Newswise — Patricia Weitsman is a political science professor at Ohio University who specializes in war policy, international security and relations—and coalition warfare. An excellent source on defense issues and the politics of war, Weitsman can offer insights on the “coalition” aspect of President Obama’s recently announced troop-increase plan for Afghanistan.
“Having coalition partners pony up troops will help tremendously in terms of the psychological affect on the American public--we are not alone, we are in this together,” says Weitsman. “However, the coordination of troops, interoperability issues, and friendly fire incidents are often the result, in addition to whatever money the Obama administration promises to allies that augment troop levels,” she says.
“The unthinking acceptance that the larger the coalition, the more countries that participate, and the more troops from other countries that participate, the better is highly problematic.”
In offering her perspective on recruiting allies versus “going it alone” in 21st century warfare, she notes that the United States has engaged in more multinational operations since the end of the cold war than it did in the preceding 90 years. While relying on one’s partners to help fight wars would seem to make sense, she questions this conventional wisdom in modern warfare—arguing that this thinking is flawed when applied to the battlefield of 2009.
“Coalition warfare requires a high degree of joint planning, consultation and cooperation,” says Professor Weitsman. “The presumption is that this loss of autonomy is more than compensated by having coalition partners provide additional troops on the ground and share the burden of fighting.”
Are these in fact the reasons the United States has been using coalition warfare to prosecute wars in the contemporary era? Not according to Weitsman, who authored the 2004 book, Dangerous Alliances: Proponents of Peace, Weapons of War (Stanford University Press). “The United States has used its partners to garner legitimacy for its foreign policy objectives,” she says, pointing out that this type of partnership approach has usually come at a price.
What’s more, the resources devoted to our coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan have done little to help the United States gain legitimacy. “The United States should use only coalition warfare when it reduces the costs of prosecuting war, not when it greatly increases them,” she says.
More information on Professor Weitsman can be found on her Ohio University faculty Web page at http://www.ohio.edu/pols/faculty/weitsman.html