Let me first share my geek credentials: Around the age of 8, there was nothing I wanted to do more when I grew up than work at the United Nations. Every time I set foot in that building — which, by the way, looks as though it's hardly been touched since before I was a kid — I get that feeling again.
I guess I'm still idealistic enough to believe in the U.N. — in its work and its unrealized potential. Of course, lately the organization has taken a beating once again, and arriving there on Wednesday from the super-tight security to the battery of satellite trucks outside, you knew you were in the eye of the storm. Well, I suppose I could have been in Baghdad, but these days sometimes you get the feeling that a bigger standoff than George W. Bush vs. Saddam Hussein is the one within the Security Council.
It's safe to say nobody has borne the brunt of that standoff more than Dr. Hans Blix. Can anything — even decades of experience in diplomacy and disarmament — prepare one for the scenario this man has been facing? The 74-year-old Swede is caught in the middle of a 'Land of the Giants'-type struggle between powerful and influential nations, all of whom agree that Saddam is a menace and must be disarmed, but are at an impasse over the question of how. Time and again both sides have turned to Blix's inspection reports, parsing words to bolster their positions: the Americans and British looking for evidence that the Iraqis are continuing to defy U.N. Resolution 1441 and the French and Russians pointing to "progress" in the reports and calling for inspections to continue.
Both are true of course, and that's Blix's bottom line: that the past few months of weapons inspections in Iraq have yielded results, but that even with more active cooperation from the Iraqis — and that's a big "if" — his team needs several more months to complete its work. He does not believe — and he stressed this more than once — that inspections can or should go on indefinitely.
In person, the guy is friendly, witty and surprisingly candid — much more so than the man who seems to mark his every word before the council. He recently extended his U.N. contract until the end of June. Can we all agree that he has earned a vacation after that?
For a feature-length Q&A with Hans Blix check out "Hans Blix: Caught Between Iraq And A Hard Place."
Catch more on our interview with Hans Blix tonight on MTV and MTVNews.com at 8:45 p.m.