Today's New York Times editorial
gloats at the conclusion of the search for WMDs, and in the process shows that it still doesn't get the reason for the war, and on top of that doesn't really care about the facts either.
The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq may have been one of the greatest nonevents of the early 21st century, right up there with the failure of the world's computers to crash at the end of the last millennium. That Y2K scare at least brought us an updated Internet. Fear of the nonexistent W.M.D. brought us a war.
I've written many times about the actual reason for the war, and WMDs aren't it. At best, they were a cause - like the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the cause, but not the reason for World War I.
But perhaps, the most inane assertion that this editorial makes is that
What all our loss and pain and expense in the Iraqi invasion has actually proved is that the weapons inspections worked, that international sanctions - deeply, deeply messy as they turned out to be - worked, and that in the case of Saddam Hussein, the United Nations worked. Whatever the Hussein regime once had is gone because the international community insisted.
First of all, Hussein's stocks of weapons are not gone because of the "international community". They are gone because of the US. Does anyone really think that the "international community", without the US would have done anything about Saddam's weapons, or even about his invasion of Kuwait? More importantly, their assertion that the UN inspections and sanctions worked is contradicted by the Duelfer Report, something they refer to but apparently did not read carefully. The Key Findings
of the report state the following:
- Saddam's primary goal from 1991 to 2003 was to have UN sanctions lifted, while maintaining the security of the Regime. He sought to balance the need to cooperate with UN inspections-to gain support for lifting sanctions-with his intention to preserve Iraq's intellectual capital for WMD with a minimum of foreign intrusiveness and loss of face. Indeed, this remained the goal to the end of the Regime, as the starting of any WMD program, conspicuous or otherwise, risked undoing the progress achieved in eroding sanctions and jeopardizing a political end to the embargo and international monitoring.
- The introduction of the Oil-For-Food program (OFF) in late 1996 was a key turning point for the Regime. OFF rescued Baghdad's economy from a terminal decline created by sanctions. The Regime quickly came to see that OFF could be corrupted to acquire foreign exchange both to further undermine sanctions and to provide the means to enhance dual-use infrastructure and potential WMD-related development.
- By 2000-2001, Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions and undermine their international support. Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime, both in terms of oil exports and the trade embargo, by the end of 1999.
Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq's WMD capability - which was essentially destroyed in 1991 - after sanctions were removed and Iraq's economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability-in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks-but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities.
Based on this report and Saddam's behavior, it is easy to predict what would have happened had the US not invaded Iraq. France, Russia, and China - as well as most of the Left - would have pushed to end the weapons inspections and sanctions on Iraq, ostensibly because of the hardship these sanctions were causing for the people of Iraq. After sanctions had been lifted, the previously mentioned countries would have signed massive contracts with Iraq, guaranteeing billions for Saddam. By now Saddam would have reconstituted most of his chemical and biological weapons, and with the help of A.Q. Khan would have been well on his way to developing nuclear weapons. This is the alternative present that the "anti-war" people propose.