Blix’s book

Hans Blix’s book, Disarming Iraq, is one of three Iraq-related books reviewed in today’s New York Times Book Review. The review, by Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, notes a few items that are particularly interesting in light of recent developments in Iraq:

[Blix’s] frustration with the Bush administration, expressed throughout this book, was that it was both supremely confident that the weapons existed and utterly uninterested in evidence. . . . . Washington’s logic, he writes, appeared similar to that of witch hunting in the Middle Ages. “The witches exist; you are appointed to deal with these witches; testing whether there are witches is only a dilution of the witch hunt.” * * *

And yet Blix also believed that the witches existed. He suspected that the Iraqis were hiding weapons and weapons programs. He came to this conclusion on the basis of the same logic — lack of evidence. . . . . Iraq claimed to have destroyed [the vast stockpiles of 1991] but had never presented a single piece of evidence that it had done so. * * *

“Disarming Iraq” can be read as an attempt by an honorable international civil servant to steer between two realities: on the one hand, an American administration that had made up its mind to go to war no matter what; on the other, an Iraqi regime that never cooperated enough to ease the world’s suspicions. * * *

But if getting Iraq was tough, getting the diplomacy right was much easier. Reading this book one is struck by how, at the end, the United States had become uninterested in diplomacy, viewing it as an obstacle. It seems clear that with a little effort Washington could have worked through international structures and institutions to achieve its goals in Iraq. * * *

[Had that been done], the rebuilding of Iraq would be seen not as an American imperial effort but as an international project, much like those in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and even Afghanistan. America is paying a price in credibility for its mishandling of Iraq. But the real price is being paid by the Iraqi people, whose occupation has been far more lonely and troubled than it need to be.

Also reviewed are Richard Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies, and Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars. James Risen, who covers national security for the NY Times, calls Clarke’s book “too good to be ignored” and Ghost Wars an “objective — and terrific — account of the long and tragic history leading up to Sept. 11” and “the finest historical narrative so far on the origins of Al Qaeda.”

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