Fletcher in the News

U.S. Attempts to Build Coalition of the Willing for Iraq: Dean Stavridis Comments in Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy

Dean Stavridis The Fletcher School

In his multiple press briefings since authorizing airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq, President Barack Obama has yet to make a vocal public case for allies to join the fight. But as the White House sets the stage for a drawn-out campaign against the Islamic State in northern Iraq, the president is quietly asking the leaders of other nations to stand with him.

Obama and members of his cabinet, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, have been holding a flurry of phone calls and visits to drum up support for help in Iraq, not only for the humanitarian mission but, more quietly, for the military's lethal one.

…In reaching out to Europe, Obama -- who staked his 2008 campaign on ending the war in Iraq -- is now confronting the scope of an intervention that he does not want to handle alone. Building a new coalition of the willing will help protect Obama at home, especially among those on the left who fear he is slipping the country back into the war he ended in 2011, as well as among internationalists who believe the effort can only be strong if it is a broad-based one. But as Obama uses the threat of genocide to sell allies on the need to help in the effort, he's clearly intent on getting other countries enthusiastic about supporting -- and helping to conduct -- military action…

…European nations and others must get on board, argues James Stavridis, the former commander of the Supreme Allied Command, Europe, who was in that post when an international coalition was assembled for Libya during civil strife there in the spring of 2011.

Stavridis, now the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston, sees a role for allies to play to provide support for both air- and land-based airstrikes, drones, cyber-capabilities, logistics, and other equipment. While he doesn't see the need for large troop formations, Stavridis said some allies should provide special forces troops to assist the United States. The Pentagon has a number of such troops supporting the Iraqi government there now, coordinating airstrikes and advising Iraqi forces as they fight against IS.

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