October 21, 2004 | Commentary on National Security and Defense

America Isn't Alone In The War On Terror

It used to be said that American politics stopped at the water's edge. Not this year.

During his presidential campaign, Sen. John Kerry has insisted upon the need to "rebuild our alliances", and restore America's "credibility." He also called our allies a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted."

Sen. Kerry ought to apologize to the 32-nation U.S.-British led coalition in Iraq and the 35-country security force in Afghanistan. These coalitions disprove the myth that America is isolated and hated on the world stage.

In fact, the United .States,. having assembled one of the largest international coalitions ever seen, enjoys the political support of many key allies, from Tokyo to Warsaw to London. Managing such a huge coalition is, of course, an extremely difficult task, and its strength is limited by a lack of military capability, technology and manpower on the part of many members. Still, by any historical measure, the coalition is extraordinarily successful.

The coalition is strong because there's broad political support internationally for U.S. aims in Iraq, as displayed by the unanimously passed U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 that endorsed the interim Iraqi government. The United .States. has spearheaded a huge effort to reconstruct Iraq, and negotiate forgiveness of the country's massive debts. The decision to go to war against Iraq was undertaken only after years of tortuous negotiation at the Security Council, involving no fewer than 17 U.N. resolutions.

The American effort to build a democratic Iraq is supported strongly by its closest ally, Britain. The U.S.-British alliance continues to operate as a strikingly successful partnership of two great nations built on the solid foundations of a common heritage, culture and vision. The fact that Britain, the world's second most powerful military and diplomatic power and the fourth biggest economy, is standingstands shoulder to shoulder with America in the war on terror, proves that the U.S. is hardly a lonely, friendless superpower.

Britain played a major role in the war to remove Saddam Hussein, deploying 45,000 combat troops to the Gulf. It was its Britain's largest military deployment since World War II, representing more than a third of the nation's armed forces. Some 8,000 British troops remain in Iraq, and the British currently administer the southern region of the country, including the city of Basra. More than s60 ixty British servicemen have been killed in Iraq.

There are more than 145,000 coalition forces personnel from four continents serving in Iraq, including 23,000 non-U.S. military personnel. Some 2,800 troops have just arrived from South Korea (another 800 will deploy in November). In addition, there are now 229,000 Iraqis in the Iraqi country's new security forces in place.

The notion that Europe is united in opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq is a myth. Twenty-one European countries have sent troops to Iraq, as have 16 of the 26 NATO member states. The opposition of French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to the liberation of Iraq shouldn't be perceived as representative of Europe as a whole. - Indeed, a majority of European governments backed the U.S. decision to liberate Iraq. NATO, despite initial opposition from France, will assist in training Iraqi security forces.

In Afghanistan, NATO has been responsible for commanding and co-ordinating the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Currently 6,400 NATO forces from all256 NATO members, nine NATO partner nations and one non-NATO-aligned country (New Zealand) serve in ISAF. In addition, there are 18,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 ccoalition forces in Afghanistan serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Clearly, the United States isn't alone as it fights the war on terror on several fronts. In Iraq it retains the support of many traditional allies, including Britain, Italy, Australia and Japan, and it has generated almost universal backing in from the nations of "New Europe,", including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, helping shift the balance of power in Europe away from Paris and Berlin.

It will be the goal however of al Qaeda as well asand the terrorist groups operating in Iraq to weaken this coalition. The U.S. and its allies must prevent the terrorists from intimidating coalition partners into withdrawing their forces from Iraq, as the terrorists have done with Spain and the Philippines.

The White House should make the consolidation and strengthening of the existing international alliance a top priority,. Yet the United States can and must do more to improve its efforts at public diplomacy in Europe, Asia and the Arab world. Nothing should distract policy-makers from this urgent task: maintaining and expanding what is already a strong and powerful coalition.

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

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