Military: It's an Axis and It's Evil
Mr. Safranski is an educational consultant to secondary schools. He frequently writes about the military."The international coalition against terror is not the basis to take action against someone - least of all unilaterally. All European foreign ministers see it that way. That is why the phrase 'axis of evil' leads nowhere."
-German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Die Welt"Saddam is very proud of his nuclear team.... He will never give up his dream of being the first Arab leader to have a nuclear bomb."
-Defector Salman Yassin Zweir, Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission
With the use of one simple phrase--"Axis of Evil"--George W. Bush ignited an international firestorm. Along with the usual suspects of the anti-American Left were most of the foreign policy establishment, Thomas Daschle, our NATO allies and confirmed conservatives like Patrick Buchanan, Joe Sobran and supply-side guru Jude Wanniski. Even Bush's own State Department is allegedly in rebellion against categorizing Iraq, Iran and North Korea as"evil." Arrayed against the rhetorical firepower of most of the public intellectuals, officials, columnists, and ministers of two continents, the President can count in his corner only the Weekly Standard and an overwhelming majority of the American people.
Why is there such a vast discrepancy between the opinion of the Western elites and the average American? What is it about the phrase"Axis of Evil" that has provoked such visceral hostility from Brussels, Berlin, the Council of Foreign Relations and media outlets like the Los Angeles Times?
Some addresses mark irrevocable turning points in world history but they do not always endear the speaker to his audience. Winston Churchill's" Iron Curtain" speech at Fulton, Missouri in the short run left him painted as a warmonger much like his earlier warnings of Nazi barbarism and British unpreparedness left him facing jeers in the House of Commons. Franklin Roosevelt's greatest rhetorical misstep was his"Quarantine Speech" proposing concerted pressure against the original Axis powers. In the course of the resulting uproar FDR was abused from coast to coast, and one congressman called for Roosevelt's impeachment. Ronald Reagan's famous"Evil empire" speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in 1983 provides the best analogy to Bush's recent remarks. Reagan had thunderously declared that the Soviets were"the focus of evil in the modern world." Reagan's speech, like that of Mr. Bush, was widely condemned at the time by allies and pundits alike starting with the Washington Post editorial board. George W. Bush may take comfort from the fact that in less than a decade Ronald Reagan had the satisfaction of Foreign Minister Kozyrev admitting the Soviet Union had been an evil empire all along. Today the same editorial pages that once blasted the"Evil empire" speech as"simplistic" and"bellicose" now laud Reagan's vision.
Entering the White House as the most underestimated man since Harry Truman, Bush has rocked the world by telling an unwelcome truth that Western elites have struggled for a decade to avoid acknowledging. That there are dangerous regimes that hate and fear us, which regularly traffic in death and seek to build horrific weapons for which international terrorists may be their preferred delivery system. By naming names in moral terms so stark and simple that nothing less drastic action against three pirate nations would suffice, Mr. Bush uttered words that cannot be called back. The elites here and abroad realize full well that their preferred paradigm for American foreign policy, the ditheringly ineffective, endlessly consultive Bosnia Model, is now as dead as appeasement after Munich.
The great anger stirred by Mr. Bush's words, evident in pronouncements from the likes of Chris Patten or Chris Matthews is because formerly comfortable illusions, so implicitly accepted yesterday, are being treated today as potentially suicidal idiocy by Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice. The critics’ argument, which relies fundamentally on ignoring the entire history of these regimes, seems to be that Iraq, Iran and North Korea do not have nuclear weapons at present, and since that day has not yet come the US has no business taking effective action to prevent this impending calamity. It is an argument requiring breathtaking self-restraint on one's ability to foresee logical consequences but it has the alleged merit of postponing conflict for another day--until our enemies have the strength to drive us out of the Mideast without firing a shot. Assuming of course, in the meantime, they do not share WMD with Al Qaeda for a radiological or bacterial 9-11.
While much blather is circulating regarding Mr. Bush's use of the term"evil" it is noteworthy that no one, not even Maxine Waters or Lionel Jospin, cares to make the argument that Iraq, Iran and North Korea constitute an"Axis of Good" or that these are normal states. Chris Matthews, whose recent column blasts the idea of an"Axis of Evil," refers to Pyongyang as"the nuts in the North." Why a mental instead of moral defect is a more suitable explanation for rogue state behavior was left unclear by Mr. Matthews. The evidence of internal repression, external aggression, WMD programs and support of terrorism by Iraq, Iran and North Korea is in fact overwhelming though each nation differs in terms of its particular priorities. Nor is North Korea's agency in spreading missile and WMD technology to Iraq and Iran in much doubt either, seeing as Kim Jong Il's functionaries demanded a $1 billion bribe from Washington to desist. North Korea's activities in proliferation alone can be credited with substantially escalating the dangers of a nuclear standoff between Pakistan and India.
The list of dangerous and destabilizing behavior by the new Axis states is long. The US Congressional Office of Technology assessment in 1993 listed Iraq, Iran and North Korea, all signatories of the 1975 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, of illegally developing biological WMD. The reports of UNSCOM on Iraq's CBW program are harrowing--mycotoxins, VX, ebola, botulinum, aflatoxin, sarin, mustard gas, Agent 15, clostridium perfringens and of course, anthrax--some mounted on ballistic missile warheads and still unaccounted for 11 years after the Gulf War. Much of Iraq's CBW research formerly was carried out at the Salman Pak site which doubled as a terrorist training camp specializing in teaching commercial airline hijacking to itinerant Islamists.
Iraq's nuclear weapons experts, over 200 strong, remain an intact research and development team and key components for bombs, such as high explosive"lenses" that trigger the chain reaction, were never destroyed. Iraq essentially lacks only sufficient fissile material to assemble one or more nuclear devices and this could be produced by diverting IAEA sanctioned stockpiles of uranium (Iraq has 13 metric tons according to Congressional testimony by Paul Levanthal of the Nuclear Control institute--enough to make four bombs). Finally, there is circumstantial evidence linking Al Qaeda to Iraqi intelligence - including meetings between Mohammed Atta and senior Mukhabarat official Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in Prague prior to September 11th.
Iran also seeks to become a nuclear and ballistic missile power and it remains the world's number one patron of international terror with ties to (among others) Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Militants indicted in Washington for the Khobar Towers bombing are tied to Iran and Hezbollah, not Al Qaeda, as were the anti-Israeli bombings in Argentina in the mid-1990's.
Iran's radical clerical hierarchy led by Supreme Guide Khameini and Expediency Council chairman and ex-president Hashemi Rafsanjani are unaccountable to the electorate and control all national security, intelligence, military and foreign policy questions. Rafsanjani recently spoke in favor of a nuclear war against Israel as a favorable prospect for the Islamic world. Given the well known estimate of some 200 nuclear weapons in the Israeli arsenal this is the talk of a madman. The CIA however is unable to rule out the capacity of Iranian ayatollahs to assemble a nuclear device today and if not, perhaps in as little as five year's time.
Few commentators would be sanguine at the notion of a nuclear weapon in the hands of Osama bin Laden, but there seems to be a willful blindness to the resistance of the pundits and the European allies to face the inevitable consequences of a Kim Jong Il or a Saddam with the Bomb. Instead there is greater outrage among the chattering classes that Bush has made preventing this outcome his first priority than over the fact that monomaniacal dictators and religious fanatics are building these weapons in the first place. It is as if people whose home is on fire are heaping abuse on the guy who fingered the arsonist and called the fire department while the furniture on which they are sitting bursts into flames. Strangely, among some of our brightest public thinkers it has yet to sink in that after September 11th the era of simply accepting dead Americans as a cost of doing business in the world is finally over. If Mr. Bush successfully prosecutes the war and forces the Baathists and the mullahs to disarm, he may in time find that even the New York Times has a kind word for his judgment in taking on the Axis of Evil.
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J. Carr - 10/16/2003
The United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japan. The first on 6 August 1945 over the city of Hiroshima and the second on 9 August 1945 on the city of Nagasaki. I don't know how old you are Mr McGetchin or how much you know about the history of the war in the Pacific, but if it were up to the sailors, marines and army personnel who were fighting and dying in the hell hole of Okinawa up against a fanatical and determined enemy who routinely fought to the death, they would have dropped 1000 atomic bombs on Japan for no other reason than to get that bloody war stopped. period
Doug McGetchin - 3/6/2002
I second your thoughts, and amplify them. Remember that the only country to use nuclear weapons in war (so far) is the United States. The U.S. bombed Japanese civilians not once, but twice. Let us hope that the new bellicose, aggressive rhetoric and terrorist actions from the U.S. do not set a poor enough example for India and Pakistan to start a nuclear confrontation. I tend to think they won't because these countries are much more civilized than the U.S.
George Gibson - 3/6/2002
If developing and possessing "horrific" weapons of mass destruction makes a country a member of an axis of evil, should not the United States be at the head of the line. We are, after all, the leaders in developing nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry. Perhaps it is alright for us to have these weapons because our motives are always "good"? We would never use them against innocent civilians. Be serious!
Mr. Bush's chief sin lies not in divisiveness or in absolutist labelling, it lies in hypocrisy: the pot calling the kettle black.
Thomas R. Cox - 3/6/2002
The term Axis implies a unity of purpose and action. The three bad boys of Bush's rhetoric don't qualify--as any of the millions of dead from the recent Iran-Iraq war should make clear even to the most ethnocentric of Americans. North Korea isn't even a product of Islamic anti-Americanism. Its a product of the Maoist mindset that motivates rebels in Nepal, Peru, and assorted other locations, but has nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism or U.S. support of Israel, which is such a large part (although not the only element) in the growing Islamic hatred of America.