From Ancient Greece to the ongoing Syrian Civil War, examples of warfare conducted by coalitions on one or both sides are a constant presence in recorded human history. Since 1815, coalitions have participated in almost half of all interstate wars, while more than thirty per cent of all major land battles in the period 1900–2003 involved at least one coalition. Coalitions have shaped, and will long continue to shape, the character and the conduct of military operations.

As observed by Patricia Weitsman, fighting as part of a coalition rather than fighting alone presents armed forces with a “unique set of concerns and operational challenges – differences in rules of engagement, differences in languages, and problems with interoperability, to name a few”.[1] However, whilst the formation, management, and effectiveness of coalitions as warfighting organisations have all garnered significant analytical attention from political scientists, far less has been written about the tactical and operational challenges that Weitsman identified.

Comparatively little has been written about the strengths and weaknesses of coalition fighting, and about the experiences of coalitions: at the tactical level, among the soldiers charged with securing military objectives; at the logistical level, among those tasked with providing the right equipment to the right people in the right place at the right time; and at the operational level, among those responsible for navigating the political, military, and cultural challenges of working with forces whose principal allegiance is to a different government.

The aim of this project, funded by the Aberystwyth University Research Fund, is to draw together scholars operating across temporal, geographic, and disciplinary boundaries to answer recent calls for a greater understanding of how coalition warfare operates across multiple cultural, political, and military settings.[2]

Contributors interested in any aspects of coalition warfare, in any time period and location, are encouraged to participate in this project, which ultimately aspires to create a research network with two aims:

  • First, to draw together scholars with converging interests to devise an ambitious research agenda for the future of studies in coalition warfare.
  • Second, to develop innovative, multinational research outputs on the phenomenon of coalition warfare.

Not Enemies, but Friends? will launch in January 2023 with the first in a series of online discussions. The aim of these discussions will be to connect like-minded scholars, to identify the state of the field, and to shape the research agenda for the project. If your research deals with any aspects of coalition warfighting, we would be delighted to hear from you.

For further information, and to join the Not Enemies, but Friends? mailing list, please fill out the contact form below or contact the project leader, Dr Christopher Phillips.

    [1] Patricia Weitsman, Waging War: Alliances, Coalitions, and Institutions of Interstate Violence (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), p. 189.

    [2] Rosella Cappella Zielinski and Ryan Grauer, ‘Understanding battlefield coalitions’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 45:2 (2022), 177–185,; Andrew Graham, ‘Military Coalitions in War’, The Oxford Handbook of War, ed. by Yves Boyer and Julian Lindley-French (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 318–331,