The Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, part of the School of Foreign Service, released a landmark “how-to” study last Wednesday on the successful construction of an international coalition, coinciding with the growing probability of a U.S.-led coalition intervening in Iraq.

Dr. Andrew J. Pierre, research associate at the institute, wrote the study entitled Coalitions: Building and Maintenance – The Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism, with the assistance of a working group that included Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Advisor during the Gulf War, General Wesley Clark, who served as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe during the Kosovo conflict, Lee Hamilton, the former chairman of the U.S. House International Relations Committee and Hans Binnendijk, professor at the National Defense University.

“With the decline of alliances formed during the Cold War, ad hoc `coalitions of the willing’ will be the preferred military instrument for at least the first decades of the 21st century,” a Nov. 20 university press release said of the study. “Such ad hoc coalitions, like the one formed to fight the Gulf War, are useful militarily because they distribute the tasks and responsibilities and politically because they provide international legitimacy.”

The study examined the three most important multilateral coalitions since the end of the Cold War and found that coalitions will remain increasingly important because they provide international legitimacy, most often through the United Nations, but also through regional organizations such as NATO, which led military and peacekeeping operations during the Kosovo conflict. Coalitions also provide for a public relations and diplomatic strategy where a spokesperson can influence public opinion.

In addition to alleviating legitimacy concerns, the study found that, although coalition members may have varying degrees of commitment and differing contributions, each partner must have a sense of responsibility and investment in the overall operation. The study also stressed the importance of keeping coalition partners engaged.

Likewise, it noted that political goals must supercede military considerations.

“Coalitions create constraints and complicate U.S. military activities,” the study said. “This can lead to tensions between considerations involving the `efficiency’ of the American military and the preferences of the allies, but the military goals should not be allowed to automatically trump the political underpinnings that constitute the rationale for the coalition.”

Finally, the study said that coalitions must establish exit strategies for post-conflict reconstruction, ensuring that multinational forces or peacekeepers will not become bogged down in a regional conflict.

“Coalitions must give early thought to war termination and post-conflict reconstruction needs,” the study said. “If there is a coalition for waging war, then there should be one for building peace.”

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