Monday, July 21, 2008

The End of the Axis of Evil?

President Bush has now sent the Undersecretary of State to meet with Iranian nuclear in multi-party negotiations without Iran meeting the demanded conditions. A deal has been cut with North Korea regarding its nuclear program, in effect returning more or less to something similar to the deal Clinton cut that Bush abjured a few months after he got into office (except that now the North Koreans have actually tested nuclear weapons). And he has been reported to have acceded, sort of, to the demand of Iraqi PM al-Maliki to some sort of "time horizon" for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as part of Status of Forces Agreement. Many consider this to be a triumph of Condoleeza Rice over Dick Cheney in the waning days of the Bush administration as Bush becomes desperate to have some kind of historical legacy in the face of his continuing decline in the polls. It looks like the end of the Axis of Evil as the major focus of his foreign policy, as various hardliners complain.

It was always my view that Bush's invocation of the "Axis of Evil" was his bid to be the next Ronald Reagan, who had his "Empire of Evil" speech, rather than being a "wimp" like his dad, as Cheney kept whispering in his ear while pushing the invasion of Iraq and the dumping of the Clinton Korea policy. The change in the Korea policy was predicated on a similar outcome that Reagan was advertised as having gotten, a collapse of the North Korean regime like how the Soviet regime collapsed (although that happened during the presidency of Bush, Sr., and Reagan spent his whole second term being friendly with the perestroika leader, Gorbachev, who would make the moves that would lead to that outcome). But, the North Korean regime tested a bomb rather than collapsing, the Iranian regime (which had helped us against the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to Bush's speech) was strengthened by our overthrow of Saddam Hussein and got a much more anti-US leadership in reaction to our casting them as part of the "Axis of Evil," and the disasters in Iraq have been too numerous to bother listing, even though we are now at a point where Bush could declare "victory" (Saddam gone and a semi-stable, semi-democratic regime in place) and bring our troops home. Maybe Bush is finally almost growing up now that his presidency is nearly finished?


Shag from Brookline said...

"Evil" can segue on its Axis into:

"Vile" or
"Veil" or
"Live" or even
"Levi" (like in "Hello Dolly's" Dolly)

for the dyslexis President.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

"Many consider this to be a triumph of Condoleeza Rice over Dick Cheney in the waning days of the Bush administration . ."

Condoleeza Rice's lies misled the American people into war with Iraq in the first instance. I think that many people across the globe will be looking forward to her rapid exit from the White House. Perhaps into more suitable employment ... a second-hand car saleswoman, maybe? But then, aren't cabinet positions like 'secretary of state' (policy-making though they are) free from any democratic perusal or assent? said...


In terms of getting into Iraq Rice looks like less of a main player and more of someone going along to get along, a facilitator rather than a major force. She was National Security Adviser and has been criticized as having been too passive and simply letting the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz gang get their way in pushing the war without helping out Colin Powell, her predecessor at State, in resisting the push, which he tried to do according to most reports. It would seem that she was mostly concerned with preserving her own position and personal relationship with Bush, and from pretty early on it was clear that Bush sided with the "go to war" group of Cheney et al, so she went along to get along too.

The reports may be incorrect, but they are widespread that since replacing Powell at State after 2004, she has been in a long competition with Cheney, with this becoming more serious after the 2006 election when the Democrats took over Congress and Rumsfeld was replaced by the somewhat more moderate Robert Gates at Defense. Rumsfeld allying with Cheney was a combination that was hard to beat.

The issue that probably was the first one to break the lock was Korea, and the break does date back to before 2006 while Rumsfeld was still in place. The crucial move was Rice (almost certainly) getting Bush to approve sending the State Department envoy Douglas Hill to participate in the Six Power negotiations with North Korea. This was strongly opposed by Cheney allies, such as John Bolton, who had been at State and then at the UN, and who is now strongly denouncing publicly the Korean deal and the sending of Burns to talk with the Iranians, Bolton having long been Cheney's flunky at State when Powell was there.

It is also easy to forget (or is not known by most people) that the first sign of the unreasonably aggressive stance of the Bush administration was also over Korea, well before 9/11 or any public push to invade Iraq, although Cheney and Wolfowitz and allies were pushing it behind closed doors almost from Day One of the administration. What happened was that in March, 2001, the South Korean president, Kim Dae-Jung, arrived in Washington to visit Bush. Secretary of State, Powell, was operating on the presumption that the administration was going to continue the process that had begun under Clinton and which Kim Dae-Jung was a strong supporter of and main instigator of. (It should also be kept in mind that Kim Dae-Jung had a long history as a human rights activist and was tortured and nearly killed a couple of times by earlier South Korean governments.). In any case, Kim was in town when by all reports Cheney and Rumsfeld got to Bush with their hard line that was based on the idea of bringing about regime change in North Korea. It was literally in the middle of Kim's visit that the change in policy came about, with Kim being disinvited to a meeting at the White House. He was personally and publicly humiliated (as was Powell), and this humiliation led to considerable anger in South Korea against the US that has still not fully abated. This preceded by some time the "Axis of Evil" speech, but as I noted in my posting, this strategy failed, and we have more recently seen the fruits of a more productive approach, which has been essentially returning to the Clinton approach that should have never been abandoned in the first place.

Of course, many will be glad to see Rice go given her deep connections with so much that has happened, even if more recently she has been relatively more reasonable than some in the administration.

Anonymous said...

"even if more recently she has been relatively more reasonable than some in the administration."

That's like a choice between a rattle snake and a cotton mouth as one's garden pet. Either will likely result in serious injury or death. When the choice is the lesser of two evils neither should be acceptable. Some Republicans have actually suggested that Rice would make an appropriate VP choice for McCain, and that can only be justified by understanding what a poor choice McCain, himself, is. Spin doctors are paid to describe the relative value of their clients. Relative to black, grey may be seen as white.

There is a long history in our political system of people going along to get ahead. Is it too unkind to suggest that it's little different from giving a little head. One way or another it's the action of a whore. Even then one has to wonder who is suffering from the comparison. Is it the player of the game or the honest prostitute?

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Thanks for the interesting background Barkley.

It's a relief to read of some evidence that everyone in the Whitehouse isn't all completely crazy. They almost all look like caricatures of wickedness and stupidity from the Australian perspective. (Actually I struggle to identify an individual that appears to be sane in the Bush government).

Condoleesa Rice's background is precisely the wrong one for a position of public trust with the American people. She's been on the board of this big multinational and that huge transnational. She was sitting on the board of Chevron when Chevron was involved in the oil-for-food scandal with Sadam Hussein and when Chevron supported the Burmese junta etc. Chevron helped put the world's environment on the brink of disaster. Chevron paid large amounts of money to support George Bush's election campaign. Immediately after Bush's 'win' he places Rice in a high up administration position - straight from Chevron. Then soon afterwards the middle east is targeted for invasion with oil clearly a big part of the motive.

In other words, Condoleesa Rice - along with many other Bush administration folks - completes the picture of a fully PRIVATE government in the US. At one time they used to hide a member-of-parliament's obvious conflict-of-interest. Not one sign of shame these days. Anything goes, and most good things already have. said...

Condoleeza Rice has long been a "play along with big established powers" person. A sign of this was in her last position before Bush was elected, Chancellor at Stanford University. Apparently the Board there wanted to cut something for budgetary reasons. What did she cut? She eliminated the very respected Food Research Institute, with which Brian Arthur had long been affiliated. I make no further comment.

Anonymous said...

That is exactly my point. She is no better than those around her unless measured by an ability to be more circumspect and equally self serving. I shudder to think of the damage such people can do as they gain greater power and become the ones to please and lose the need for circumspection.