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Evil axis & allies. (From the Editor).

Michael Puttre

Sunday, February 3, saw various personages of the Bush Administration on the morning network news talk shows explaining what an axis of evil is. Is there an Axis of Evil identified by the president in his State of the Union address on the preceding Tuesday as consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea; or are there many axes of evil, with the aforementioned alignment being merely an illustrative example? Even within the Administration, opinions seemed to differ. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made the clearest assessment when he said, in a nutshell, that an axis of evil is the relationship of a state that possesses or is developing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons or related systems with a terrorist network that would make use of those weapons. Thus, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea each stand accused of being a member of an individual axis of evil, as opposed to those countries themselves composing an alliance along the lines of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis of World War II.

This explanation isn't what President Bush said exactly, but it is the most useful from the standpoint of recognizing the threat and devising a strategy for countering it. In order to fight an axis of evil, a country has to come to grips with the concept that it has to fight a different kind of war. (Easy for me to say.) Plenty of pundits would agree, and even have a term for the concept asymmetric warfare. This is where a power avoids the strengths of a superior opponent by exploiting weaknesses and opportunities offered by the structure of its society and economy. Saying that a country has to be prepared to fight an asymmetric war and preparing to do so are different things. Consider the relative lack of clarity surrounding the issue of US homeland security, which revolves around protecting the very targets of an asymmetric attack. It is not even clear that this should be a DoD mission, let alone what defensive systems and countermeasures are required.

With Rumsfeld's explanation operative, a terrorist network is itself a delivery system. It is a weapon, no different than a missile except that it is better camouflaged, hiding among the niceties of diplomacy and international politics. A country that uses a terrorist network against another is using weapons against that country. This interpretation is not generally accepted, even in the West where it still generates a lot of skepticism, and certainly not by the wider global community where it is often scorned. List the incidents of terrorism in the world, identify from where the terrorist networks received their resources, and then you would have countries in a state of war with each other. Yet this isn't the case, for even allies feel the need to restrain each other from fighting asymmetric wars that breach the rules of international law, rules that were devised with the experience of a series of old-fashioned wars over the last 500 years.

Historians are notorious Monday-morning quarterbacks, and often accuse leaders of fighting the last war. The pressures on the decision-makers herding them into fighting the last war are hard for the uninitiated to imagine and rarely come through in the judgments of history, where a wizened admiralty thumps for more battleships while clear-eyed, dashing junior officers warn of the advent of carrier-based aviation. It's fine to say that people should resist the pressures of inertia, career, politics, budget, society, human nature, and a million years of evolution and do what is right But try it sometime. Nevertheless, these pressures are what make an axis of evil such a dangerous and confounding threat.
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Title Annotation:commentary on speech by George W. Bush
Comment:Evil axis & allies. (From the Editor).(commentary on speech by George W. Bush)
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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Next Article:Continuabunt qua sunt. (From the President).

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