“Coalition of the willing” reality check

From Salon:

March 12, 2003 | The international airport at Conakry, Guinea, is busier than usual this week, as diplomats from France, the U.S. and Britain continue to descend upon the West African capital for more discreet horse-trading in preparation for the expected United Nations vote on the Iraq resolution. Although Guinea has close financial ties to France and polls show that its Muslim population strongly opposes an Iraq invasion, the developing nation could gain $21.4 million in U.S. foreign aid this year in exchange for a vote in favor of the pending resolution.

Wooed by such a wealthy suitor, Guinea may not be able to afford ideology.

Such are the naked politics of checkbook diplomacy, currently on gaudy display as the Bush administration tries to pull from among the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council the nine votes required to authorize an invasion. In the tug-of-war over the six undecided countries that will determine the final outcome, the U.S. is brandishing its wallet as a weapon. Guinea, Mexico, Chile, Angola, Cameroon and Pakistan all face the same dilemma this week: Ignore mounting opposition to war at home, or face the wrath of Washington?

Turkey has been offered $6 billion in direct aid, plus billions more in loans, if it will allow the U.S. to base soldiers there in advance of an invasion. But promises are flowing to nations far from the war front. A no vote by Chile could jeopardize a bill now pending in Congress for increased trade access — a measure worth billions of dollars over time. For Cameroon, a proposed 670-mile oil pipeline from Chad to be built by Exxon Mobil and ChevronTexaco is at stake. Poland stands to win $3.8 billion in loans for military aircraft. Bulgaria has no doubt heard hints that it could win a chance to host a new U.S. military base, which would inject millions into its economy. Guinea’s army rangers continue to need U.S. training to prevent attacks from neighboring Liberia.

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According to a recently released report by the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, the nebulous coalition represents barely a tenth of the world’s population — and many of the countries didn’t join out of an idealistic commitment to the liberation of Iraq. “Almost all, by our count, join only through coercion, bullying, bribery, or the implied threat of U.S. action that would directly damage the interests of the country,” the report states. “Far more impressive is the list of nations that have stood up to U.S. bully tactics and stand opposed.”