Monday, October 25, 2004

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 U.S. “credibility.” He also called our allies a “coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted.”

Mr. 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 the United States 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 is broad political support internationally for U.S. aims in Iraq, as displayed by the unanimously passed U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546, which 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, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in the war on terror proves that the United States 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 Persian Gulf. It was 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 60 British servicemen have been killed in Iraq.

There are more than 145,000 coalition 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 country’s new security force.

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 should not 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 coordinating the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Currently, 6,400 NATO forces from 25 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 coalition forces in Afghanistan serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Clearly, the United States is not alone as it fights the war on terrorism 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 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 of al Qaeda and the terrorist groups operating in Iraq to weaken this coalition. The United States 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 is a visiting fellow in Anglo-American security policy in the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

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