer to the countries who supported,
militarily or verbally, the 2003
invasion of Iraq
and subsequent military presence in post-invasion Iraq
. The original list prepared in March 2003 included
49 members. Of those 49, only four besides the U.S.
contributed troops to the invasion force (the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, and
33 provided some number of troops to
support the occupation after the invasion was complete. Six members
have no military.
2003, the official White
House list of the coalition showed 48 member states;
Costa Rica was removed from the list since the support given was
annulated by the Constitutional Court in a suit filed by citizen
Luis Roberto Zamora, the Ombudsman and the Costa Rican Bar
Association against President Pacheco's
However, the relevance of several of the other
nations that appear on the list has been questioned. For example, Turkey remains on
the list despite reneging on its support before the war began and
denying U.S. forces passage to its border with Iraq during the
The original list of coalition members provided by the White House
included several nations that did not intend to participate in the
actual fighting. Some of them, such as Marshall
Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Solomon
Islands, do not have standing armies. However, through the
Compact of Free
Association, the Marshall Islands, Palau and the
States of Micronesia, citizens of those countries are guaranteed US
national status and therefore are allowed to serve in the US
The members of these island nations have deployed
in a combined Pacific force consisting of Guamanian, Hawaiian and
American Samoan reserve units. They have been deployed twice to
government of one country, the Solomon Islands, listed by the White House as a member of the
coalition, was apparently unaware of any such membership and
promptly denied it.
December 2008 University of
Illinois Professor Scott Althaus reported that he had learned
that the White
House was editing and back-dating revisions to the list
of countries in the coalition.
Althaus found that some
documents had been entirely removed from the record, and that
others contradicted one another.The process he expected was for the
original documents to remain, and to be supplemented by later
revisions and updates.
Criticism of use
Specific uses of the phrase in the context of disarming Iraq began
appearing in mid-2001.
critics such as John Pilger
have pointed out that 98% of the
military is from the U.S. and Britain and is therefore accurately
described as a predominantly Anglo-American force rather than as a
columnist Laura McClure, noting
the large amounts of foreign aid
being offered in exchange for supporting the Iraq War, referred to
Bush's coalition as the "Coalition of the billing".
In a 2004
U.S. presidential debate, Democratic presidential candidate
John Kerry questioned the size of the
coalition participating in the initial invasion, saying, "...when
we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the
That's not a grand coalition. We can do
better". President Bush responded by saying, "Well, actually, he
forgot Poland. And now there's 30 nations involved, standing side
by side with our American troops". The phrase You forgot Poland
a sarcastic shorthand for the perception that most members of the
coalition were not contributing much to the war effort compared to
the main three allies. The majority of the population in most
countries involved did not, according to surveys, support the
endeavour or their nation's participation.
U.S. Senator Robert
, ranking Democrat
on the Senate Appropriations
, has referred to the coalition formed for the
2003 invasion of Iraq
COW, expressing his concern that the
United States was being "milked" as a "cash
." A Canadian MP
, referred to the
"Coalition of the Willing" as the "Coalition of the Idiots". She
was reprimanded for these comments, and was eventually removed from
the Liberal Party of Canada
caucus following a long-standing dispute with Prime Minister
devoted one sub-chapter
to the Coalition in his book Dude, Where's My Country?
remarked that most countries in the Coalition did not really help
and that several had no army. He dubbed it "The Coalition of the
Coerced, Bribed, and Intimidated".
- Ibiblio.org (originally official White House release), Interview with the President by Sam Donaldson
ABC, June 5,
- Members of the "Coalition of the willing"
- Perrott, A.: Coalition of the Willing? Not us,
say Solomon islanders. The New Zealand Herald, March 27,