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A crucial test on inspections

February 22nd, 2003

As just reported in the NYT United Nations weapons inspectors said today that they would order Iraq to destroy hundreds of ballistic missiles and rocket engines that were found to be in violation of the cease-fire agreement Iraq signed at the end of the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

It’s clear that a refusal would lead directly to war, very probably with the backing of the UNSC. And, since such a refusal would be clear evidence that Saddam is irrationally devoted to his weapons, it would lead me to drop my opposition to war.

But, precisely because of this analysis, I anticipate that the demand will be accepted, though doubtless with very bad grace and after attempts to wiggle out of doing anything (offering to handicap the missiles perhaps) have failed. Once this happens, it will be very hard for the “coalition of the willing” to argue that inspections are useless. The case for taking another six months will be that much stronger. Even if inspections ultimately run up against clear non-compliance, Saddam will have been weakened by the loss of the rockets, and by the necessity to keep weapons so carefully concealed that they will not be readily available to him in the event of a war (one story has them on ships in the Indian Ocean!)

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