TCS Daily

The Drug Analogy

By Duane D. Freese - March 18, 2003 12:00 AM

We are going to war, yet in the background you still hear the complaint by those opposed to the use of armed force that "the inspections are working."

Jacques Chirac, president of France, repeated that mantra again on 60 Minutes Sunday. He told Christiane Amanpour that he hoped the United States, Britain and Spain would not "ignore the sentiments of the majority of the nations across the world, countries that are hoping that inspections will work, especially as they are working.

"I hope that reason will prevail and that this effective system, the system that is bringing us to the common goal that we have, i.e. disarmament of Iraq; the elimination and destruction of the weapons of mass destruction ... I hope that all this can be done through inspections. Indeed, inspections have proven their effectiveness to reach this goal."

So, at least there was agreement on the goal - the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Iraq. But, really how were inspections accomplishing that task? Not by themselves, to be sure - only by the threat of force.

As Chirac conceded: "I have said that it is indeed thanks to the pressure of British and American troops that the Iraqi authorities and Saddam Hussein himself have changed, have shifted their position and have had to agree to cooperate with the inspectors. First of all they were not too cooperative, but you have increased their level of cooperation, as the inspectors themselves have told us."

He then concluded: "So I would say that the Americans have already won. They have won, and they haven't even shot one bullet. Without their presence on the ground, of course it is very likely that nothing would have changed and that we wouldn't have been in a position to reach our goal of disarming, through inspections, Iraq, and finding and destroying these weapons. So indeed, I feel that the Americans have had a very important role to play, and we should acknowledge that and be thankful for exercising that effective pressure. Now, that doesn't mean that we have to wage war if it isn't necessary. And as I said, I don't think that it is necessary."

Well, when you win a war, you bring the vast majority of your troops home. But we know that we haven't won. We don't know that Iraq is clean of weapons of mass destruction. And at the glacial pace by which Hussein was responding to make inspections "work," we likely never would. But we would have to keep of thousands of U.S. troops in the region for years.

Meanwhile, France would continue to say the "inspections are working" on the back of American troops and play the popular role of peacemaker, dealing out delusion in place of honesty and simple common sense.

And it is a matter of common sense that inspections weren't working and could never work - not without the willing and complete cooperation of Iraq's regime, which was not and would never be forthcoming.

Consider the reality of nations' policing drugs, for example. This is an apropos comparison, as chemical and biological weapons - while more difficult to produce - nonetheless can be processed in labs much as illegal drugs are.

The federal government's drug control program spends $11.3 billion this year on drug control efforts. It spends a billion dollars just on aid to other governments - Colombia, Thailand, Peru - who cooperate with this nation in that effort. And not counted here are the billions spent on local and state police and prisons.

And the result? Well, the French point to the grabbing of some missiles and their destruction as indicative of the success of inspections in Iraq. The U.S. drug control effort achieved even more spectacular seizures - 2.6 million pounds of marijuana and 235,000 pounds of cocaine in 2001 alone. There were nearly a million convictions in drug-related crimes in 1998. So, you could say, by the standards of France, that drug control policy is working famously well.

But here's the kicker. Despite cooperation between nations, an inspection regime that combs countries and seas to prevent production and interdict drugs, more than 13 billion pounds of coca is cultivated in the Andes for the production of cocaine, and 300 million pounds of marijuana in Mexico, Colombia and other countries, including the United States, is cultivated for use. Seven percent of Americans over the age of 12, nearly 20 million people, have used drugs in the last month. And the cost of drug abuse has topped $160 billion annually.

Inspections can be said to work in the drug context because it is a containment of use strategy - not a zero tolerance strategy. In the case of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, zero tolerance - as France itself has said - is the only acceptable goal.

By playing the "inspections are working" card, France and others who have opposed the use of force, were uttering nonsense. They are giving lip service to the elimination of arms with a strategy that is demonstrably incapable of achieving the goal. And the worst thing in their doing so is that they gave aid and comfort to Saddam Hussein, who knew inspections couldn't work and thus had no reason to fully cooperate.

It is not possible, as the French ambassador to the United Nations argued Monday again in a reiteration of the Great Lie of inspections, that Saddam could be peaceably disarmed by inspectors, any more than inspections could halt drug trafficking. Such blather can only be uttered by people capable of grand self-delusion.

The only way that America and the world can "win" is by completely disarming Saddam of these threats. Hussein has refused to cooperate, so now, as President Bush said Monday night, the only alternative is to change his regime for one that will. Only then will inspections work, and the United States bring most of its soldiers home.

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