ED013003b: 'Evil axis' label fits
In the endlessly "nuanced" world of international diplomacy, few
things are more unwelcome than the unvarnished truth, as President
Bush has discovered ever since he first labeled Iraq, Iran and
North Korea an "axis of evil."
Critics denounce the phrase as "simplistic." Some simply see no
evil, ignoring the fact that all three countries are ruled by
repressive totalitarian regimes hostile to the United States - ones
that seek nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles
to deliver them. All three also have a long record of supporting
This dangerous combination of terrorist regimes building weapons of
mass destruction is a prospect that no American president can
afford to take lightly in a post-Sept. 11, 2001 world.
Other critics see no axis, glossing over the close military
cooperation between North Korea and Iran - which has purchased
North Korean missiles and mini-submarines - and the looser
cooperation between North Korea and Iraq, which is suspected of
buying tunneling equipment and exchanging missile technology with
True, Iran and Iraq once fought a bloody war, but both now seek to
drive American influence from the Middle East. Both have given
sanctuary to al-Qaeda terrorists who fled from Afghanistan. They
are united by their hostility to the United States, as Germany and
Japan once were. Those two members of the original Axis distrusted
one another, but they found enough in common to fight against the
United States during World War II.
After eight years of the Clinton administration's dissembling and
feckless attempts to come to terms with the three dictatorships,
Bush's blunt honesty is refreshing and long overdue. The first step
in addressing a problem is to define it. We cannot win the war on
terrorism as long as these regimes remain in power, building the
ultimate terrorist weapons.
Yes, Bush's rhetoric is provocative. The truth can be provocative,
and often it hurts. But the president used the phrase "axis of
evil" in last year's State of the Union speech to alert Americans
to impending dangers, not to suggest a one-size-fits-all foreign
policy. Since then, the Bush administration has worked to craft
policies that are individually tailored to address the discrete
threats posed by the three regimes.
Ronald Reagan also was criticized for being provocative when he
called the Soviet Union an "evil empire." But post-communist
leaders of the former Soviet bloc later praised his language,
noting that it heartened opposition forces.
In the not-so-distant future, you can bet that free Iraqis,
Iranians and Koreans will praise Bush's speech - if the United
States helps to liberate them from the axis of evil.
is a research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the
Washington-based Heritage Foundation.
First appeared on USA Today