US needs to build coalition for Syrian operation

US needs to build coalition for Syrian operation
(L-R) U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

As United States President Barack Obama faces a crucial congressional vote this week on military action against the Assad regime in Syria, America's diplomats are working overtime to create the global coalition for such a war.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has spent the weekend huddled with his counterparts in Europe, while other senior American officials are fanning out throughout the world. "We are building support with... other countries, among them the Arab League," Mr Kerry explained.

But this won't be easy. If the history of such previous endeavours is anything to go by, the US administration will succeed in its alliance-creation efforts only by being dragged into the Syrian quagmire to a far larger degree than Mr Obama currently envisages.

Operation Desert Storm, the 1990-1991 war for the liberation of Kuwait, was the biggest multinational effort of its kind since World War II: A global coalition of 34 nations contributed one million soldiers against the armies of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. These came from as far apart as Argentina and Australia and included contingents from the Arab world.

Equally, the Bosnian war during the earlier part of the 1990s and the Kosovo one, which came at the end of that decade, involved the entire Nato alliance, which at that time was composed of 16 European and North American nations.

A total of 43 countries have contributed troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

A separate coalition of 19 states launched attacks against Libya in 2011, initially, in order to protect civilians in that country, but ultimately, to overthrow the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

And even US president George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq, by far the most controversial military operation since the end of the Cold War, was spearheaded by four nations, which launched the initial attack - the famed "coalition of the willing" - and subsequently augmented by a "stabilisation" force comprising soldiers belonging to no fewer than 36 other states. So, far from being a unilateral American folly, the 2003 Iraq war ultimately involved - in one shape or another - almost a quarter of the world's independent nations.

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