The seven habits of highly effective coalitions

As offers start rolling in — aircraft sorties, anti-tank companies, logistic support, field hospitals, and on and on — someone has to organize them. Indeed, almost as soon as the campaign against the Islamic State is put in place, the commanders will have specific needs and a wish list to put in front of the nations. Matching the needs of the field commanders to the nations that are offering support is difficult, technical, and complex. NATO devotes a four-star British general (the deputy to the supreme allied commander, my old job) and a staff to do this. If U.S. Central Command intends to orchestrate the campaign against IS, they need to set up a full-time staff element to generate, apportion, and move forces forward. The sooner this is put in place, the better.

As the coalition gets up and running, there are lots of other things to consider, like the use of donor conferences at the level of the secretary of state or secretary of defense; how to integrate with civilian agencies on the ground in the region (many of the Islamic State’s hostages are aid workers); whether and when to hold summits with heads of state and governments; the applicability of financial and economic tools by the coalition; and how to structure command and control on the ground. All of this will come with time. The ideas above are just a beginning, as the coalition comes together.

We know how to do this — let’s get underway.