February 21, 2002 | Commentary on National Security and Defense
It's too "simplistic," says Hubert Védrine, France's
foreign minister. It reflects a belief that "the projection of
military power is the only basis of true security," says
Christopher Patten, the European Union's foreign minister. The New
York Times notes that South Korea's press is filled with warnings
that the Bush administration is "undercutting years of diplomacy
aimed at luring the Stalinist North out of its frightfully armed
But while they question his timing, his context or his wording,
virtually none has come flat out and said President Bush was
There's a good reason for that: However impolitic such blunt
language might be, Iran, Iraq and North Korea do form an Axis of
Evil. Each aims to overthrow legitimate governments. Each threatens
America and its interests. And each is fielding vast armies and
building weapons of mass destruction to further these aims.
All can be classified as dictatorships that care more about
their military than their people. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has
chosen to watch his people starve rather than allow international
weapons inspectors to investigate his biological weapons programs.
Kim Jong-il, North Korea's "Dear Leader," keeps his million-man
army fed and poised to attack South Korea -- even as millions of
his countrymen die from starvation. Iran has an elected president,
Mohammad Khatami, but real power belongs to unelected mullahs who
see nothing wrong with stoning women to death for committing
Yes, some say, but how do you separate these countries from
Syria, Somalia or a dozen others that put military might ahead of
doing what's right?
Consider the fact that all three are dumping tons of money into
programs to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and
the means to deliver them over long distances. Defense Department
officials say North Korea already has the materials necessary to
build one or two nuclear weapons. U.S. intelligence experts also
say it's working on a missile with a range of 6,200 miles, which
would place more than half of the United States within its
Some believe we don't have much to fear from a poor, starving
country that barely manages to keep the lights on. But what do the
North Koreans export, and to whom? They export missile technology,
and Iran is one of its top customers.
Over the past three years, Iran has tested a missile it calls
the Shahab-3. However, this medium-range missile doesn't come from
Iran. It's a North Korean missile with a new paint job. And experts
say these countries could use a ship to launch missiles at a target
And their bloody eight-year war notwithstanding, Iraq and Iran
have indicated lately that they have much in common. They agree
that Israel should be wiped off the map and that the United States
threatens them both. Iraq even recently pledged to support Iran if
the United States attacks Tehran.
Consider, too, these nation's bedfellows within the
international terror community. Iran supports Hamas, Islamic Jihad
and Hezbollah, all of which have struck against Israeli and/or
American targets. For Iraq, the record includes not only the 1993
plot to assassinate the elder President Bush, but support for
groups such as the Arab Liberation Front and the Palestine
North Korea doesn't get the reputation for terror that Iran and
Iraq do, but its resume is no less "impressive." The North Koreans
have sold weapons to such terrorist organizations as the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the United Wa State Army, a
drug-trafficking group active in Laos, Burma and Thailand. Also,
North Korea harbors terrorists from the Japanese Red Army, has
kidnapped more than 3,600 South Koreans and reportedly had soldiers
training in terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
The sharing of weapons of mass destruction. The endorsements of
tyranny. The long history of supporting terror. The promises of
mutual support. This is why President Bush calls these nations an
"axis of evil" and seeks to rally the world against them.
He didn't pick three countries out of a hat. He picked three regimes that hate America and are developing weapons of mass destruction with the United States as a likely target. These nations earned this moniker. They are, to use another presidential phrase, on the wrong side of history. The president simply pointed out the facts.
Jack Spencer is a policy analyst in defense and national security at The Heritage Foundation. A longer version of this article originally appeared in the New York Post.
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire