Published November 20, 2002
Here's a pop quiz for you: Who is 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 U.N. 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? How did we get to the point 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 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 U.N. initially seemed a triumph, with its 15-0 vote for U.N. inspectors to return to Iraq.
But once the inspectors return, I can't see any path to "regime change."
Even with someone like Ken Starr investigating, it would be practically impossible for 80 to 100 U.N. 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, U.N. 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 U.N. resolutions of aerial inspection isn't "serious and meaningful." This, despite clear U.N. resolutions that forbid Iraq from taking hostile actions against representatives upholding previous U.N. resolutions.
This bad harbinger is matched by bad Blix decisions, foremost among them:
-- dismissing as having "practical difficulties" the most potent inspections tool the U.N. 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 Bush explaining that, no, we couldn't use his new national strategy of pre-emption to preclude such an attack.
Why not? Because Hans Blix hadn't given the president of the United States the go-ahead. And Blix was, somehow, the power controlling the superpower.
Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.