Aggressive Inspections: A Parallel

There’s much talk these days about “muscular” inspections being an answer for Iraq: inspections backed up by significant military force and a no-funny-business attitude towards Iraqi prevarication. Both Galt and Lileks have intelligent things to say this morning about why those who are optimistically cheerleading such inspections should, well, stop.
It occurred to me, though, that there are real-world examples of exactly what we’re discussing here. They’re called the West Bank and Gaza — perhaps you’ve heard of them?
Consider the parallels. Israel has been trying for ages, and quite aggressively for the past year, to locate and neutralize any explosives and weapons possessed by Palestinian terrorists that might be used against Israel.
While the aggressive stance of the past year has arguably provided a greater measure of safety for Israel, it has by no means prevented all attacks, as today’s murders underscore.
Furthermore, “success” to Israel generally means “no successful attacks” — which is a considerably easier goal than “no weapons left unfound.” I feel fairly confident that even the most optimistic IDF commander would never claim that Israel has come anywhere near identifying and destroying all of Palestinian terrorists’ caches of weapons and explosives — despite their sincere efforts to do so.
So when thinking about inspections of Iraq, I think we have to ask ourselves: why do we think inspectors will be able to succeed there in a task that the IDF has failed at?
Viewed in comparison with Israel’s task, inspectors in Iraq face a dramatically worse challenge. The area to be searched is many, many times larger. And the weapons are far deadlier — anything less than 100% success is unacceptable when we’re talking about nuclear and biological weapons.
Furthermore, Israel has the full force and might of its military stationed quite literally next door to their search zone. And they have demonstrated repeatedly that they are not afraid to use it.
Are those who support aggressive inspections prepared for U.N. troops to be more aggressive than the IDF in the search for weapons? How many Iraqi houses are they prepared to support being bulldozed, exactly?
It’s a fools game. And we can all be thankful that it is highly unlikely we’ll ever have to pin our hopes on inspections alone — because the Bush administration knows it.
Update: Martin thinks I’ve got a point, but counters:
Point taken, but there is a distinction. At least for now, weapons of mass destruction labs are more difficult to hide than the ones that make exploding bomb belts. Certainly the nuclear ones would be.
True enough; some components of WMD production are indeed harder to hide than your standard conventional explosive kitchen lab. But the following items, I think, would not be any harder:
– Stores of already-manufactured biological weapons
– Stores of already-manufactured chemical weapons
– A functional nuclear weapon
Basically, I’d agree that production facilities will be hard to find in some cases, but once the weapons are completed, they become pretty easy to hide I would think. (And since Saddam is agreeing to inspections now, might that clue us in that he is indeed ready for inspections — meaning, he’s confident he can hide his WMDs because he’s amassed a sufficient store of them?)
Martin’s right when he says ” if robust inspections were conducted they would find some WMD.” But I don’t think 95% is acceptable in this case; nor is 99% — and even if they were, I highly doubt we’d get anywhere near those percentages…
Update 2: Hesiod says: “With muscular inspection teams crawling all over Iraq, back by a tough UN resolution and willing and able US and British forces available to pound Saddam is he so much as drives a jeep across the path of these inspectors, his ability to actually USE said weapons will be, for all practical purposes, nil.”
Er, no, Hesiod. His ability to to actually use such weapons while the inspectors are still there will be nil.
Unfortunately, were we ever to get to the end of an inspection regime, all the trusting souls on the planet would say “Look! No WMDs for Saddam! Or at least, only those over there that we found, and we destroyed them, and besides, he said he’s really sorry and anyway he’s a rational actor and would never use them and what was the question again? Oh yeah, now let’s bring those inspectors home and let poor Iraq go about its business!” (not that I’m naming any names, here).
Once the inspectors are gone, then he’d be quite free to use the hidden stores with impunity, and somehow I doubt there would ever be consensus for a second round of inspections — that would be violating his sovereign rights, you see, and we can’t have that…