Jewish World Review August 12, 2003 / 14 Menachem-Av, 5763

Jonathan Gurwitz

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N. Korea, Iran paradox to anti-war crowd | The "axis of evil" is making a comeback. At least part of it is.

President Bush's use of the appellation in his first State of the Union address to describe the commonality of threats to the international community emanating from Iraq, Iran and North Korea earned him widespread scorn.

Perhaps it was the concept of an axis, dismissed because the three countries are allegedly too dissimilar, or the idea of evil, which is evidently passť in the 21st century.

In an interesting development since the war to depose the government of Saddam Hussein, Iran and North Korea have emerged as consensus "true threats" to international security.

Their programs to develop weapons of mass destruction — in contrast to those in Iraq — and cooperation to enhance each other's weapons and ballistic missile technology pose a real danger to the international community.

The idea that Iraq was and is distracting the United States from these "real" threats has become a familiar hobbyhorse of Bush administration critics, especially those who happen to be seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

The "Iran and North Korea are for real" theory, however, presents a few paradoxes for the detractors of U.S. policy in Iraq.

The faulty, inflated intelligence the Bush administration allegedly used to hype the war in Iraq is the same intelligence that says the crazed mullahs in Iran will shortly be able to mount nuclear warheads on missiles that can threaten U.S. forces and allies throughout the Middle East.

And it's the same intelligence that asserts the North Korean kleptocracy is reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to create nuclear weapons for its own missiles that can hit not only South Korea and Japan, but also the West Coast of the United States.

Proponents of this theory also suggest that if the United States weren't saddled with the responsibility of restoring order in Iraq and rebuilding it, 150,000 U.S. troops would be available for use against — if not an axis of evil — an alliance of two viably offensive nations with nuclear-tipped, ballistic missiles.

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Maybe the critics who guffawed at the concept of an axis of evil will admit Bush was, at the very least, two-thirds correct.

More likely, if we ever reach a point where military action against Iran or North Korea becomes necessary, the wonks now talking about the "real" threat from those countries will resort to the same rhetorical strategies used to oppose the termination of Saddam's government.

Democrats who complained that the Bush administration was asleep at the wheel and ignored intelligence warnings of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks simultaneously charge that the president cooked the books on Iraq and hyped the threat from the axis of evil, except where Iran and North Korea are now concerned.

The noted liberal commentator Christopher Hitchens, no fan of Bush, commented on the tortured conspiracy theories used to discredit the liberation of Iraq in a recent column in Slate:

"To believe that the Saddam regime had nothing to hide is to believe that he threw out the U.N. inspectors in 1998 and then said to himself: 'Great. Now I can get on with my dream of unilaterally disarming Iraq!' Who can be such a fool as to believe any such thing? There are enough kind-hearted and soft-headed people around who don't recognize evil even when it is glaring them brazenly in the face."

Hitchens also quotes a recent article in the Washington Post written by Rolf Ekeus, chairman of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq from 1991 to 1997, now chairman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. On the failure thus far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Ekeus wrote:

"Detractors of Bush and Blair have tried to make political capital of the presumed discrepancy between the top-level assurances about Iraq's possession of chemical weapons (and other WMD) and the inability of invading forces to find such stocks. The criticism is a distortion and trivialization of a major threat to international peace and security.

"Researchers, engineers, know-how, precursors, batch production techniques and testing is what constituted Iraq's chemical threat — its chemical weapon. The rather bizarre political focus on the search for rusting drums and pieces of munitions containing low-quality chemicals has tended to distort the important question of WMD in Iraq and exposed the American and British administrations to unjustified criticism."

The philosopher Soren Kirkegaard wrote that "life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward." If a military option ever becomes a necessity in dealing with a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea, then the value of our pre-emptive policy in Iraq may become fully appreciated.

If, on the other hand, the United States is ever unfortunate enough to suffer an attack by weapons of mass destruction, a 9-11 or Pearl Harbor-type assault of monstrous proportions, then history will judge that our leaders failed to act decisively enough to establish a sufficient deterrent to pre-empt such an attack.

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JWR contributor Jonathan Gurwitz, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, is a co-founder and twice served as Director General of the Future Leaders of the Alliance program at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. In 1986 he was placed on the Foreign Service Register of the U.S. State Department. Comment by clicking here.


06/29/03: Real sports heroes don't make headlines
06/26/03: Strange bedfellows are a sure sign of rocky times
06/26/03: What Einstein taught Bush
06/26/03: JFK's message of struggle for freedom still stands
06/19/03: Most Americans understand this cynical equation
04/22/03: War opponents share burden of guilt
04/10/03: Iraqis get liberation and respect
03/28/03: Constitutionally protected SOBs
03/25/03: Morality changes with the times
03/12/03: Will all of those, ahem, "sincere" peace activists remember the Iraqis tomorrow?
02/27/03: Blood already on UN inspectors' hands

© 2003, Jonathan Gurwitz