Form a coalition before you start a war

Coalitions have a number of strategic benefits: 1

Where do I find the people?. 2

Relationships between groups are formed by: 2

Who should I not include?. 2

How do I network?. 3

Maintaining networks. 3

Coalitions of organisations (rather than individuals) 4

Who do I network with?. 4

Preparing for war. 4

Administration lays groundwork for likely military action (Sept 01) 5

When the United States of America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001, they already had a military bigger than the next nine countries in the world combined.  Yet they formed a coalition first before they attacked a comparatively weak countries.  Why?

Coalitions have a number of strategic benefits:

Firstly, it makes it more difficult for the enemy to counter-attack because their attention would have to be divided between many targets.  If America attacked the terrorists alone, the terrorists may try to pull together a counter-coalition of nations disliking America.  However by gaining the support of key allies including many in the Muslim world, they make the coalition too dangerous to counter-attack.  The same was done during the gulf war.

Secondly, it broadens the base of positions from which you can launch an attack on the enemy.  America may need to use Pakistani soil and airspace if it decides to attack Osma Bin Laden and supporters in Afghanistan.  America is too far away from its enemy base to attack directly.  The terrorists must not have any safe place they can hide out of range of attack.

Thirdly, it brings in resources and specialist skills of the diverse groups.  In this case, the military and spy networks of the nations involved.

In the same way, when you decide to fight for a Christian cause, you are going to need many allies – some of which you may not ordinarily work with – people of other denominations, political parties, Christian NGOs, people in media, politics and business.  The bigger the battle, the bigger the coalition you will usually need.

For a local issue, you may get together a group of concerned residents; link them with a Christian activist NGO with specialist experience; gain the support of your local civic association; church minister; journalist from a local newspaper, school headmaster etc.   For a bigger issue, you may need to also include your political representatives, sympathetic journalists, national Christian organisations, ministers fraternal etc.

Two criteria are important in choosing people.  Firstly, the commitment of the people to fight the cause and secondly the ability of the people to get along with others you hope to include in your coalition.  If people have low commitment, your fight will run out of energy.  If your  people have low ability to get along, then your coalition will stay small – often too small to make a large impact.  Coalitions can grow very big – with varying degrees of commitment and involvement.  The people at the centre must fill these two criteria – so begin working with them first.  Only involve people with a difficulty in getting along with others at later stages and if you are sure you have strong enough control to prevent them damaging the group.  There is often a tension here, as the more committed become frustrated with the less committed.  Allow for different levels of involvement according to peoples commitment and ability to get along.  Encourage any frustrated, but committed people to express their concerns to you the leader directly rather than argue with other members of the group.

Where do I find the people?

Building coalitions can be very time consuming.  Thus, first look for existing networks and activist agencies which include the people you want to involve in your coalition.  It is much easier to strengthen an existing coalition than to start a new one.  In the example below, America would probably start with its friends in NATO and to a lesser degree the United Nations.  In South Africa major existing national networks of Christian groups include The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA) and the Family Alliance.  For prolife issues, work through the National Alliance for Life.  For Israel issues, work through the Coalition of Christian Zionist organisations.  There are many others.

The support of the leader of the formal network is the first step, but it is not enough.  You must build an informal network of supporters inside the formal group who you can depend on.  Whether someone has status is irrelevant.  Whether they can help you is important.  Some relatively junior people can serve as gatekeepers or potentially obstruct implimentation and thus must be convinced of the value of what you are doing.

Relationships between groups are formed by:

i. Networking: Agreeing to informally help each other, while working in separate organisations.

ii. Coalitions: Informal or formal groups which help support each other.

iii. United organisations:  Occasionally, several groups may choose to unite into one or one may be absorbed by another.

Who should I not include?

Obviously, those who don’t agree with the cause must be excluded.

As Christians, we can form temporary associations with non-Christian groups to fight common causes.  Nevertheless, we should not be yoked together with them and should be careful of possible alternative agendas they may have for becoming involved.  Historically, Christianity was driven out of England for a hundred years, after the King there invited the pagan Anglo-Saxons to help his defence.  They turned against him and drove the Britons into Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  In our case, there have at times been complications in involving Muslim groups in morality causes.  For example, a homosexual leader received death threats after a joint Christian-Muslim political demonstration.  Most South African Muslims are not violent, but extremists were attracted to the cause and created problems.  Other tensions arise when different groups agree on one issue, but strongly disagree on another.  If one does work with non-Christians, this must not be allowed to stop Christians praying for Gods blessing and direction for the cause.  This may require a ‘Christian caucus’ within the larger coalition.  While Christians can work with people of other religions, they cannot worship together with them.  Prayers of different religions cannot be offered together at the same meeting.

Sympathetic people who are not strongly motivated should be included in your network, but not your coalition.  You can draw them in later if they become more interested – or drop them off if they become less interested.

How do I network?

To network, go to the meetings those you would want to meet may attend.  Ask key people you know to give you contact numbers of others you will need.  Phone people up and ask for a meeting.  Explain to them your vision and why you believe it can credibly be achieved.  This will include your track record and that of others already part of the coalition.  Tell them about previous victories to build credibility – otherwise, many will pretend to give support just to be polite, but not actually back you.  Senior people are often difficult to meet, until you have built up a track record, but this will become easier as people get to know you.

Two tools are essential for networking.  Firstly, a business card to give away (make your own or order commercially) and secondly a system of recording contact details.  As you collect details, put their phone, fax and email records into a computer program (such as Outlook) or a table on paper (or both).  Details should be categorised by interest rather than simple alphabetical order.  This will allow you to send useful information to just those people who are interested in the subject – and invite quickly people from the same group.  Keep your records up to date and whenever you have new information.

Because networking is time consuming, start working on it as early as possible.  A network you build this year may be used for a battle in several years time.

Maintaining networks

Networks and coalitions must benefit everyone involved.

Thus try to connect people who share the same motivation and interest – even if it is different from your interest.  In future, they may help you by connecting you with people who can help you. Feed people with information they can use.  Motivate people with vision and ideas for action.


Networks thus need three types of leadership: connecting, information and motivation.  If these three are found in one person – great, but usually not everyone has all these skills.  Thus you need to try to find other leaders who have the skill you are missing or alternatively to try learn yourself.  Encourage other members of the network to copy you in sharing useful information and connections.  In this way, your time is leveraged.


Remember that everyone you ask to help may want your help in future.  Some inexperienced networkers will only concentrate on their own projects because they claim lack of time to help others.  This shows a misunderstanding of networking.  If you have a decent sized network – you should be able to find someone else who can help almost anyone who comes to you for help in your area of speciality.  You can’t help everyone yourself, but you should at least try to point them in a direction where they can find help.   People who only work on their own projects run the risk of being dropped off the network, when others realise their behaviour.

This is completely different to the strategy used in independent organisations which only concentrate on their own projects.  Service delivery can usually be effected by independent organisations, but public advocacy must usually work through networks and coalitions.

Coalitions of organisations (rather than individuals)

Every organisational coalition must have a ‘lead agency’ that is both focused on the task and has good relations with all the groups needed.  If such a group doesn’t yet exist, then you must start one – informally first and possibly formalise it later.  Leading a coalition is very costly in terms of time and effort, thus a single group cannot lead too many different causes.  Your group must choose one or two causes to lead and then just work in a supportive role on the other causes.  Thus different groups in the coalition will take turns to lead on different tasks and if the interests are broad for different causes.  Again, it is important to put strong support behind the causes others are leading and not only on the one you are leading – otherwise the coalition will weaken.

Who do I network with?

Networks age.  People will leave because of promotion, demotion, emigration, graduation, death and retirement.  Thus try to pick friends who are likely to stay in positions for longer and try to make friends with more than one person in each organisation in case one leaves.  For example, with Campuses, students will graduate in a few years so organisational staff workers are more useful to know.  Then first year students are more of a long-term investment.  Senior people can give permission for actions, but they are often too busy to actually implement the work – so often their assistants are the key people to get to know.  Nevertheless, even when people leave an organisation – maintain contact with them – because experienced people can contribute valuable advice and often re-enter leadership elsewhere.

Preparing for war

Building a coalition is an essential step in preparing for war.  Some people may not join at first.  Thus it is often necessary to fight without everyone you would like on board.  Nevertheless, keep them informed of progress in the war; threats to themselves from the common enemy; weaknesses of the enemy; lesser ways they can help the war effort; and especially victories which may boost their confidence in ultimate victory.

God bless

Philip Rosenthal

Administration lays groundwork for likely military action (Sept 01)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Laying the groundwork for a likely military response, President Bush conferred with his top security advisers Wednesday as the administration reached out to allies across the globe in the wake of terrorist strikes he labeled “acts of war.”

We’re building a strong coalition to go after these perpetrators, but, more broadly, to go after terrorism wherever we find it in the world,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said at a State Department briefing.

Bush hinted strongly at a military response, talking of the “monumental struggle” between good and evil following the hijacking of four commercial jets, which later deliberately crashed — two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and one in rural Pennsylvania.

“This battle will take time and resolve,” Bush said during a meeting with top security advisers. “But make no mistake about it. We will win.”

Earlier Powell called the attacks “a war against civilization” and said the world must respond accordingly.