Another attempt at inferfacing with print media:
Sent this off to the Strib tonight. I wish I could figure out how to do tables in HTML; this looked a lot better in Word. (edit: got tables working-sort of.)
26 January 2004
To the Editors:
I read with interest our Republican Senator and Representatives’ rebuff of the Star Tribune editorial staff regarding your critique of President Bush’s State of the Union Address. I was especially struck by their blanket condemnation of the liberal internet community in general and bloggers in particular. When blogging, I feel free to express my opinion and always try to back it up with whatever facts are available on the internet. Perhaps it would inform our representatives in Congress if I give an example of internet research and blog opinion regarding the State of the Union Address. I guarantee it will be more informative than the “light on facts” accusatory outrage they find so easy to express:
While listening to the State of the Union Address last week, I noticed the President got a big round of applause and cheers when he announced that the Coalition of the Willing had grown to 49 nations. This should certainly be good news, since the strain of fighting the war and occupying Iraq is beginning to affect both the morale and the readiness of our Armed Forces. Although we hear about the Coalition in general terms fairly often, it seems that we rarely get any specifics on its members or their respective contributions. I thought I’d take a little time to track down this information and help all of us evaluate the value of the Coalition.
The first thing I noticed while doing this research was that information on the Coalition is hard to come by. I found several lists of member nations, but they didn’t agree completely with one another. Even the White House’s list on their web page is dated 2003. I used several internet based sources to try and get a complete list, although there seems to be a measure of confusion over the exact membership. What follows is my best effort at a list of Coalition members. Alert readers will note that there are 53 countries listed here; the White House claims 49 of them. Round bracketed ( ) entries appear on the White House list, but not in other documents. Square bracketed [ ] entries appear in multiple sources, but not in the White House list.
The next challenge is to divine what sort of help each of these nations is offering as a coalition member. Obviously, some of these countries aren’t in a position to offer anything other than “political support” which can be described as words of encouragement, or moral support. Asterisks in the list identify countries in this category.
Other countries in the coalition are located where military over flight privileges would be helpful, but they offer no material support other than that. They are identified by double asterisks. According to this count, 23 countries who claim membership in the Coalition provide nothing in the way of monetary or material support.
The remaining members of the coalition offer varying amounts of support, ranging from the use of an airfield for refueling purposes, to medical teams, chemical decontamination squads, a submarine, Patriot Anti-Missile batteries and in a few instances, combat troops. Some of this personnel and equipment is contingent on not actually entering Iraq.
Many of the supporting countries are increasing or decreasing troop strength, hardware levels and conditions as this is being written, making it nearly impossible to pin down the exact contributions of Coalition members in real time. It is possible, however, to look at contributions during the invasion and initial occupation of Iraq:
United States: approximately 300,000 troops
Great Britain: approximately 45,000 troops
Australia: approximately 2,000 troops
All other coalition members combined: approximately 2000 personnel
It may be useful at this point to draw some comparisons with the 1991 Gulf War, in order get a feel for the differences between the Coalition in 1991 and 2003.
|1991 Gulf War
||2003 Iraq War|
(24% of total)
(14% of total)
(90% of total)
(14% of total)
Note that these costs consider only the active combat phase of the Iraq invasion. Casualties are not considered for the purpose of this analysis. The level of Coalition monetary and troop support for the 2003 Iraq war is clearly lower than it was in 1991. The Coalition monetary contribution is estimated based on the assumption that our allies’ costs run approximately the same as our own and that we are not reimbursing them. It is also notable that US costs in the region subsequent to the combat phase of the war are running approximately $4 Billion per month, and are not being reimbursed by our Coalition partners, as occurred during the 1991 war. The following table, summarized from a US house budget committee document shows the expected costs of the occupation of Iraq using three possible scenarios:
Some opponents of the war have pointed out that the United States will incur additional costs due to foreign aid increases and loan guarantees to some of our Coalition partners. Clearly, US costs in this venture are not currently being mitigated in any way that is cause for celebration. President Bush would do better and deserve more applause if he could announce significant increases in contributions from our numerous partners. Having a Coalition of the Willing is a good thing. Having a Coalition of the Willing and Able would be much better.