Is there an axis of evil? Perhaps, but its headquarters may be in Washington.
Kim Jong Il, the North Korean dictator, is not a nice man. But he has this in common with North Korea’s would-be liberator, writes longtime Asia hand Cumings (Univ. of Chicago): “Like Bush, he has to contend every day with the knowledge that he would not be where he is without Daddy’s provenance.” Daddy, Kim Il Sung, wasn’t a nice man either, but, Cumings argues, he was essentially forced into his role as Dr. Evil: isolated by virtue of his communist affiliations by the Americans after Korea was relieved of its Japanese occupiers following WWII, he and his followers were walled up north of Pyongyang and kept from the community of nations by an “ill-understood American hegemony” that preferred Japanese collaborators to resistance leaders. Why the saber-rattling? With Bush, it appears to be personal: “In a recent discussion . . . he blurted out, ‘I loathe Kim Jong Il!’ ” So it is with Iran: the American government propped up a hated shah, then professed surprise when the Khomeini revolution painted the US as the bad guy. There’s not a shred of evidence that the current Iranian government helped Osama bin Laden perform his evil work, writes Iran specialist Abrahamian (CUNY), but that didn’t keep the Bush regime from charging that Iran was a bedfellow of terrorism. No matter: writes Abrahamian, “The Iranian regime, despite its problems and weaknesses, is not a pack of cards perched to collapse because of much huffing and puffing in Washington and Los Angeles.” As a onetime ally of Iraq, Syria is slightly more problematic, acknowledges Israeli scholar Ma’oz (Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem). Ma’oz suggests that while Bush’s bluster is unlikely to earn any friends in Damascus, a little friendliness—and a resumption of foreign aid—would render the Ba’ath regime more cooperative.
All in all, a persuasive argument that the axis-of-evil trope is as illusory as those elusive WMDs.