The Axis of Evil: Part 2?

This week of President Obama’s state of the union message, I’m reminded of the term, “Axis of Evil.” It was used by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002.  He was describing the governments of Iran, Iraq and North Korea and accused them of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction. They were publicly tried and convicted as the common enemies of the United States. As it turned out Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, the Bush administration, undeterred by the lack of evidence and said weapons invaded Iraq. To this day, we remain obsessed with the nuclear weapons ambitions of North Korea and Iran. And for some reason we minimize diplomatic efforts that are not confrontational.

Now North Korea is being touted as a major threat to us and the rest of the world. And Iran won’t even talk to us directly. But somehow we cannot understand why they are so committed to the idea that they both need nuclear weapons.

But let’s awake from our jingoistic trance and try to see this problem from their point of view: The country with the most powerful military the world has ever known has accused you of belonging to an axis of evil and a major threat to world peace. That same country has just wrapped up an invasion into one of your “evil” partner countries for no other reason than its own purposes, which remain obscure. That same powerful country has increased the pressure by placing economic embargoes on you and your third partner country and has threatened military actions to prohibit your efforts to develop nuclear power. And by the way, the accusing country and its allies are the most well-armed nuclear powers in the world.

Let’s do the math here. The only potentially effective defense that you have is to possess nuclear capability yourself. If for no other reason than it’s ability to discourage your enemy’s attacks, assuming they don’t want to set off the final conflagration.

One might say, “Things are changing. The instigators, Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons are out of office.” That would be of little relief to a member of the “axis of evil” given that the war-time policies of the current president are almost indistinguishable from the Bush administration’s.

Yes but didn’t President Obama end our war in Iraq? Yes of course he did but that fulfilled an agreement signed by the Bush administration before it left office. So we should congratulate ourselves for ending an unprecedented, unnecessary, first strike invasion of another country? And isn’t it a small consolation for an invasion that had no reason or purpose, seemingly other than Iraq’s membership in the axis of evil.

If you’ve read this far you might think I’m defending North Korea and Iran and being unfair to America. Au contraire, I’m trying to show how another nation would perceive animosity from the most powerful country in the world and the options they might choose to defend themselves.

As American’s we are asleep in a narrative that only Americans believe completely: American exceptionalism. Yet, when independent observers measure our “exceptionalness,” they come up a little short on facts to support the claim.

From Alternet by Eric Zuesse, “The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013,’  The World Economic Forum, is the latest annual ranking of 144 countries, on a wide range of factors related to global economic competitiveness. Number 1 represents the best nation, and #144 represents the worst. Gross Domestic Product is the only factor where the U.S. ranks as #1. Health Care has the U.S. ranking #34, and #41 on “Infant Mortality.’

‘On ‘Quality of Primary Education,’ we are #38. On ‘Primary Education Enrollment Rate,’ we are #58. On ‘Quality of the Educational System,’ we are #28. On ‘Quality of Math and Science Education,’ we are #47. On ‘Quality of Scientific Research Institutions,’ we are #6. #42 on ‘Cooperation in Labor-Management Relations.”

So just where are we exceptional? I would say, the American dream and our military might. Unfortunately, our dream is becoming more exclusive and available to a smaller segment of our society. Our military might has become our hammer in a worldview that interprets every event as a nail.

So how could we be exceptional? First we might try to understand the defensive actions of the “axis of evil”? And given that we have the most powerful military in the world we might set the tone for conflict resolution by taking it off the table as a possible solution to the world’s problems.

Naïve maybe, but more hopeful? Indeed.

Robert DeFilippis

What say you, the people?