Chris Suellentrop at Slate does a job on Hans Blix, the head of the UNMOVIC, the UN weapons inspection team. Unlike most of the many critics of Blix, he does concede Blix’s role in detecting the North Korean nuclear program. But as with the majority of US commentary on this issue, he fails to mention the fact that the first set of UN inspections found and destroyed Saddam’s nuclear weapons program.
This is not to say that Saddam may not have tried again, and of course he’s used chemical weapons (let’s pass over the fact that he was a ‘good guy’ at the time). But the assumption that inspections are bound to fail seems misplaced to me, especially as the Iraqis are taking a strong line in denial, rather than making some sort of ambiguous half-admission. If they haven’t destroyed (nearly) everything it shouldn’t be too hard to catch them.
Of course there could be data on a CD-ROM in Saddam’s jacket pocket, but nearly every actual weapon is detectable and the Iraqis are almost certainly behind the curve in their knowledge of advances in detection techniques over the past decade.