WANTED: New Player for the 'Axis of Evil' Team

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In
the wake of the U.S.’s triumphant romp through Iraq, there
is a yawning hole in the “axis of evil.” In the past,
when the stakes were much greater, there have always been three
nations in such “Darth Vader” coalitions. During World
War I, the nations wearing the black hats were Germany, the Ottoman
Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In World War II, we had
Germany (again), Italy and Japan. So to continue to mimic the giants
of old and provide a universe of nations to fight in a perpetual
war for perpetual peace, the Bush administration needs to demonize,
elevate and enshrine another despotic nation in its dream team of
malcontents.

One
administration official recently characterized Syria, Libya and
Cuba as the “junior varsity” of evil. So will one of these
bad boys be elevated to the varsity squad? With the administration’s
recent white hot rhetoric against Syria – accusing that regime of
producing chemical weapons, harboring terrorists and the defunct
autocrats of Iraq, and, in general, being a “rogue” state – that
country is probably pulling the best odds now in Las Vegas. But
not so fast – don’t count out Moammar Qaddafi of Libya and Fidel
Castro of Cuba. If Michael Jordan can make a comeback, so could
they. Granted, the odds are greater for them, but they had years
of experience on the varsity team before being sent down to the
junior varsity.

Fidel
Castro, with the support of the Soviet Union (the “Evil Empire”)
and communist China, was a thorn in the side of the United States
during the Cold War. With the collapse of Castro’s Soviet benefactor,
he has been quieter in recent years. If he wants to get back in
the game, he’ll have to rehabilitate his sagging military and
revive his now dormant efforts to sponsor terrorism (like North
Korea, Cuba remains on State Department’s politicized list
of nations sponsoring terrorism even though its efforts in the last
decade have been rather pathetic).

And
remember Qaddafi of Libya? During the Reagan administration, the
ruler of that small North African country was not only on the varsity
squad of thugs – he was the star. The Reagan administration, primarily
in order to justify pumping up the defense budget, made Qaddafi
the essence of evil, but then eventually forgot about him. Reagan’s
successor – Bush I – left him alone because Iraq’s Saddam Hussein,
Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Panama’s Manual Noreiga
became the “dangerous” tinpot tyrants of that administration.
Clinton, of course, continued harassing Hussein and Milosevic and
substituted Haiti’s Raoul Cedras for the defrocked Noreiga
in the club of third world goons that were wrongly compared to Hitler
(a truly dangerous titan of doom who actually had formidable military
and economic means and was trying to take over an entire region
of economic and technological power). But Qaddafi is still around
and could certainly come off the bench to fill the vacant spot.

In
the long shot category, we have Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Although
the two countries are not on America’s list of terrorist nations
because they are “friends” (many of whom, over the years,
have gone over to the other team), they have provoked the ire of
hawks who have the ear of coach Bush II. Although the Saudis have
buckets of oil and the Pakistanis are (sort of) helping the United
States hunt for Osama bin Laden, those nations previously either
directly or indirectly aided al Qaeda – a terrorist group that actually
attacks the United States (unlike the terrorist groups supported
by Saddam Hussein that never focused their attacks on the United
States).

And
what about al Qaeda for inclusion in the axis? The group has almost
no chance of filling the empty spot on the “axis of evil”
roster because it is actually a threat to the United States. Like
Iraq, which has been cut from the squad, the other axis teammates – Iran
and North Korea – are small, relatively poor nations with antiquated
militaries that reside half way around the world from the United
States. If left alone, they would pose little threat to the colossal
American superpower. As the CIA said before Gulf War II, unless
attacked, Iraq would probably not use its weapons of destruction
against the United States or give them to terrorists. (In fact,
Iraq did not even use them even in that extreme circumstance – conclusively
demonstrating its insignificance as a threat.) The same is likely
to be true for the other current members of the axis. In the worst
case, even if Iran, North Korea or members of the junior varsity
of “rogues” obtain a few nuclear weapons, they could be
deterred from using them to attack the United States by the crushing
world dominance of the massive American nuclear arsenal.

The
very fact that al Qaeda is a genuine threat to the United States,
and that the countries of the axis are not, means that the terrorist
group will never make the team. In fact, the Bush administration
needed the axis to divert public attention from the embarrassment
of not finding Osama bin Laden and destroying al Qaeda. Because
that reality still holds, the administration needs to quickly select
a new draft pick to fill the big sneakers of Iraq in the hall of
fame of the wicked.

April
22, 2003

Ivan
Eland
[send him
mail
] is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center
on Peace & Liberty
at The
Independent Institute
in Oakland, Calif., and author of the
book, Putting
"Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S.
Security in the Post-Cold War World
. For further articles
and studies, see the War
on Terrorism
.


     

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