Broadening the Coalition

by Jon Mandle on October 18, 2004

In describing his approach to Iraq, John Kerry has stressed that he would involve other countries to a greater extent than the present administration. Critics have been quick to doubt his ability to generate support from other countries. Indeed, some European representatives have been decidedly skeptical about his ability to widen the coalition. And not unreasonably, it has seemed to me.

Well, here’s a Newsday account of what appears to be a concrete and fairly recent case of the current administration rebuffing an attempt by other countries to get involved. (Hat tip to Daily Kos.) I don’t know that Kerry has commented on this directly, but it not implausible to think that he might have had a different attitude toward the Saudi proposal for Muslim troops to provide security for a re-established UN headquarters in Iraq. Among other things, this would have allowed the UN to increase its staff working full-time on the January elections from its current level of … wait for it … four.

President George W. Bush rebuffed a plan last month for a Muslim peacekeeping force that would have helped the United Nations organize elections in Iraq, according to Saudi and Iraqi officials….

Diplomats said Annan accepted the plan. But the Bush administration objected because the special force would have been controlled by the UN instead of by U.S. military officers who run the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Muslim and Arab countries refused to work under U.S. command, and the initiative died in early September.

“Muslim countries that were willing to provide troops were not willing to put them under the command of the U.S.-led coalition,” said a senior Iraqi security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “In many of these nations, there was too much domestic pressure for the governments to justify putting their troops under U.S. control.”

Note that the proposal did not involve putting any US troops under UN control. The proposal was for foreign troops to be under UN control. In fact, it seems that the US also rejected putting the troops under Iraqi control:

At one point, the Saudis proposed that Muslim forces be placed under the command of the Iraqi government. That idea won over Allawi, but not the United States. “The Americans wanted ultimate control, and that made it impossible to make this work,” said the Iraqi official.

{ 32 comments }

1

Brett Bellmore 10.18.04 at 9:13 pm

Right, and after capturing territory during WWII, we were in a hurry to place peacekeeping forces from the Axis nations in it, too. <_ < We've got enough problems with these yahoos sneaking in, we’re supposed to extend them engraved invitations?

2

Alain 10.18.04 at 9:21 pm

Kerry should have been honest and admitted that it will be impossible to get our allies to pony up troops. He may convince them to help pay for the mess financially, but they certainly will not sacrifice blood over conflict they did not support! I think next to the vote authorizing the use of thought, Kerry’s insistance on internationalizing the conflict is a big mistake.

3

Brian Weatherson 10.18.04 at 9:28 pm

Yeah after WWII we never let any Christian troops do any guard work or the like because of all the problems Christian Germany (and Catholic Italy) had caused.

I think the White House hasn’t noticed that Congress authorised the use of thought. Or did that resolution not pass?!

4

Aaron 10.18.04 at 9:32 pm

There’s a big difference between Muslim extremists pouring into the country to fight against the coalition forces, and the armies of US allies coming to the aid of the new Iraqi government.

A big difference if you’re not a racist, that is.

5

Anticorium 10.18.04 at 9:34 pm

I guess I forgot to read the news that day when Bangladesh, Egypt, and Pakistan declared war on America. But it has to have happened, because that’s the only way that comparing them to the Axis powers of WWII makes any damn sense whatsoever.

6

kevin donoghue 10.18.04 at 9:40 pm

Would an elected Iraqi government want any foreign troops at all? Can the Allawi government survive if elections are postponed? I think the answer to both questions is no, which means that finding troops is not the problem.

Alain, the use of thought is treason. You should know that by now.

7

jet 10.18.04 at 9:45 pm

Don’t forget that in Mogadishu, US soldiers had to threaten to attack their UN “allies” in order to get them to use their armored vehicles to rescue American soldiers. I believe it was Pakistani vehicles the US finally ended up using.

I’m not saying it was a good call to reject Saudi help. But I am saying that in the past we have relied upon “allies” to meet certain requirements and then been let down by bureaucratic problems because of two separate command structures.

I for one would hate to see MORE Americans die because we were willing to repeat a mistake simply to add to some vain posturing (look at all our friends, naa naa boo boo).

8

jif 10.18.04 at 9:47 pm

Brett: Pardon? The only way in which your statement makes the slightest sense is if you utilize an essentialist and racist equation something along the lines of Saudis=Arabs=Terrorists. You’re worried about Saudi soldiers helping with peacekeeping in Iraq when the Saudi ambassador has dinner in the white house? Please. Enough. Give us all a break.

9

David Velleman 10.18.04 at 10:09 pm

Two questions:

1. The Newsday story was picked up on the front page of our local paper (The Ann Arbor News). So I started watching major news outlets online to see whether they picked it up. As far as I can find, it hasn’t been reported anywhere else. Any thoughts about why this is?

2. The Newsday story quotes official Saudi sources. (“‘This was a missed opportunity for the United States to have other nations share the burden in Iraq,’ said a Saudi official who asked not to be named.”) Why would the Saudis want to undermine Bush at this juncture? What am I missing?

10

Rich Puchalsky 10.18.04 at 10:11 pm

The rightists will never give us a break, jif. Their agenda depends on destroying rational thought not only in themselves, but in everyone else. They have no self-respect, no honesty, no ability to think, and they engage in an active campaign to destroy these qualities in other people.

11

Jim Harrison 10.18.04 at 10:23 pm

Troops from other Arab countries might indeed present a host of problems, but the advantages of having them in Iraq would outweigh the headaches.

The obvious parallel case: In the Kosovo intervention, the Clinton administration paid a huge price in sheer aggravation in order to insure that the Russians played a role on the ground, but broadening the coalition was surely worth it. Compare casualty figures between Serbia and Iraq.

12

praktike 10.18.04 at 10:25 pm

Clearly, the Saudis and perhaps Allawi, too, are ready to toss Bush over.

13

james 10.18.04 at 10:41 pm

The US military has a distrust of UN lead forces. This has not been news since Rwanda. While it is deeper than that one issue, it is enough of a reason to avoid a UN military presence.

14

jet 10.18.04 at 10:43 pm

Jim Harrison, there isn’t much of a comparison between Serbia and Iraq. And I think it would be the losing side of a debate that said having Russia involved made things easier for the US.

The most strategic airport of the campaign was denied to the US by a “rogue” Russian general. Hardly helpful.

But I would be interested in your expounding upon “…surely worth it.” because I don’t see that as sure at all.

15

BruceR 10.18.04 at 11:05 pm

In response to Jet’s post, and for the record, the American rescue force in Mogadishu was carried in about 30 Malaysian APCs, with Malaysian drivers, gunners, and crew commanders (113 personnel in all). One Malaysian was killed and nine wounded in the rescue. Pakistan provided four M-48 tanks in support, which did not enter the city proper.

Retired colonel-commentators Tom McKenney (something of a born-again nutball) and David Hackworth (somewhat more reputable) have alleged there were some negotiations that night at gunpoint. But journalist David Bowden, whose “Blackhawk Down” is still the definitive source, does not mention this. The only instance he cites that is similar is where some soldiers had difficulty convincing a Malaysian driver (due to the language barrier) that it was time to get OUT of Mogadishu after the rescue was completed. The Malaysians were praised by the Pentagon afterwards for a “magnificent performance.”

It is also worth noting that the whole Aidid hunt began when Aidid ambushed and butchered a force of 24 Pakistani soldiers in Mogadishu in June, 2003. No Americans rushed to their aid then, either.

16

s_bethy 10.18.04 at 11:15 pm

At one point, the Saudis proposed that Muslim forces be placed under the command of the Iraqi government. That idea won over Allawi, but not the United States. “The Americans wanted ultimate control, and that made it impossible to make this work,” said the Iraqi official.

Wait a minute. I thought that the US had turned over sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government, and that Allawi was not a puppet of the US.

Hmm.

17

Giles 10.19.04 at 12:07 am

so Jon are you saying that Kerry endorses this plan? I’d be interested to hear when.

18

Dan Simon 10.19.04 at 1:21 am

Okay, then–let us suppose, for a moment, that the one foreign Arab country to be (indirectly) contributing troops to the US effort in Iraq were….Saudi Arabia. Anybody who’s seen “Farenheit 9/11” care to speculate on how that scenario would be greeted by Crooked Timber’s authorship and readership–not to mention John Kerry?

Yes, some of us are indeed heartened that the Bush administration is not accepting “help” in Iraq from the Saudi Arabian government. And the folks at Crooked Timber should be relieved, as well. The reason has nothing to do with racism (sheesh!), and everything to do with the fact that Saudi Arabia is governed by a corrupt, highly secretive monarchy with numerous deep, long-standing connections to pretty much the whole panoply of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations (including an obscure group with the little-heard name, “Al Qaeda”). If anything, the current administration has been too cosy with the Saudi monarchy, and we should all applaud their passing up this opportunity to sully themselves by lending credibility to a frighteningly odious, highly terrorist-friendly regime.

19

pyrrho 10.19.04 at 1:23 am

Kerry moral leadership that could cause some of us outside the US to become involved in Iraq? For an outside view Gooogle Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, Article: “Call him a liberal hawk.” If Kerry returned to multilateralism we would have no choice — even though getting involved in the Iraq quagmire is the last thing we want.

20

krkrjak 10.19.04 at 5:07 am

Say now, all you Kerry supporters should be happy to learn that your guy has received an endorsement from a very important foreign leader. Just picked up info on another blog site that non other than Yasser Arafat has given Mr K. his blessing.

21

vernaculo 10.19.04 at 6:20 am

“…we should all applaud their passing up this opportunity to sully themselves by lending credibility to a frighteningly odious, highly terrorist-friendly…”

Probably the two most familiar Iraqi names to the American public, after Saddam Hussein, are Chalabi and Assawi. Paragons of virtue the both of them, unless by virtue you mean something like human decency and moral leadership.

22

tony 10.19.04 at 9:15 am

“Okay, then—let us suppose, for a moment, that the one foreign Arab country to be (indirectly) contributing troops to the US effort in Iraq were….Saudi Arabia.”

Why would we suppose this, Dan?
“Iraqi officials said they did not want countries that border Iraq to contribute to a security force, ruling out Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Turkey. The Saudis agreed with that condition and promised to provide financial support to the peacekeeping force and possibly to some of the nations that agreed to contribute troops.”Now I’m not suggesting that based on this act of apparent good intentions, the Saudis are to be unconditionally trusted, but it sounds like these negotiations held far too much promise to be thrown out for this reason alone. For that matter, it sounds like insanity to dismiss it on the grounds that the forces wouldn’t be under US control.

23

jet 10.19.04 at 1:18 pm

Since we are all speculating without a whole lot of data, I have another wild assed, just as good as yours, guess. Maybe Iraq and the US have their doubts about the ability of the Saudi government to weed out Al Queda members from any forces sent to Iraq. Wouldn’t that be just grand if Al Queda started semi-openly operating from the Saudi protected sectors?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Saudi police somehow managed to let escape Al Queda members that they had surrounded and had plenty of time to prepare for. Even the provincial Russian police supplemented with civilians were able to kill or capture their terrorists in Beslan. You’d think that Saudi’s best could do the same. And maybe this was the thought running through the Pentagon’s head?

24

jet 10.19.04 at 1:33 pm

Brucer,
“It is also worth noting that the whole Aidid hunt began when Aidid ambushed and butchered a force of 24 Pakistani soldiers in Mogadishu in June, 2003. No Americans rushed to their aid then, either.”

So you are implying that while those 24 Pakistani soldiers were being skinned alive in one of Al Queda’s more horrific attacks, the US not only knew about it, but refused to send troops? With arguments like that, I don’t know how I remain unconvinced. This being the same US army willing to send soldiers with rice in their packs on long hikes in the desert, take sniper fire and casulties, but not fire back (probably because they were issued 5 rounds), just to deliever a day’s worth of food to a villiage? (That was one of the UN missions a guard unit undertook).

David Bowden may not have said the US had to threaten/bully the Malaysians into moving, I’ll have to check tonight, but there was certainly a delay in getting authorization to get the vehicles moving. David Bowden covered in great detail the animosity between the US and the rest of the coalition and that it almost appeared as if the UN commanders were realishing the mess the US was in. But it has been a while since I read his book, feel free to cite me wrong.

25

jet 10.19.04 at 2:08 pm

Forget my previous post, I wrote it, then decided it not worth posting, but I then managed to confuse my browser into posting. Sorry, for the blathering.

26

Gary Farber 10.19.04 at 2:18 pm

I don’t know who this “David Bowden” y’all keep talking about is. Perhaps he’s some relation of Mark Bowden, who wrote Blackhawk Down.

27

Gary Farber 10.19.04 at 2:19 pm

I don’t know who this “David Bowden” y’all keep talking about is. Perhaps he’s some relation of Mark Bowden, who wrote Blackhawk Down.

28

a different chris 10.19.04 at 5:05 pm

>we’re supposed to extend them engraved invitations?

I think it would be hard to top disbanding the Iraqi Army when it comes to invitations of that sort, but that’s just me.

Weirdly, I *do* agree with the general thrust of Brett/jet’s post about Muslim troops being a great carrier to infect Iraq with OBL sympathisers. I said that every time, pre-war, that the idiots in the Bush misAdmistration talked to Pakistan, and our Bush-apologists spewed out their talking points about Bush’s great coalition building.

For instance, notice jet’s nice rant on SA. Very interesting that he’s so informed – he could probably rant on similarly about virtually every other ME country that could supply troops.

Therefore he should know that by far the cleanest goddamn country in the ME as per Al-Queda was Iraq, my pretties. And now you wingnut geniuses have gone and contaminated it, and you have no exit strategy that doesn’t leave it as Afghanistan squared.

Brilliant. Not.

29

mona 10.19.04 at 6:34 pm

Well no wonder the US don’t want anyone else if they’re not under their control – now they even want *British* troops under US control. Imagine that.

Kerry is seriously misguided, no fault of his, it’s just the consequences of the Iraqi mess, it’s unthinkable that countries opposed to the war (everyone, by now) would send more troops under these conditions and with the likely request to have them under US command. It’s just pure wisfhul thinking.

30

George 10.19.04 at 9:49 pm

Compare casualty figures between Serbia and Iraq.

Human Rights Watch claimed that 500 civilians were killed in the 70-or-so day bombardment by NATO forces. The Yugoslav government claimed the figure was more like 5,000. After the Serbs capitulated, Kosovar-on-Kosovar (ie, Albanian-Serb) violence surged, and I’d be surprised if the death toll didn’t get to the thousands. In a way we simply exchanged one ethnic cleanser for another (although we did stop the career of a world-class dictator and serial mass murderer, Slobodan Milosevic).

Was it worth it? Well, the NY Times editors came out clearly in support of that action before the bombs started falling, but they apparently learned their lesson by the time it was a Republican who wanted to act outside the UN.

31

jet 10.20.04 at 12:44 pm

The Guardian has already started running articles on how the US is hyping the genocide in Darfur so that it can cut out French and Chinese oil interests (which was to be expected). Maybe the NYT’s and the Guardian’s editors do team building retreats together?

32

jet 10.20.04 at 12:45 pm

The Guardian has already started running articles on how the US is hyping the genocide in Darfur so that it can cut out French and Chinese oil interests (which was to be expected). Maybe the NYT’s and the Guardian’s editors go on team building retreats together?

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