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Document created: 1 June 07
Air & Space Power Journal - Fall 2007
Lt Col Paul D. Berg, USAF, Chief, Professional Journals
According to Joint Publication (JP) 3-16, Multinational Operations, “a coalition is an ad hoc arrangement between two or more nations for common action. Coalitions are formed by different nations with different objectives, usually for a single occasion or for a longer period while addressing a narrow sector of common interest. Operations conducted with units from two or more coalition members are referred to as coalition operations” (emphasis in original).1 JP 3-16 adds that “US commanders and their staffs should have an understanding of each member of the MNF [multinational force]. Much time and effort is expended in learning about the enemy; a similar effort is required to understand the doctrine, capabilities, strategic goals, culture, religion, customs, history, and values of each partner. This will ensure the effective integration of MNF partners into the operation and enhance the synergistic effect of the coalition forces.”2
US military forces conduct coalition operations on a daily basis. We already enjoy close partnerships with many militaries, but our nation’s global involvement means that we need to prepare ourselves for unexpected contingencies. No one can predict the membership, purpose, or timing of the next coalition operation. We might join a coalition that includes almost any nation in the world. Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom involve combat and include our closest allies, but many coalitions form as humanitarian responses to natural disasters, such as the tsunami of 2004. Some of them assemble slowly, and members may join and leave; others, however, can almost literally blossom overnight. Coalitions typically involve numerous military, governmental, and nongovernmental groups not accustomed to working together. The unpredictability and complexity of these operations highlight the importance of quickly coordinating diverse organizations under crisis conditions. We would do well to learn about potential coalition partners before a crisis erupts.
Coalition members can contribute tremendous resources, but the challenge lies in integrating them as efficiently as possible. Thus, careful planning based on the capabilities and needs of each partner becomes essential. Doctrine such as that found in JP 3-16 guides the basic military aspects of coalition planning, but air, space, and cyber power remain integral to practically all coalition operations; consequently, Airmen need to prepare themselves to think creatively about new situations. Although they already excel at applying their service’s distinctive capabilities, Airmen should study coalition capabilities and seek new ways to integrate international contributions. Learning about potential coalition partners is a never-ending process.
We can follow JP 3-16’s call to learn about our coalition partners by studying what they say in their professional writings. This issue of Air and Space Power Journal (ASPJ), the professional journal of the Air Force, contains articles and book reviews written by authors from Brazil, France, Guatemala, Italy, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This diverse international cast offers a variety of perspectives on the challenges we face today. Some of these views will be familiar to ASPJ readers, but others may appear novel and thought provoking. Because coalitions will almost certainly remain an enduring part of the international security scene, the ASPJ staff dedicates this issue to advancing the professional dialogue about coalition operations.
1. Joint Publication 3-16, Multinational Operations, 7 March 2007, I-1, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/new
_pubs/jp3_16.pdf (accessed 6 June 2007).
2. Ibid., I-3.