Book review published in the American Political Science Review, Vol. 92, No. 3, Sept. 1998, pp. 743-4

Friends in Need: Burden Sharing in the Gulf War. Edited by Andrew Bennett, Joseph Lepgold, and Danny Unger, New York: St Martin's Press, New York 1997. 362p. $55

Reveiwed by Gerald M. Steinberg , Bar Ilan University

In 1991, the Bush Administration went to war against Saddam Hussein, claiming to be leading a broad coalition. However, in early 1998, when President Clinton prepared another attack following continued Iraqi interference with the UN arms inspectors, there was no pretense of a coalition. What was the nature of the initial alliance against Iraq, and what happened between 1991 and 1998?

The authors of Friends in Need: Burden Sharing in the Gulf War examine the 1991 coalition from the perspective of alliance theory and burden-sharing. After the editors establish a systematic framework in the opening chapter, the authors of the individual cases use this framework to analyze the behavior of some of the countries in the coalition.

The model extends the burden-sharing literature from the context of NATO during the Cold War, and consists of five externally and internally derived hypotheses. The issue of collective action and the problem of free riders, dependence on the alliance leader, and domestic politics emerge as the central factors.

If Iraq was a threat to all members of the coalition (militarily in the region, and in terms of oil market stability for the other states), and if the U.S. was prepared to shoulder most of the military and economic burden to protect its own interests, what motive did the other threatened states have to contribute to the confrontation with Iraq?

For most of the states, the answers are not surprising, and the use of the heavy weapons of social science are too powerful for the issues at hand. However, the effort and systematic case studies are important contributions to alliance literature. After emerging as the victor in the Cold War, the US was (and is) the only potential leader of the posse, and the elaborate research design that is used to explain U.S. leadership is unnecessary. More interestingly, since U.S. had the military power to act independently, and "most of the coalition partners were more trouble than they were worth in terms of actual military effectiveness", (p.45) why did the Bush administration twist the arms of so many supporting actors?

In part, American domestic politics played a role. To gain support from the Democratic majority in Congress, which was hesitant to take risks to restore Kuwait's decadent monarchy, Bush thought he needed the facade of a broad international coalition. Once approached, many leaders feared that by refusing the American request, they would lose points in other areas. Korea and Japan depend on US forces for stability in Asia, Germany needed diplomatic support for reunification, and the crumbling Soviet Union (although a reluctant ally whose envoys still sought to play an independent role) sought American aid to prevent the descent into anarchy.

In addition, American officials "perceived US allies to be 'free riding' to some extent in NATO, and they were determined not to let this happen in the Gulf." (p.60) The chapters on the UK and France demonstrate the degree to which the NATO pattern extended to this case. Under Thatcher, the British played the role of the experienced sibling, urging a strong stand in the battle of good versus evil, and providing the largest deployment of British forces since 1945. According to Andrew Cooper and Kim Nossal, the "middle powers" (Australia, Canada, and the Nordic countries) joined in the idealist expectation that the coalition was " a harbinger of a new world order, in which the ... the UN would play an increasingly important role, and the U.S. would pursue a policy of multilateralism ..." (p.271). They stayed even when realipolitik returned to center stage, because "the costs of leaving the coalition, both domestic and external, were too high." (p.272)

Mitterand's France was still the reluctant ally, attempting to carve out an independent role far beyond its significance, and often at the expense of the collective good. Grunberg's case study show how French participation was "marked by a pattern of hesitations, delays, contradictory statements, ambiguous diplomatic moves, and uncertain military alignments." (p.113) The Arabist French elite preferred to maintain its ties with Iraq, but a combination of public disdain for Saddam's brutality, and the perceived need for strengthened ties with U.S. to offset the impact of German unification led to limited cooperation.

The biggest problems for the U.S. were posed by the Arab states that Washington claimed to be protecting from Iraq. In the period after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and before the war began, President Bush voiced the fear that the Saudis are "going to be the ones who are going to bug out at the last minute and accept a puppet regime in Kuwait."(p.46) However, once the Americans demonstrated their commitment to attacking Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was likely to be ousted, Saudi commitment increased.

Egypt was also a central Arab participant, but as Daniel Brumberg shows, Cairo's policies were based on regional goals, and not on a shared threat perception. Egypt's aspirations "required that it join the coalition rather than cede its role to the West - or to other Arab states."(p.92) The 35,000 Egyptian troops dispatched to Saudi Arabia were not welcomed in Riyadh, reflecting the fear that instead of Iraqi dominance, the Gulf would end up subjugated by Egypt. As soon as the war ended, the Saudis rejected the Egyptian offer of longer term "protection" and the troops were expelled. (For its trouble, Egyptian an economic package worth $25 billion, largely in terms of debt forgiveness.)

With Egypt in, other Arab states, such as Syria, followed, gaining substantial aid and avoiding the wrath of the U.S., while also checking Egypt's power. For the U.S., the deployment of Syrian forces, however symbolic, blocked any plans that Saddam might have had to create an Arab alliance on his side. As Vaziri demonstrates, Iran's behavior as a "free rider" was determined not only by national interest but also by the absence of any viable option.

The greatest weakness in this volume is the absence of case studies of two of the most important actors in the events -- Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia is considered in some detail in the chapters on the U.S. and the Arab states, and primary sources on decision making in Riyadh are difficult to obtain, but no such limits exist with respect to Israel. In addition to providing a "silent partner" and backstop for the combat troops and intelligence activities, Israel's major contribution came when the Shamir government stayed out of the war, despite the Iraqi attacks, and in the face of intense pressure and decades of policy based on preemption and retaliation. Israel was not a free rider, and made a major contribution to the coherence of the coalition. The decision against responding was largely the result of Israel's unique alliance relationship with the U.S. and the expectation of the improved security as a result of the destruction of Saddam's arsenal. The inclusion of this case would have added an important dimension to this study.

The 1990/1 situation was an exception, and not the beginning of a "new world order", as authors of this study recognized long before the latest round. "Because the forces that shaped the Gulf coalition were unique, it is unlikely that the US will have the means to create such a coalition in the future. Instead, it might be obliged to act unilaterally ..." (p.109) However, as this study demonstrates, in a unipolar world, once the U.S. has decided to use its power, even the most reluctant states recognize the high costs of opposition.