George A. Lopez, Director of Policy Studies at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and David Cortright, President of the Fourth Freedom Forum and Research Fellow at the Kroc Institute, argue in favour of the sanctions regime in Iraq during the 1990âs.
Writing in Foreign Affairs, they propose that far from being a complete disaster, the sanctions regime, and the subsequent introduction of âsmartâ? sanctions, was a resounding success.
They base their argument largely on the fact that the UN inspection teams, UNSCOM and UNMOVIC, were successful in both destroying existing weaponry (as evidenced by the non-existence of WMD after the invasion) â and in monitoring the Iraqi regime to a sufficient extent that a new weapons program could not be implemented. The sanctions were essentially the stick with which the inspectors could threaten the regime, while the carrot was the lifting of sanctions.
The sanctions regime was also successful in stopping Saddam reconstituting his conventional weapons, as evidenced by the lack of medium to heavy weaponry after the March 2003 invasion.
Lopez and Cortright are quite convincing, while also being critical of the current administration, they note:
Having failed to understand how sanctions and inspections worked in Iraq, the United States risks repeating its mistake in the future. The crisis of intelligence that pundits and politicians should be considering is not why so many officials overestimated what was wrong in Iraq; it is why they ignored so much readily available evidence of what was right about existing policies. By disregarding the success of inspections and sanctions, Washington discarded an effective system of containment and deterrence and, on the basis of faulty intelligence and wrong assumptions, launch a preventive war in its place.
Critics might point out that the war in Iraq had the effect of getting Libya into line, and abandoning its WMD program. But Lopez and Cortright deal with this issue too:
The case of Libya shows that sanctions can indeed influence regime behaviour in the long term. Muammar al-Qadaffi was once as much an outlaw as Saddam Hussein. But over time, and under the weigh of international sanctions, Libya accepted international norms, ended its support of terrorism, and gave up its clandestine efforts to acquire or build WMD. President Bush and other supporters of the war in Iraq have attributed Libyaâs dramatic turnaround to what Representative Tom Lantos (D-Calif) termed the âpedagogic valueâ? of the war. But in reality, Libyaâs reversal began years earlier. UN sanctions during the 1990s brought about the negotiations that convinced Libya to turn over suspected terrorists for trial in The Hague.
Are Lopez and Cortright correct? Could the introduction of smart sanctions brought about a more prosperous Iraq while preventing the spread of WMD? And would this have brought an eventual end to Saddamâs regime without the need for invasion? We will never know.