TCS Daily

The Power Controlling the Superpower

By Ken Adelman - November 20, 2002 12:00 AM

Here's a pop quiz for you: Who's the most powerful person on the most momentous decision of the Bush Administration?

A. President George W. Bush
B. Vice President Dick Cheney
C. Secretary of State Colin Powell
D. Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld
E. National Security Advisor Condi Rice
F. None of the above.

The right answer is - open the envelop, please - F. None of the above.

No, it's not one of the top American officials. It's not even an American. It's Hans Blix, head of the new UN inspection team, who just arrived in Baghdad to set up logistics.

I can't see how the U.S. can liberate Iraq without getting a green light from Blix. And I can't see Blix giving a green light.

How did we get here? How did we get to Hans Blix, the power of the superpower? Where a Swedish lawyer - whose entire career has been in the United Nations, and who gave Iraq an "exemplary" rating on non-proliferation right before its three covert nuclear programs were uncovered - will make the most momentous U.S. national security decision?

Looking back, we can now see that President Bush's made two big decisions:

  1. to liberate Iraq through "regime change," and

  2. to go to the United Nations to muster international backing for regime change.

Now we can see the two may be contradictory. Going to the UN initially seemed a triumph, with its 15-0 vote for UN inspectors to return to Iraq.

But once the inspectors return, I can't see any path to "regime change."

Even with a Ken Starr investigating, it would be practically impossible for 80 to 100 UN careerists to uncover a violation in a country of 23 million inhabitants the size of France with a totally antagonistic government.

And Blix is no Starr. He's already made decisions that reflect the easy-as-we-go approach of his boss, Secretary General Kofi Annan. On Friday, Annan said that the U.S. had "a lower threshold than others" for military action, while the Security Council clearly feels "we should be looking for something serious and meaningful, and not for excuses for do something" like regime change.

Annan's threshold for what's "serous and meaningful" is awfully high. Somehow, even Iraqi troops shooting at American and British aircraft implementing past UN resolutions of aerial inspection isn't "serious and meaningful." This despite clear UN resolutions that forbid Iraq from taking hostile actions against representatives upholding previous UN resolutions.

This bad harbinger is matched by bad Blix decisions, foremost among them:

  • dismissing as having "practical difficulties" the most potent inspections tool the UN bestowed upon his team - the power to take potential Iraqi informers, and their families, out of Iraq for de-briefings.

  • dismissing the best means of finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - through reliance upon U.S. and U.K. intelligence. Blix publicly (and wrongly) claimed that the previous U.N. inspection team "lost its legitimacy by being too closely associated with intelligence and with Western states."

  • already excusing an Iraqi delay in submitting a list of its WMD, since Blix suggested that this deadline may be too onerous for Saddam.

Just imagine if Al-Qaeda attacks again - yet this time more massively with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons developed in Iraq and passed along to his terrorist comrades.

Just imagine President Bush explaining that, no, we couldn't use his new national strategy of preemption to preclude such an attack.

Why not?

Because Hans Blix hadn't given the President of the United States the go-ahead. And he was, somehow, the power controlling the superpower.



TCS Daily Archives