Iraqi Inspections

Originally posted January 4, 2003

The U.N. has been inspecting Iraq for any forbidden weapons for several weeks now, and thus far has apparently not found any “smoking gun”. My guess is that they won’t, for the simple reason that there is nothing to find.

Of course, I’m not saying that Saddam doesn’t have any wmd’s. Everyone I’ve talked to agrees that he almost certainly has something hidden away somewhere. But if I were Saddam I’d make sure there was nothing to find – that whatever existed could be explained away as a civilian use. I’d get rid of my stockpiles, get rid of any obvious manufacturing facilities, get rid of any unambiguously weapons-only feed stocks. In short, I’d get rid of everything that could be remanufactured pretty quickly.

After keeping just the few things that can’t be reconstituted quickly (like knowledge and personnel), I’d hide those few things so deeply that nobody would ever find them, and be prepared to destroy them quickly. In short, I would never give the U.S. even the slightest pretext for a war.

And then, when nothing is found, I’d press the U.N. for the lifting of the sanctions. The U.S. might fuss and fume, but would Mr. Bush risk starting a war with no convincing provocation? A number of people have already thought all this out (I wonder if Mr. Bush has), and that is why the U.N. knows maybe its best hope for finding anything is to get an Iraqi scientist to point out where the hidden stuff is. I agree that this represents the best hope there is. For my money, I’m betting that by late January nothing will have been found, and no one will have spoken. I hope I’m wrong.

If this plays out, we will see what sort of person Mr. Bush is. I think it would be a major mistake for the U.S. to invade then. It would throw the region into chaos, perhaps eventually leading to the overthrow of several of our allies. Without their support, the effort in Iraq becomes more difficult, maybe impossible. Saddam now looks justified in using whatever weapons he has hidden away.

And if the U.S. doesn’t invade, and the sanctions come off, you can bet that Saddam will quickly reconstitute his weapons, worse than before. And then go looking for a pretext to use them on the U.S. Clinton’s policy of containment, of keeping the sanctions in place, is starting to look better all the time.

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