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Coalition of the willing

The term coalition of the willing refers to a group of allied countries in a military intervention, especially the United States and its allies in the Iraq War. It has existed in the political science/international relations literature at least since UN peacekeeping operations began to run into complications in 1993-94, and alternatives began to be considered. One early 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 that country over nuclear weapons.[1]

It has also been applied to the Australian-led INTERFET operation in East Timor.


  • Usage over Iraq 1
  • Criticism of use 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Usage over Iraq

The "Coalition of the willing" named by the US State Department in 2003.

In November 2002, 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 him."[2]

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 released in March 2003 included 46 members.[3] In April 2003, the list was updated to include 49 countries, though it was reduced to 48 after Costa Rica objected to its inclusion. Of the 48 countries on the list, three contributed troops to the invasion force (the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland). An additional 37 countries provided some number of troops to support military operations after the invasion was complete.

The list of coalition members provided by the White House included several nations that did not intend to participate in actual military operations. Some of them, such as Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Solomon Islands, do not have standing armies. However, through the Compact of Free Association, citizens of the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia are guaranteed US national status and therefore are allowed to serve in the US military. The members of these island nations have deployed in a combined Pacific force consisting of Guamanian, Hawaiian and Samoan reserve units. They have been deployed twice to Iraq. The 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.[4]

In 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.[5][6] Althaus found that some versions of the list had been entirely removed from the record, and that others contradicted one another, as opposed to the procedure of archiving original documents and supplementing them with later revisions and updates.[3]

By August 2009, all non-U.S. coalition members had withdrawn from Iraq.[7] As a result, the United States Forces – Iraq as of January 1, 2010. Thus the Coalition of the Willing came to an official end.

Criticism of use

Specific uses of the phrase in the context of disarming Iraq began appearing in mid-2001. 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".[8] British activist Tariq Ali made a similar point, describing it as a "coalition of the shilling".[9]

In the second debate in [10]

Late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, then ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, referred to the coalition by the acronym COW, expressing his concern that the United States was being "milked" as a "cash cow". A Canadian Member of Parliament, Carolyn Parrish, referred to Canadian support for the U.S. national missile defense program as the "Coalition of the Idiots".[11]

In Dude, Where's My Country?, Michael Moore argues that the very idea of a "coalition of the willing" was inaccurate. In making his case, Moore notes that most of the countries contributing troops to the coalition were small countries with practically no economic clout, and that the countries' general populations opposed the invasion.


  1. ^ (originally official White House release), Interview with the President by Sam Donaldson ABC, June 5, 1994.
  2. ^ "'"Bush: Join 'coalition of willing. CNN. 2002-11-20. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  3. ^ a b Althaus, Scott;  
  4. ^ , March 27, 2003.The New Zealand HeraldPerrott, A.: "Coalition of the Willing? Not us, say Solomon islanders". .
  5. ^ Kelly Gibbs (2008-12-05). "White House documents found to be altered".   mirror
  6. ^ Byrne, John (December 5, 2008). "'"White House altered, deleted press releases on 'coalition of the willing.  
  7. ^ 9010 DoD report, June 2009
  8. ^ "Coalition of the billing -- or unwilling?". 2003-12-03. 
  9. ^ Alternative Radio Australia - Tariq Ali Retrieved September 28, 2015
  10. ^ Iraq Poll 2003 Gallup International Association
  11. ^

External links

  • Bush: Join 'Coalition of Willing (CNN)
  • A Coalition of the "Willing"? Misnomer, February 11, 2003, summary of public opinion on the invasion of Iraq.
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