The Micawber strategy on Iraq

It’s now clear to all that the US Administration has no real evidence on Iraqi weapons -there might be enough hints to help the inspectors, but even that’s not clear. Evidently, the strategy has been to apply maximum pressure and hope something turns up. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the Administration is pinning its hopes on a defector, having finally abandoned the idea of ‘compulsory out of country interrogation’ or, as Hans Blix put it, ‘abduction’. Others are not so sure:

At the crux of the differences between the administration and the inspectors, however, are questions about the value of such interviews. Rumsfeld and others have said that Iraqi defectors provided the basic leads proving that Hussein had withheld prohibited weapons during earlier rounds of inspections. But the inspectors maintain that the productive leads came from their investigations on the ground, for which interviews with Iraqi scientists were among several tools.

“They think a lot of scientists are just waiting to get out and tell their stories,” said one former inspector about the administration.

The U.S. intelligence community is leery about taking large numbers of Iraqis out of the country, saying that such a process will not necessarily produce the information the administration is seeking, and that it may undermine the existing clandestine relationships it has developed in Iraq.

Something may well turn up. But there’s no reason to suppose that this will happen at a time convenient for the wintertime war the Administration still seems to be planning. And, as I’ve previously observed, no evidence will almost certainly mean no British participation.