Making Evil Work Together

Jacob Weisberg has a really sound piece of analysis up at Slate titled "The Axis of Evil: Bush's Worst Invention." His point is that while the North Korean, Iranian, and Iraqi regimes were at that point all individually evil regimes, they were never cooperating as an axis in any meaningful way. Now, Weisberg says, they are. By grouping these three regimes together and threatening them with attack in his 2002 State of the Union speech, Bush accomplished two things, in Weisberg's telling: First, he gave leaders in Iran and North Korea a heightened incentive to pursue nuclear weapons, the only kind of clout that could ward off an American attack designed to remove them from power. Second, as I argued here a couple of days ago, it has created what Weisberg calls "an informal post-Cold War anti-American International," a political antagonism towards the United States that unites disparate dictatorships and rogue regimes and gives them a basis for cooperation. The only thing I would add is that there is something else here that is doubly frustrating: North Korea wasn't even included in the first drafts of the Axis of Evil speech. It was added in editing, for reasons that remain obscure: Some have said to make it seem like Bush wasn't on an anti-Muslim crusade, or simply to bring the number of enemies up to a more robust-sounding three, or because of feeling within the administration to clearly threaten the reasons. There is something very frustrating about watching North Korea's nuclear power develop, and thinking it may have been urged along just because of a speechwriter's need for a third enemy, or the administration's desire to make Bush a little less like a crusader.