Saddam Hussein has posed the United Nations (U.N.) with its greatest test since the Korean War. Security Council Resolution 687 may have mandated that Iraq eliminate its chemical and biological weapons programs and curtail its ballistic missile capability, but Saddam has treated U.N. weapons inspections with disdain, routinely preventing full, unfettered access, and finally, in 1998, refusing to comply altogether.
Deaver, academic coordinator at the Civic Education Project in Russia, correctly identifies international diplomacy's failure to limit Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program as worthy of study. Rather than analyze the history of the inspections regime or detail the U.N. Special Commission's success and failure, however, he examines power relationships, resistance, and the applicability of academic theory.
Disarming Iraq begins with a succinct overview of Iraq's weapons programs and the international response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait (though his summary does little more than regurgitate Anthony Cordesman's uneven work). However, some of Deaver's subsequent speculation is curious. Who outside the sheltered world of academe would state that Saddam objected to chemical and biological weapons disarmament out of fear of being left defenseless in a tough neighborhood? (The Iraqi army retained its sizeable conventional forces and those ballistic missiles with under 150-kilometer range.)
Deaver then examines the monitoring duel between Iraq and the U.N., relying almost entirely on U.N. documents and granting them a legitimacy possible only from someone who has never observed U.N. fieldwork firsthand. Analyzing U.N. monitoring in isolation, Deaver fails to consider how the U.N.'s willingness to compromise encouraged Saddam's widespread obstruction. For example, in May 1996, the U.N. and Baghdad agreed to a memorandum of understanding diluting the substance of Security Council resolutions to enable the oil-for-food program. Iraqis who I interviewed repeatedly pointed out that if the U.N. responds to Saddam's obstruction by reducing his obligations, then Saddam will simply increase obstruction with regard to the weapons program the U.N. holds most dear.
Also missing in Deaver's study is any attention to Saddam's trade politics. It is no secret that Saddam directed billions of dollars in oil-for-food contracts to France, Russia, and key Arab states in exchange for Paris, Moscow, Cairo, and Damascus turning a blind eye to unrestrained erosion in sanctions.
Disarming Iraq is an example of academic self-absorption that provides little satisfaction to real-world international relations practitioners. It illustrates the growing schism between university and practical politics. Theory should never substitute for on-the-ground research.