As anniversaries go, it won’t draw any commemorations or memorials. It’s no 12/7/41 or 9/11/01. But 1/29/02 certainly grows in infamy and fallout.
That was the day President George W. Bush, enamored of a coinage by speech writers David Frum and Michael Gerson, spoke of an “axis of evil” that the U.S. – and the world – had to confront.
By incongruously compartmentalizing Iran and North Korea with Iraq – and then invading Iraq the next year before it could further advance its “WMD” arsenal – the president had sent some careless, simplistic signals.
The State of the Union use of “evil” was counterproductive. The word smacked of moral high ground and the theological. “Evil” is, by definition, nothing you make a deal with. Geo-politically, “evil” either implodes like a corrosive, irrelevant empire, or it’s so inherently dangerous that it has to be killed off.
The message received – even if not sent – was a reminder that nobody invades a country with nuclear weapons.
Whatever chance remained for rational leverage — in dealing with either Iran or North Korea — was undermined. North Korea, under its narcissistically cagey, oddball, power-hungry leader Kim Jong Il, has now officially crashed the nuclear power party. Does anyone realistically expect Iran, featuring the apocalyptically wily Mahmoud Amadinejad, to hold out for an invitation?
Call it the impetus of evil-labeling.