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Jewish World Review March 6, 2003 / 2 Adar II, 5763

Robert W. Tracinski

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The withering Blix-krieg | When the Bush administration agreed to subcontract its Iraq policy to a Swedish civil servant -- chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix -- many feared that Blix would be an accommodating diplomatic type, eager to smooth relations with his Iraqi handlers and play to the sensibilities of pacifist Old Europe. Thus, the weapons inspections looked like they would be what I labeled a "Blix-krieg," a phony war in which Blix and his inspectors go through the motions of looking for weapons while they provide diplomatic cover for more Iraqi deception.

Now, four months later, how goes the Blix-krieg?

It turns out that Blix has failed to present us even with the satisfying drama of being obviously ineffectual. Instead, he has done what career diplomats do best: please everyone a little. He has been just tough enough to avoid being dismissed as a cream-puff by the United States; just accommodating enough to the Iraqis to seem like he is not "in America's pocket"; and just balanced enough in his appraisals to allow the French and Germans to declare that the inspections are "working."

A perfect display of Blix in action was his performance over the weekend, when Blix declared that Iraq's token dismantling of a few missiles was "a very significant piece of real disarmament" -- while also acknowledging that Iraq's disarmament has been "very limited so far." Blix always manages to achieve this kind of balance. The pattern is: Iraqi cooperation has improved, but they must do more. This kind of statement is like a Rorschach test: everyone is free to see in it what he wants to see. The Bush administration can point out that Iraq is not fully cooperating; the French and Russians can point out that the inspections show signs of "progress"; the Iraqi regime can point out that the inspectors have still found no "smoking gun."

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan once admitted that he intentionally speaks in vague economic gibberish, because if he says anything definite, he knows his words will move markets. Hans Blix is acutely aware that his words will move armies -- either sending them into Iraq, or sending them back home. So he is purposely trying to make those words irrelevant. He doesn't want to be blamed for tilting the case for war one way or the other.

The Blix-krieg is withering -- not in the sense of being too intense an assault to withstand, but in the sense of shrinking into bland nothingness.

This is calculated to make Blix inoffensive to all parties. In fact, it merely highlights what is wrong with weapons inspections and why this charade must end.

War is a black-and-white, all-or-nothing prospect -- and that's true whether we wage it against Iraq or Iraq wages it against us. Saddam Hussein is not attempting to more or less acquire nuclear weapons; if he uses them (either directly or through terrorists), our people will not sort of get killed. And if we want to stop Hussein from pursuing his deadly ambitions, we cannot invade Iraq on the one hand, but not invade it on the other hand. (We tried that 12 years ago, and look where it got us.)

All of this means that the decision to go to war cannot be based on the muddled message of the chief weapons inspector -- or on a consensus drawn from the conflicting viewpoints that Blix is trying to mollify.

President Bush likes to say that this crisis is a test of the U.N. Security Council. But the United Nations failed any such test long ago. The withering of the Blix-krieg is dictated by the need to satisfy a world body composed of four contradictory constituencies. The Security Council contains a small number of civilized nations and loyal allies who share America's interests (such as Britain); a few former world powers resentful of American might (France and Russia); a number of dictatorships with a vital stake in thwarting America's interests (China and Syria); and many other governments that are simply indifferent to America's security (such as Mexico).

Seeking a meaningful consensus among these contrasting interests is futile.

And worse: any such consensus is guaranteed not to include a serious concern for American interests or security.

I hope the administration will go to war in the next days or weeks regardless of any consensus at the United Nations. But even if they defy the Blix-krieg mentality at this moment -- when will they finally learn the vicious absurdity of paying heed to the organization that produced it?

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