CONVENTIONAL WISDOM holds that Bill Clinton is a brilliant, brilliant man. Georgetown-educated and a Rhodes Scholar, he’s among the best and brightest ever to occupy the Oval Office—clearly the intellectual superior to that C-student, Yale legacy who succeeded him.
Yet how can a man so ostensibly intelligent say such consistently stupid things?
Clinton’s latest masterpiece is last week’s remarks urging the U.S. to follow the lead of UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix in determining its polices on Iraq. “We should let Blix lead us to come together,” Clinton said, noting that only Blix can sway America’s skeptical European allies, whose support must be a precondition to any “pre-emptive strike” against Iraq.
Forget, for the moment, that this is advice that, as president, Clinton never would have followed. Neither when he sent troops to Bosnia and Haiti, nor when he launched missiles at Iraq and Sudan, did he submit his rightful powers as Commander-in-Chief to the review of some minor-league UN bureaucrat or to the petty socialist governments of Old Europe.
But to demonstrate that Clinton is a hypocrite is merely to state the obvious. The larger point is that he is also a fool if he believes that Blix should exercise some sort of veto power over American national security policy.
Despite his quasi-celebrity status, Blix is merely a functionary. He has one job and one job alone: determining if Iraq is complying with UN resolutions to give up its weapons of mass destruction. It’s a job he’s done well. Twice he has already documented—beyond any reasonable doubt—that Saddam Hussein is not in compliance with the UN’s demands or the terms of the ceasefire that ended the 1991 Gulf War.
Blix is a probation officer, not a detective, and most certainly not a policymaker worthy of veto power over American national security. He may well be, as Clinton says, a “tough, honest guy who is trying to find the truth,” but he doesn’t know his place. His latest presentation before the UN, with its damning reporting and inane analysis, is a case in point.
When Blix sticks to his mandate—verifying Iraqi compliance—he’s effective: “The al-Samud II and the Al Fatah could very well represent prima facie cases of proscribed missile systems,” he notes. Then: “Documents mainly relating to laser enrichment of uranium were found.” And, in sum: “Many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for.”
In short, noncompliance.
It’s when Blix shifts from the role of auditor to global-security adviser that he forfeits all credibility: Iraq now only sends out one minder per weapons inspector, down from five, he gushes, so “the situation has improved.” Access to inspection sites has “almost always” (which is to say, not always) been promptly provided. Some 1,000 tons of a chemical agent remain unaccounted for, but we “must not jump to the conclusion that they exist.” (After all, maybe Hussein voluntarily disposed of them and forgot to tell anybody about it.)
Then there’s Blix’s coup de grâce: “Although no new evidence was provided in the papers and no open issues were closed through them or the expert discussions, the presentation of the papers could be indicative of a more active attitude focusing on the important open issues.” (We got nothing, which may be something!)
Despite painstakingly documenting every Iraqi abuse, Blix continues to fall for every Iraqi deception.
Worse yet, he suffers from severe delusions of grandeur. Not content to be merely an international monitor, he also wants to be a diplomat, a peacemaker, savior of the world! He makes apologies for Iraq because he fancies himself as the man who can prevent war. His belief that he can deliver peace in our time makes him an easy stooge for Saddam’s subterfuge.
It does little to help Blix or the world’s predicament when serious people—and no less an authority than a former president of the United States—feed his delusions by taking them seriously.
Nor does it help when said ex-president perpetuates the myth that world security hinges on France and Germany’s approval. “We have the chance to avoid war if the world is united,” says Clinton. But the “only way we can avoid the conflict is if Saddam gets out of town ... and the only way he’s going to do that is if he thinks the whole world is united.”
It’s true that war can be averted if Hussein seeks exile, or if domestic Iraqi opposition effects a “regime change” without America’s assistance. But it’s not a “united world” that would inspire either event. After all, a “united world” gave Saddam Security Council Resolution 1441, and that did little to change his ways.
Blix is hardly the one to unite the world, anyway. He’s twice made a compelling case of Saddam’s noncompliance, but no amount of evidence seems sufficient to sway the obstinate members of the Axis of Appeasement.
If anything is going to encourage a change of heart in Saddam, in his domestic enemies, or in America’s less sincere allies, it’s an unfailing willingness on the part of the U.S. to use force. Hussein will only consider exile if he’s convinced the alternative is death. The same can be said of the Iraqi opposition, which is unlikely to attempt a risky coup unless it might thwart a deadly U.S.-led invasion. And if the French and Germans ever come around, it will be because they recognize that the U.S. intends to move with or without them, not because some UN field agent captures their imaginations.
Turning over American foreign policy to the duped and delusional Blix would only prolong the current impasse, and that would serve no one but Hussein himself.
Fortunately, America has a president smart enough to understand that.