Fifteen years ago, President George W. Bush labeled Iraq, North Korea, and Iran the "Axis of Evil." This comment was roundly mocked. It was largely forgotten after the war in Iraq and the persistent insurgency. Because two of the countries are still dominating current events and OpsLens analysts described North Korea as the location of a future war, it is worth revisiting the key phrase and how it exhibited wisdom and foresight.
In the 2002 State of the Union Address, just a few months after Sept. 11, Bush described North Korea as "a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens." In regards to Iran, he said they "aggressively pursue these weapons and export terror." Liberals blasted this concept as a ridiculous comparison to the Axis powers in World War II and described it as an attempt by a war cowboy to argue for the Iraq war.
Critics pointed out this phrase didn't accurately reflect the hatred that Iran and Iraq shared for each other after their long war in the 1980s. But the original Axis powers didn't like each other either and would have likely fought each other after winning the initial war.
The 2002 speech came before the development of social media and memes, but I remember scornful email chains that started labelling various countries as the "axis of naughty," the "axis of countries that end with -stan" and the "axis of places that aren't so bad but also won't host the Olympics any time soon."
The first attempt to fight this axis ended up being the most controversial. Despite a stunning collapse of Hussein's regime, the conflict gave way to a long insurgency. Many years of horrible news, the collapse of the Iraqi government after American withdrawal and the returning fight combined to make the conflict seem like a tragic mistake. The discussion of the axis faded away, but 15 years later it is time to revisit it.
Morgan Deane is an OpsLens Contributor and a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman.
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