WASHINGTON — Saber-rattling works wonders sometimes. Credit the Bush administration for finally goading Saddam Hussein into agreeing to re-open his country to UN weapons inspectors. The UN, thanks to Bush, has earned back some of the credibility lost four years ago when it abandoned its commitment to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
This is already shaping up to be a messy process, however. Saddam has not yet pledged to disclose his entire stock of WMD. Even if he did, the potential for meaningless inspections is strong. Consider what the Center for Defense Information a "dovish" organization strongly opposed to the Bush administration on most issues had to say in 1998 about the matter:
"Such inspections are like the labors of Sisyphus who was condemned to repeatedly push a huge boulder to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down every time. If inspection, bombing, or even military action on the ground were to eradicate all its chemical and biological weapons, Iraq would still be able to replenish its stocks. Equipment needed to produce these weapons is small, mobile, and easily concealed within legitimate civilian premises or 'dual use' facilities. And the weapons themselves can easily be moved in very small packages." (From The Defense Monitor, Volume XXVII, Number 3, 1998.)
If CDI is right, and weapons inspections are meaningless, then should we take out Saddam? Many do not consider him enough of a threat to US security in order to justify this action. After all, the Soviet Union was deterred for 40 years from using nuclear weapons against us. The same could hold true, many believe, in Iraq.
A legitimate concern is that an invasion of Iraq could further inflame anti-US passions, leading to fresh new recruits of terrorists at home and abroad.
Moreover, there is reluctance to invade for obvious reasons. War is ugly business.
But the risks to world security of a WMD-armed Saddam Hussein are just too great to let the matter go. Detonate a few smuggled-in nuclear bombs in strategically placed sites around the country, and for the survivors, it would be the end to our way of life as we know it.
Would Saddam ever use WMD against us? It is a difficult question to answer with certainty. One must, therefore, rely on the information available. And the information is worrisome.
Consider his public statements. He denies being behind the 9/11 attacks. Even if true, his speeches since then are filled with justifications for the attacks, arguing why the terrorists were right in doing what they did. (See www.uruklink.net/iraq/espeech.htm.) Here is an excerpt: "Americans should feel the pain they have inflicted on other peoples of the world, so as when they suffer, they will find the right solution and the right path."
Does this sound like someone who would refrain from assisting WMD-minded terrorists in the future, if he were given the opportunity?
Moreover, Saddam's complaints against America are very similar to those presented in Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa calling for a holy war against the United States. And according to defectors, Iraq hosts terrorist training camps for Islamic radicals.
The world is facing doomsday if nuclear weapons proliferate among rogue regimes. The single most effective action the world could take to halt that proliferation is to remove or disarm Saddam; it would send a powerful message to other rogue regimes not to dare develop such weapons.
If the Bush administration and UN can somehow disarm Saddam without resorting to war, this would be ideal. Sadly, it is an unlikely prospect.
Yes, invading Iraq could further motivate terrorists to attack us. But a key supplier of WMD would be eliminated. Regime change certainly would not end the WMD terrorist threat against the United States, but it would reduce it.
Patrick Chisholm is the principal writer and editor at a consulting firm. He has a master's degree in international affairs/international economics from American University.