TCS Daily

Be All, End All?

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - October 2, 2002 12:00 AM

By rejecting the British and American plan for tougher weapons inspections in Iraq, the regime of Saddam Hussein dispelled any illusion that its earlier offer to readmit weapons inspectors was being made "without conditions," as was advertised by the regime, and by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. One would think that this rejection is enough to put an end to the Kabuki theatre regarding weapons inspections. Yet, since there may very well be some acts left in this particular play, we would do well to ask ourselves what might be the result of a successful weapons inspection that actually turns something up. Blogger Paul Wright has carefully and thoughtfully addressed this question, which many commentators have overlooked. His postulations and predictions are credible and disturbing.

Wright argues that if the inspectors succeed in finding hidden Iraqi weapons caches, there is a real danger that the inspectors will be killed to prevent them from sharing their knowledge, with the Iraqis then making up some story to explain the inspectors' disappearances and cover up the possibility that they may have died at the hands of the Iraqi government. Then Saddam, knowing that war with the United States will likely be irrevocable, may move to strike before any American military action may be launched -possibly with a smuggled weapon into one of America's largest cities. This may have the effect of defeating any effort to depose Saddam, or at least making any effort to depose Saddam tremendously difficult and costly. If no American military action is ongoing, the chances that Saddam's strike may succeed are magnified.

This is a plausible and frightening scenario. After all, we should have learned by now that Saddam Hussein is not predisposed to allowing his weapons of mass destruction to be eliminated in a disarmament program. He will do anything to preserve his weapons arsenal, and if half measures are the only measures taken against Saddam's regime, Saddam will be given the opportunity to preempt any effort to disarm him by taking drastic measures, such as the ones that Wright fears.

Saddam Hussein has a history, of course, of failing to comply with international norms and standards. By gassing Iranians during Iraq's war with Iran, by gassing his own Kurdish population, by invading Kuwait and taking western hostages that were held right up until the beginning of the 1991 Gulf War, and through his noncompliance with a whole host of United Nations resolutions, Saddam's Iraq has demonstrated a willingness to act outside the bounds of respectable behavior for a nation-state. This pattern of reckless and reprehensible behavior should be considered when planning on the formation of a new weapons inspection regime. It is virtually axiomatic that in order for new weapons inspections to succeed, the weapons inspection program must have full and unfettered access to any site it chooses to go to, for as many times as it wishes to go, without notice to the Iraqi government, and with the weapons inspection teams being constituted in any way that the weapons inspection coordinators deem appropriate-regardless of Saddam's concerns about the presence of Americans on the teams.

But none of these conditions will amount to anything if the safety of the weapons inspectors will be compromised by their success in finding weapons of mass destruction. None of these conditions will matter if Iraq will have the motive and opportunity to respond to a discovery of weapons of mass destruction in its stockpile by carrying out a plan to attack the United States or its allies in order to enhance the chances of Saddam Hussein remaining in power. Saddam has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to kill political opponents in his rise to power, and in his efforts to hold on to power as well. His hatred of Israel and Israelis is so intense that his regime pays the families of suicide bombers for the murders carried out by their relatives, thus encouraging more such bombings. Such vicious and Stalinesque behavior has few parallels in modern world history. When Saddam's bloody past is considered, can anyone really doubt the plausibility of Wright's well-founded fear that Saddam would kill or kidnap as many weapons inspectors as would be necessary in order to continue to hide his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction? Can anyone really doubt that if weapons are found, Saddam may feel that he will have little choice but to use the weapons against America and her allies before being targeted for a military response by the United States? And if there is no such doubt, why does there exist an over-reliance on the ability of weapons inspections to defuse the current crisis with Iraq?

When the current situation is considered in its totality, it becomes clear that weapons inspectors may very well be sent in to perform an impossible mission. They will have to try to overcome the well-established gamesmanship of the Iraqi government, which habitually threw one roadblock after another in the path of weapons inspectors the last time that they were in Iraq. Such obstruction is difficult enough to overcome, and hard enough to deal with, especially given the fact that the United States is racing against time to disarm Saddam's regime before a catastrophic weapons attack is carried out against America, or any of her allies.

But the feasibility of weapons inspections is diminished still further when we consider the fact that the weapons inspectors may actually place their lives in peril if they succeed at their appointed task-confirming the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or that Saddam may decide to employ his weapons against his enemies in order to try to make any effort to depose and disarm him more difficult and more costly. Indeed, anytime that a strong disincentive against the discovery of a weapons stockpile is present, it undermines the integrity and efficacy of any weapons inspection regime. The negotiation and enforcement of arms control treaties between the United States and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War would have been rightfully considered a joke if either country could be plausibly suspected of killing or kidnapping weapons inspectors sent to verify each nation's compliance with arms control treaties, or if the discovery of a weapons violation might have prompted a military attack by the violating nation. Of course, such practices did not take place between the two superpowers. But they might be implemented by Iraq to prevent any weapons inspection regime from being effective in reducing Iraq's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

There may once have been a time when a strict weapons inspection regime could have deterred and contained Saddam Hussein. Such a time has passed, however. With weapons inspectors having been out of Iraq for the past four years, Saddam's regime has had ample time to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction. Even if a new weapons inspection regime is allowed to re-enter Iraq, its members may be harmed by Saddam's various security services if they uncover new information regarding Saddam's weapons program. Additionally, in the event that new information is found, without a forceful act of military preemption on the part of the United States and its allies to hamper Saddam's potential plans to inflict catastrophic destruction on America and her allies, Saddam may decide that he has little to lose by employing his weapons of mass destruction to strike at his enemies, and that such a strike could very well enhance his ability to defeat the United States, and stay in power. Weapons inspections have little hope of preventing these nightmare scenarios from taking place. The only sure way to avoid Paul Wright's worst fears is by acting as soon as possible to ensure that Saddam Hussein is deposed by force of arms. The longer such action is delayed past the point that it can take place, the more likely it is that the United States will face a potential catastrophe that could make September 11th pale by comparison.



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