This article was first published in The Daily Bruin by Julia Stephanides
Hans Blix, former chief United Nations weapons inspector and a central figure in the debate over how to address nuclear proliferation, will speak on the issue of disarmament today in a forum presented by UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations.
Blix is best known as the former executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, in which capacity he led inspections for nuclear weapons in Iraq before the war.
Today, Blix is the chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, which promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy. He will be signing his new book, “Why Nuclear Disarmament Matters,” at the lecture.
The commission’s efforts were criticized by many Bush administration officials. Burkle Center Director Kal Raustiala said he believes this criticism illustrates the divide between proponents of the investigations approach and advocates of the more assertive invasion method.
“You can view Iraq as a debate between those who believed in using force to get rid of the risk of weapons of mass destruction by taking Saddam out versus those who believed that we needed to let inspections and sanctions run their course,” Raustiala said. “Blix was a key figure in the side of those who were in favor of inspections.”
While the value of the investigational approach was hotly contested, UCLA political science professor Barry O’Neill said Blix handled the inspections in an unbiased manner.
“If you are an international inspector, you may be tempted to underestimate the other side’s development of weapons of mass destruction for the sake of preventing war, or tempted to overestimate it for the sake of making sure they don’t acquire these weapons,” O’Neill said. “I think that to tell the truth takes a lot of integrity, and I think (Blix) has that.”
Suspicions of nuclear weapons programs in other nations have reraised the question of how to approach perceived threats.
Ayla Dillard, a program assistant for the Burkle Center, said she believes the centrality of nuclear proliferation in international relations makes it relevant to UCLA students.
“Given all the talk on Iran and North Korea, the Burkle Center felt it would be valuable to students to bring Dr. Blix to campus. ... This is an issue that is very important as we look at some up-and-coming countries with nuclear weapons,” she said.
Emphasizing the instrumental role Blix has played in world politics, Raustiala said he has set a precedent for how to approach nuclear weapons development in rogue states.
“(Blix) was a central figure in the debate regarding what to do about Iraq,” Raustiala said. “One of the big concerns that many of us have is that we’ll see weapons of mass destruction used by rogue states in ways that will kill millions of people, and he has been a central figure in helping us deal with how to address that.”
In “Why Nuclear Disarmament Matters,” Blix calls for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, an approach toward global security that he has long advocated.
“In the past, he has been a proponent of disarmament, and I think he sees it as a critical issue that has not received sufficient attention,” Raustiala said.
O’Neill said he believes Blix’s opinions toward nuclear weapons diverge from the mainstream and will expose students to a new perspective.
“I think that his message is not just reducing arms but actually disarming,” O’Neill said. “That in itself is a reason to hear him – it is a radical new idea from a person who is pretty realistic.”