Guy Dinmore, diplomatic correspondent and Washington bureau chief for the Financial Times of London, wrote on Wednesday that under the Bush administration the State Department is saying it intends to free itself from allies' cavils and scruples by relying in the future solely on "issue-based coalitions of the willing" and not on long-term multilateral alliances like NATO.[1]  --  Such unilateralism already marks the national security strategy statements the administration has promulgated, such as the infamous "National Security Strategy of the United States of America" of September 17, 2002, as well as "The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America" of March 2005.  --  The unnamed "senior State Department official" whose briefing is the gist of this article "would not say whether such planning was being made with Iran in mind," Dinmore observed....


Middle East & Africa


By Guy Dinmore

Financial Times (UK)
January 4, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Building on its experience in Iraq, the Bush administration says it wants to be able to form “coalitions of the willing” more efficiently for dealing with future conflicts rather than turning to existing but unreliable institutional alliances such as NATO.

“We ‘ad hoc’ our way through coalitions of the willing. That’s the future,” a senior State Department official said in a briefing this week that reflected Washington’s search for alternatives to the post-second world war global architecture in the new era of its “war on terror."

Acknowledging that the coalition in Iraq had required the U.S. to “scramble around capitals,” he said the Bush administration sought ways of what he called regularizing processes and standardizing operating procedures and the generation of force requirements.

He did not elaborate and would not say whether such planning was being made with Iran in mind. “We are focused on the enduring dynamics of coalition warfare,” the official, who asked not to be named, told reporters late on Tuesday.

NATO would remain a “bedrock alliance, a model, and framework”, the official said, but he questioned its reliability. He sharply criticized one European government for what he called undermining the alliance by “opting out” of NATO’s expansion into possible combat operations in southern Afghanistan.

“NATO has got to look in the mirror as an alliance,” he said, asking whether it remained an alliance of “one for all and all for one.”

He declined to name the government but observers said he was clearly referring to the Netherlands, which also pulled out its troops from Iraq last year.

The Netherlands has so far been unable to confirm its commitment to send an additional 1,100 soldiers required for a joint British-Canadian-Dutch mission to extend NATO’s presence in Afghanistan. Though the Dutch government has made clear it intends to go along with the plans after winning certain “security guarantees” for its troops, it has yet to consult ­parliament, where it could face a hostile reaction.

The U.S. official singled out non-NATO allies in Asia for their support in Iraq, naming Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Singapore. He said that at a meeting at Penfolds vineyard in November, Australian officials had told Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. defense secretary, of their keen interest in expanding intelligence relations with the U.S.

Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, will discuss coalition plans in Iraq with her Australian and Japanese counterparts next week. U.S. officials say with the budget running out, the international community, and notably Japan, will play a leading role in funding reconstruction.

Without the explicit support of the United Nations or NATO, the U.S. went to war with Iraq in March 2003 listing 44 countries in its “coalition of willing,” plus unidentified others.

Cliff Kupchan, an analyst with the Eurasia Group consultancy, said the main lesson from Iraq was that the U.S. as the world’s only superpower was still not able to achieve its national interests on its own. “The second lesson is that we can’t rely on the Europeans. We can only hope on a 50 per cent recovery of that rift,” he commented. “So that leaves us with constructing issue-based coalitions of the willing as the key component of future U.S. foreign policy.”

The Bush administration says plans by some of allies to reduce troops numbers in Iraq this year are a reflection of progress and a changing mission, not political fatigue with an unpopular war.

--Additional reporting by Tobias Buck in Brussels.