is an insider's account of the diplomatic and inspection efforts leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Though a bit dry, the book is logically presented and gives an excellent background on the inspections process and the politics surrounding it. Hans Blix, who came out of retirement in 2000 to lead the inspections effort, was often bashed by American politicians and journalists, but he does not use this forum to strike back. Instead, he allows the evidence to do the talking, only occasionally offering his own opinion. Blix stresses that he never trusted Hussein and that inspectors were often misled and stonewalled, but he also points out that they never found any evidence of weapons of mass destruction either. Though Blix welcomes the end of Hussein's brutal dictatorship, his removal was "neither the avowed aim nor the justification given" for the war-WMDs were the issue. Therefore, he believes the invasion was unnecessary and possibly counterproductive in the long run and is disappointed that they were not given enough time to complete their task. "Containment had worked," he writes. "It has also become clear that national intelligence organizations and government hawks, but not the inspectors, had been wrong in their assessments." Blix blames "monumental" intelligence failures on the part of the U.S. and Great Britain for most of these errors. In particular, he questions America's reliance on Iraqi defectors over their own intelligence agencies. He further wonders why the U.S. dismissed nearly all of the inspection agencies' findings over the past decade, in essence depriving themselves of a valuable source of information. He concludes that inspections are a worthwhile and effective method of containing potentially dangerous regimes and he believes that too high a price was paid for the war: "in the compromised legitimacy of the action, in the damaged credibility of the governments pursuing it, and in the diminished authority of the United Nations." --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
Blix reluctantly came out of retirement in 2000 to lead the U.N. weapons inspections team in Iraq because he was the only man everyone could agree on for the job. Three years later, those clamoring for military intervention grumbled at his inability (or, as they saw it, refusal) to present evidence of weapons of mass destruction, but he reminds readers that his assignment was to assess and report on the available evidence. Although his instincts told him Saddam was probably "still engaged in prohibited activities and retained prohibited items," as he dryly puts it, hard evidence never materialized. This play-by-play account of the months of diplomacy and inspection efforts leading up to the war is almost always strictly professional in tone, and though it does take us behind closed doors for meetings with world leaders, nothing here will radically transform the historical record or the ongoing debate. Blix doesn't have any scores to settle; while noting that Condoleezza Rice was never bashful about expressing her opinion, for example, he notes that she never tried to exert undue influence over him. He even laughs off some of the sharpest barbs from the conservative press (though not the New York Post
's unflattering comparison to Mister Magoo). When he does, near the end, shift emphasis from facts to opinions, he suggests the American-led drive to war was led at least in part by "a deficit of critical thinking," and that the much-ballyhooed WMD threat probably doesn't existâ"but he doesn't lament Hussein's overthrow. His sober account probably won't sway hardline critics, but it offers insightful perspective on how the Iraq situation snowballed into a geopolitical crisis.
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