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Jimmy Carter Rips Bush on 'Axis' Label
February 22, 2002 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Jimmy Carter Rips Bush on 'Axis' Label The former President called Bush's statement overly simplistic and counterproductive and also said I think it will take years before we can repair the damage done by that statement. Leave it to Jimmy to tell the truth.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet (66 comments total)

 
My respect for Jimmy Carter has grown every year since he left office and it just went up another notch.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 8:24 AM on February 22, 2002


It's arguable that he was the last good president. Not only that, he's proven to be a pretty good ex-president, too.
posted by mrbula at 8:29 AM on February 22, 2002


I think most historians will argue that Carter is a model ex-president, and only a marginal president at best. But yes, much respect to Carter for speaking out on this.
posted by ratbastard at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2002


Carter is right on target here.

Although, his statement: Osama bin Laden is not poor, he's very rich — and the people who committed those horrible acts on Sept. 11 were not poor seems a little naive. It is the frustration of the down-trodden (a hence poor) that makes Osama's existence possible and provides him a sympathetic audience.
posted by plaino at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2002


He should go back to building houses and shut up.

The man presided over the greatest weakening of the American state, and the greatest demoralization of its armed forces, ever. He was a well-meaning, weak-willed twit who had no business holding the presidency.

Leave it Jimmy to have no backbone.
posted by dissent at 8:33 AM on February 22, 2002


to Jimmy, that is
posted by dissent at 8:33 AM on February 22, 2002


Does anyone have a link to a defense of Bush's statement? The more time passes, the less I understand the benefit of calling North Korea and Iran part of an "axis of evil."

North Korea and South Korea were making historic attempts at detente recently, and Iran's moderates seem to be stronger today than at any point since the revolution. Calling these two countries "evil" undercuts these efforts for no discernible gain, aside from the vague notion we're "putting them on notice." Is there a method to this madness, or is this an example of Bush letting his party's crazed hawks take flight?
posted by rcade at 8:34 AM on February 22, 2002


It's arguable that he was the last good president.

Very arguable. I'm old enough to remember gas lines, mortage rates in the high teens, stagflation, the Iranian hostages and concomitant dead US air cavalry... that's just off the top of my head.

The last good president, imo? Lincoln.
posted by UncleFes at 8:34 AM on February 22, 2002


I have a defense of Bush's statement: it's fundamentally the truth. A greater truth would be to add China in, as well.
posted by dissent at 8:39 AM on February 22, 2002


I agree with Carter. I also think that Bush is a little blinded by his current poll numbers -- he clearly believes that the country is willing to write him a blank check in the wake of 9/11. But I suspect there are many like me who fully support a complete and direct response to 9/11, but who feel disgusted that that support is being leveraged to build momentum for a wide assault on the "wish list" of countries the right would like to take down.

If there is independent evidence and reason to justify a military action in a particular country, make the case. But just labeling a country "evil" in a thinly-veiled attempt to evoke the emotions of 9/11 doesn't cut it.

UncleFes, how can you possibly overlook the great Chester Arthur?
posted by pardonyou? at 8:46 AM on February 22, 2002


I agree with mrbula. . .the Iran hostage situation, and how Reagan shamelessly played on that were what took down his presidency. It is interesting that even now, the Reagan library highlights material about what a "bumbler" he was, compared to Ronnie showing up on his white horse to help America score touchdowns again.

He was the last president to really give a rip about energy conservation and the environment.

He will always remain in my mind a classy guy.
posted by Danf at 8:47 AM on February 22, 2002


It's arguable that he was the last good president.

As a matter of fact it's highly arguable and depends mostly on your definition of "good". The oft-repeated bromide that he was an "honest" president is also quite relative. Jimmy was accused openly of lying and drawing up secret plans for a massive strikebreaking operation by the head of the machinist's union, William "Wimpy" Winpisinger. This led up to the walkout of 300 delegates and alternates at the 1980 Democratic convention to protest his re-nomination for president. Ironically, Reagan later used Carter's own strikebreaking plans to destroy the PATCO union.

Doesn't exactly sound like a stand-up guy to me. Nevertheless, I voted for him in '76 and '80.

Back to the subject at hand: I find it pretty pathetic that Carter seems to feel the need to backbite and armchair quarterback Bush. Perhaps he should consider his own foreign policy blunders before opening his yap?
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:48 AM on February 22, 2002


Carter was not a very effective president, regardless of his moral character. I agree with the assessment that he has been a "model" ex-president, and Clinton would do very well to emulate him.

But I do think Jimmy is correct. In one little phrase, Dubya undid a lot of progress in bringing genuine change to Iran and North Korea. It will take a lot of patching up to fix, and Dubya's "Misstatement Tour" of East Asia (the "devalue the yen" thing, the "150 years of working together" thing, the "no wonder I think they're evil" thing") is making it worse and worse.
posted by briank at 8:51 AM on February 22, 2002


psst...don't feed the trolls...
posted by jpoulos at 8:52 AM on February 22, 2002


dissent:

I have a defense of Bush's statement: it's fundamentally the truth. A greater truth would be to add China in, as well.

in fairness, however, i would say i don't think that politics is about truth; it's about getting what you want. that is the lens i'd rather look through to judge bush's statement, and i'm honestly unconvinced that he helped himself with it...
posted by moz at 8:56 AM on February 22, 2002


(In my best falsetto) Jimmy Carter... My Hero!
posted by bob bisquick at 8:58 AM on February 22, 2002


how can you possibly overlook the great Chester Arthur?

I bow to your superior historical perspective. The stoutness! The moustachio! Superbly presidential.

As an Illinoisan, though, I like to back a local boy when I can :)
posted by UncleFes at 8:59 AM on February 22, 2002


Somebody educate me: has North Korea ever resorted to terrorism? It's a repressive dictatorship, sure. But how exactly do they fit into a war on terrorism, other than as a wildcard tossed in to demonstrate that it's not aimed solely at Islam?
posted by ook at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2002


unclefes - I remember the same things you do, ie, viewing the gas lines from the back of my parent's Dodge and seeing the nightly count of days in captivity of the hostages as well. My impression of Carter, though is that he was a decent, well-meaning man caught up in circumstances that would try the best of us. And I commend his post-Presidency activities as well. And the last good president was Truman.

The "Axis of Evil" shtick strikes me as some speechwriters attempt to drum up WWII nostalgia. Unfortunately, the analogy is flawed. In WWII we had the organized efforts of the governments of three nations explicitly targeting the rest of the world.
What we have on our hands now is actually somewhat scarier, we have scattered cells of dangerous people targeting a wide variety of victims, with no real command structure, just figureheads of inspiration(ie, Osama, Saddam). "Scattered Battalions of Evil" might be a better way of putting it.
The governments of the nations in Bush's "axis" are aggravating the situation and should be dealt with on some level. However, we are in a new kind of conflict here and it needs to be handled in a new way.
posted by jonmc at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2002


I'm really a Nixon man, myself. Jimmy did build my house for me, so I'll have to give him props for that. I wasn't even a part of that program, he just showed up, a little drunk or something, with a pickup truck full of 2x4s.
"Let's hab`tat yer pale ass!" he bellowed.
I just got out of his way. 36 hours latter, I had a house. It doesn't have doors or windows, so it may technically be a barn, but it's cozy.

As far as the Axis label goes: of course Carter is right. Fucking silly, at best.
posted by dong_resin at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2002


Is it not obvious to the rest of the world that we have a fumbling buffoon in the White House? God, I hope so, because this "evildoer" campaign is really hurting our relations and seems at odds with the U.S.' supposedly liberal tolerance ideals. The terms he uses are just out of the freaking middle ages. You just KNOW his press and spin people wince every time he opens his mouth to deliver some piece of unscripted wisdom. Or sometimes scripted wisdom.

Forget democratic vs. republican, Enron, the pretzel incident or the Floridian chads.. I am just talking about the man's press and public relations skills. He is severely lacking in the finesse department. The proliferation of the word "evil" just smacks of religious overtones, whether that is the source of his remarks or not. It just irritates me that whoever is responsible for holding his hand isn't giving him sterner advice. "Dubya, you use the word evil again and I am going to lock you in a room with Monica Lewinski and a tape recorder."
posted by xyzzy at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2002


Chester Arthur? You're crazy on the junk my friend. William McKinley is vastly underrated, as are Warren Harding and J. Calvin Coolidge. If we're making exceptions, why not make Vietnam an exception to Lyndon Johnson's official record? Subtract his hideous mistakes there and you've got one of the finest presidents of any century - certainly for the poor of this country.
posted by luriete at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2002


There were a lot of things I didn't like about Carter--not to mention Roslyn's white glove routine with the White House maids--but I do remember an Argentinian writer saying that during his presidency his picture was up on newspaper office walls in Argentina for his 'naively moralistic' human rights approach to foreign policy.

By the way, ever notice blank user page=probable troll?
posted by y2karl at 9:08 AM on February 22, 2002


I liked this:



(via our own dear owillis)
posted by briank at 9:08 AM on February 22, 2002


Re: I have a defense of Bush's statement: it's fundamentally the truth. A greater truth would be to add China in, as well
Sure, you could add a lot of nations to the list, but what good does it do??? What does it accomplish? It just shows our president as unthinking about the global picture. He's so America-centric. Sure, he talks big about building a "global consensus" but when it comes down to it, he says and does what he wants, and insults nations all over the place for no good reason. What on earth did he hope to accomplish with that statement? He has to learning about the international community and how they view America as big, powerful , power-hungry oafs with blinders on to the rest of the world. And our stupid, "evil-doers" commander in chief is the ugliest American out there.
posted by aacheson at 9:12 AM on February 22, 2002


BTW, after reading dissent's comment I thought of something.When exactly did "well-meaning" become an insult? I understand that good intentions alone are not enough to solve the world's problems, but having one's heart in the right place is certainly a good place to start.
posted by jonmc at 9:14 AM on February 22, 2002


Sure, you could add a lot of nations to the list, but what good does it do??? What does it accomplish?

It's the truth. Seeing and speaking it is an accomplishment in itself. (As opposed to lying to an entire people and trying to redefine the word "is")
posted by dagny at 9:22 AM on February 22, 2002


has North Korea ever resorted to terrorism?

Probably not, but the Federal Government likes to lie about true motives to gain public support. Remember when we sent our military to kill Iraqis on the grounds that we were helping preserve freedom in Kuwait, a country where women couldn't vote?
posted by Harry Hopkins' Hat at 9:24 AM on February 22, 2002


The "Axis of Evil" shtick strikes me as some speechwriters attempt to drum up WWII nostalgia.

slate had sort of an expose a little while ago exposing the origins of "the axis of evil" as coming from david frum, manhattan institute fellow and weekly standard alum and i guess one of those "national greatness conservatives" :) his wife compares it to an advertising catchphrase, which is kind of appalling considering it's somehow morphed into our nation's foreign policy.

i think carter is right in calling it out as overly simplistic. like AFAIK there has never been any coordination between n.korea, iraq and iran to attack the US or anything, so where's the axis? and if by demonizing them couldn't we be making them more of a danger than before?

even if it was meant on just a rhetorical (marketing) level, it raises the overall level of misunderstanding and polarizes the situation needlessly. already the president has had to backpedal and say he has no intention of attacking n.korea. so like even for the administration, it makes for more ineffective policy and seems a hindrance to their stated goals!
posted by kliuless at 9:32 AM on February 22, 2002


Dagny: As you type those words, President Bush is cozying up with China. Shouldn't he call them evil too, in his role as the omniscient speaker of truth?
posted by rcade at 9:34 AM on February 22, 2002


David Frum, huh? He's part of Dubya's posse?
Bummer. I mean, I knew he was a conservative(so am I, sometimes) but I thought his book on the 1970's made some interesting points once you weeded out some of the more egregious rhetoric.
posted by jonmc at 9:41 AM on February 22, 2002


"Well-meaning" was actually a compliment, something to his credit.

I actually *like* Jimmy Carter... as long as he's out of office.
posted by dissent at 9:46 AM on February 22, 2002


i like the national greatness conservatives, too (brooks, kristol et al :) they seem to take principled stands on things and always seem to make cogent arguments.

yeah, i saw frum speak on c-span about how we got here? nice lecture.

i like jimmy carter, too!
posted by kliuless at 9:50 AM on February 22, 2002


Howie Kurtz said a couple of days after the State of the Union that the author of the Axis thing's (David Frum?) wife sent an e-mail around to friends bragging about it.It's just a matter of time before we all get to see that mail if that's true.

As you type those words, President Bush is cozying up with China.

I don't speak Chinese, but there's a name some Chinese goverment officials have for George HW Bush that translates as "old friend". Anyway, so it was reported and I can't remember where.W will do his part to hold up the family tradition, I suppose.

I like this "last good President" stuff.That's a helluva thread just waiting to happen.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 9:51 AM on February 22, 2002


dissent - I didn't mean to snark at you. It just happened that your post sparked the realization that the phrase has become something of backhanded insult in recent years.
posted by jonmc at 9:57 AM on February 22, 2002


The "Axis of Evil" comment was explained by (I believe) Mr. Powell, as including nations who have in the past and who continue the wide-scale manufacturing of weapons of mass distruction and are more than willing to sell them to whoever can raise the money, thereby empowering smaller militant groups (who otherwise cannot afford to maintain their own weapons programs) easy access to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the means to deliver them to friendly soil.
posted by Danelope at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2002


And, Dear Lord, I misspelled 'destruction'. Editorial Process Gone Horribly Awry.
posted by Danelope at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2002


The "Axis of Evil" comment was explained by (I believe) Mr. Powell, as including nations who have in the past and who continue the wide-scale manufacturing of weapons of mass distruction and are more than willing to sell them to whoever can raise the money, thereby empowering smaller militant groups (who otherwise cannot afford to maintain their own weapons programs) easy access to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the means to deliver them to friendly soil.

Which, by that definition, includes the U.S.
posted by briank at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2002


David Frum is Canadian, but you guys can have him...
posted by jmcnally at 10:21 AM on February 22, 2002


My god, jmcnally, seeing your username was brainjarring. For a moment I thought I had created another mefi identity in my sleep.

All hail the McNally clan!
posted by jonmc at 10:28 AM on February 22, 2002


let's not for get that jimmy tried to legalize pot for a while. You gotz to love that guy. Word up.
posted by aj100 at 10:53 AM on February 22, 2002


Doesn't exactly sound like a stand-up guy to me. (meaning Carter)

The fact is, its not the kind of job you apply for if you wanna be a "Stand-Up Guy". If you think about the job description, even a guy as honest as Carter will have to break some eggs before long in the oval office. (see also, former union leader Reagan, firing a nation's worth of air traffic controllers.)

Furthermore, half of what makes a prez good or bad is the whammy factor of all sorts of extraneous and out of anybody's control variables.

In short, its only half policy/execution as to whether history will smile upon any given presidency. The other half's a RNG.
posted by BentPenguin at 10:57 AM on February 22, 2002


Frum is an idiot. He's not American, he's Canadian, though the conservative politicians laughed him outta here a couple years ago.

His mother, however, was a national treasure!
posted by mikel at 10:58 AM on February 22, 2002


The fact is, its not the kind of job you apply for if you wanna be a "Stand-Up Guy". If you think about the job description, even a guy as honest as Carter will have to break some eggs before long in the oval office.

My comment was directed towards people who get all misty thinking about this paper cut-out image they have of Honest Jimmy Carter, but forgot (or never knew) that he could backstab with the best of 'em. My point was that while Carter may have been relatively honest compared to say, Nixon, he certainly was capable of some incredibly dishonest behavior.

(see also, former union leader Reagan, firing a nation's worth of air traffic controllers.)

See my comments regarding PATCO (air traffic controller's union).
posted by MrBaliHai at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2002


GO Carter go!!!!

WHEN are they going to give this man a Nobel?
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2002


When exactly did "well- meaning" become an insult?

Typically it's followed by the word "but" and a list of the well-meaning person's shortcomings, usually including his inability to follow through on his good intentions. It's called "damning with faint praise."
posted by kindall at 12:11 PM on February 22, 2002




jonmc When exactly did "well-meaning" become an insult?
"Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. And if this be rightly considered, he will be seen to have been much more merciful than the Florentine people, who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty, permitted Pistoia to be destroyed. Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise..." The Prince (XVII)
Well-meaning Jimmy Carter gave away the store. His most basic requirement as President was not being a nice guy, not speaking difficult truths, not winning a Nobel prize, but defending American interests. In that most fundamental obligation he failed catastrophically. Ironically, we lost both Iran and Afghanistan on his watch. For him now to criticize Bush is despicable.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 3:05 PM on February 22, 2002


His most basic requirement as President was not being a nice guy, not speaking difficult truths, not winning a Nobel prize, but defending American interests

Technically, according to article 2, section 2 of the constitution, none of those things are basic requirements, including the last item on your list. I agree that in recent years that has become what is expected of the president, but if we're arguing on duties of office, let's at least be clear.
posted by Hildago at 3:27 PM on February 22, 2002


emptyage: Funny, I didn't see where, like, all of Europe was defended from totalitarian communism by US arms. There must be a problem with Mother Jones's mapping software.

I don't know where Carter's coming off being so disingenuous. He's the classic sheep in wolf's clothing, alas -- I wouldn't go so far in calumny as Hieronymus, there, but he wasn't the most effective President. Nice guy. Moral as all get-out. A great diplomat and go-between. But he sucked as an actual President for the reasons HC lists. (Bush, on the other hand, said "I'm a loving guy -- but I've got a job to do." Whatever else you may say of him, you can't say he doesn't understand the mandates of his position.)

Jimmy ought to know full well that the purpose of a label like "Axis of Evil", overblown and grating as it may be, is about the countries gravitating around the axle or axis, which is why it's an appropriate phrase even if it's not a formal WWII-style alliance. When Bush included Baghdad and Tehran to that list, he was speaking not just to their leaders, but to the leaders in Damascus and Riyadh. Don't hang out with that crowd, boys. They're nothing but trouble. The Saudis were rumored to be on their way to joining a declaration on the Palestinian issue in January alongside both Iraq and Iran; this was a way of peeling them back away from that club and reminding them who their real friends were. At the same time it speaks volumes to dissidents inside those nations, like the young people who were (quite improbably) calling last fall for US intervention against the Iranian theocrats. It states quite unequivocally that we, the United States, will stand for a certain set of values, and we will defend those values if necessary. Those who don't want to play must recognize their isolation.

The hell of it is, it's working. Iran that very week suddenly announced it had arrested a whole bunch of warriors from Afghanistan. That they were document-less johnny-come-lately Arab Afghans who were picked up at the border with Pakistan -- thus of little intelligence interest to us -- was of no consequence: Iran was backpedaling. "See, we arrest terrorists too!" Saddam has made interesting and worthwhile noises since then as well. Jimmy Carter may call this lost opportunities, but for what? For more jawboning? While we jawbone, Saddam's people starve. The Chomskyans say we should not have that on our conscience, and I agree -- so we must seek change now and as soon as possible. Similarly, as good as it made the multi-lateralists feel, teh Sunshine Policy on the Korean peninsula had stalled out badly. If we believe at all that those governments are failing their people, we must believe that stirring the pot is necessary when it stagnates. We may never have a better opportunity to force change and open up those societies, so seizing it is nearly a moral requirement.

So dictators like Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein, and theocrats like Iran's mullahs, squirmed a little. Good. They're bad people. They suck. They should squirm. How's it feel to be in the spotlight, guys?
posted by dhartung at 3:30 PM on February 22, 2002


Wow! Great comment, dhartung -- very much appreciated.

And as far as China...hey, we (USA) have to find the right balance between "idealistic" and "practical." With petty thugs, like Saddam, we can be idealistic AND back it up with absolute force. With China, we can't afford to be quite so harsh - it's called *reality*. So far, I think we're doing OK. So China isn't the most liberty-loving country -- we don't like that...but they have 1/5 of the world's people, and a free society in China is inevitable, so let's not shut them out of our world, either.
posted by davidmsc at 3:51 PM on February 22, 2002


Wow! Great comment, dhartung -- very much appreciated.

And as far as China...hey, we (USA) have to find the right balance between "idealistic" and "practical." With petty thugs, like Saddam, we can be idealistic AND back it up with absolute force. With China, we can't afford to be quite so harsh - it's called *reality*. So far, I think we're doing OK. So China isn't the most liberty-loving country -- we don't like that...but they have 1/5 of the world's people, and a free society in China is inevitable, so let's not shut them out of our world, either.
posted by davidmsc at 3:52 PM on February 22, 2002


and theocrats like Iran's mullahs, squirmed a little.

Except that speech was a Get Out Of Jail Free card for the mullahs. Including Iran in that speech was the most bird brained part of all, considering the internal politics of Iran. Here, the US and Iran had been inching towards a rapprochement and Bush blew it back by years--and why? What on Earth possible good will come out of this blunder? If anything, it strenghthened the hand of the very elements in Iran who support Hezbollah and their ilk.

Good. They're bad people.

But a simple smug oneliner explains that one away.
posted by y2karl at 4:14 PM on February 22, 2002


What on Earth possible good will come out of this blunder?

I think it might just be possible that the administration wouldn't have made the statement they did if they didn't expect some good. Remember, it's not like Bush came up with this, I'm sure his entire cabinet including State and Defense had input into this policy, and I'm just as certain we don't have all the information they do. Perhaps they made a blunder; perhaps it is impossible for us to tell.
posted by kindall at 5:10 PM on February 22, 2002


dhartung, you seem to have a somewhat tenuous grasp of the realities of politics on the Korean peninsula, although you are right that Kim Jong Il is a bad man, and that he sucks.

Good for you.

Making dictators like Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein squirm, as you put it, recklessly endangers the lives of ordinary people, Dan, thousands upon thousands of them. The empty, detached-from-reality rhetoric that both you and the Shrub's speechwriters seem to enjoy deploying causes more damage than good, and nudges the lives of all those people a little closer to the brink. Not only that, but it inflames a reactionary anger in them, a visceral hatred of the United States, which will inevitably involve more Americans dying, dollars to fucking donuts. Don't the American TV networks show the recent Anti-US protests around the globe? No, I suppose they probably don't.

And this, to make a few despots 'squirm'. What nonsense.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:01 PM on February 22, 2002


It's interesting that PATCO gets brought up, since the events surrounding their strike marked the first big turning point between the Carter and Reagan styles of governing in the eyes of the voters. (Here's the background on the PATCO strike.) I think many folks - expecially younger people - forget just how much revulsion the public had for PATCO and its illegal actions, and what a hero they made out of Reagan for immediately firing the whole lot of them and instituting a contingency plan. PATCO is not something you want to bring up if you're trying to make Reagan look bad, unless you're preaching to the choir.

(Remember, in its own way, what PATCO did was the same thing bin Laden did: attempt to bring the American air transportation system to its knees.)

I think stavros's last comment shows the clear difference between right and left on this whole "axis of evil" thing: The left sees it as stirring up trouble that might cause someone to get hurt. The right sees the citizens of those countries already hurting, and hurting under the iron fist of despots whole are happily preparing to either cause more trouble for democracies (especially the US) themselves, or at least via the manufacture and selling of WMDs, if not both. And the time has come to take them out, because 9/11 was our Red Alert, the final warning that we cannot just sit back and hold endless meetings about things. Better to lose a few people now (and yes, we will lose people, and are prepared to do so), than thousands or millions X number of years down the line, as is virtually guaranteed if we do nothing. (And yes, I'm generalizing both sides of the argument a bit, because I'd like to finish typing this post before June.)
posted by aaron at 6:21 PM on February 22, 2002


stavrosthewonderchicken, it's doubtful whether folks who've always lived stateside have a handle on what actually happens in a city like Seoul when things get tense with the north. Perhaps you'd consider putting some of that sort of information on your site and sharing a link with us?
posted by sheauga at 6:24 PM on February 22, 2002


Perhaps, as far as it goes, aaron, you're on the right track, although I am less willing than you perhaps to grant to the authors of the 'axis of evil' silliness a strong sense of humanitarianism, particularly as the American government didn't find it necessary to intervene in any real way while 2 million North Koreans died in the recent famines. It made me physically ill to read that Pretzelboy mouthed self-serving platitudes about that when he visited the DMZ, to support the new toughguy stance.

I have to say again, too, a constant insistence on using labels (right, left, liberal, yadda, whoops, thud) drives me to distraction. I prefer not to bother limiting myself by trying to slap labels on people to simplify the way I think about them and their beliefs.

With regard to the whole 'weapons of mass destruction' strawman (not yours, the Resident's), I find this amusing : CDI, Feb 20 2001 : "Cynics might believe that Bush would want to keep North Korea in the "rogue state" category for use as evidence of threats supporting his proposed national missile defense (NMD)."

Cynics, indeed.

sheauga - there are lots of resources out there, even in the American media, and although I'm moving to a new domain soon and may consider a subsite for a Korean journal of sorts, anyone who visits my current weblog will soon see that I tend towards ranting, rambling and bombast. There are some useful links there, too, mixed in with the other stuff. Last thing I'd want to do was feel that I had a 'journalistic responsibility' though - no fun.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:56 PM on February 22, 2002


Calling these two countries "evil" undercuts these efforts for no discernible gain, aside from the vague notion we're "putting them on notice."

If you read some of the stuff coming out of Baghdad, Tehran, etc., "Axis of Evil" seems extremely mild in comparison. Such high-handed moral pronouncements may be frowned upon here, but they're the standard in many of the "Axis" countries and as dhartung noted, they signal to exactly the right people that we're not afraid to name names either. there are several that have been under the impression that since 9/11, the U.S. will "look the other way" in other countries where terrorist seeds have been fermenting in the name of coalition-building. To a certain extent, it will, and has (See Arabia, Saudi.) If, however, we want to make sure that no WMD-wielding Talibans emerge in the future annd preempt the development of more al-Qaeda-like networks, we're going to have take a more active role, and that will inevitably involve picking a few battles that could get ugly. There's also a lot of confusion on the subject that has been compounded by the U.S.'s failure to clearly spell out what would and would not be tolerated and exactly which battles we were going to pick. We had to draw lines somewhere and anything more softly worded than "Axis of Evil" would have been lost in the noise.

Presidential speechwriters don't just slap this stuff together. They thought about it and they knew it was going to piss some people off, but it had to be done. Fence straddling on *everything* doesn't lend itself to effective foreign policy.

Don't the American TV networks show the recent Anti-US protests around the globe?

i can't tell you from personal experience, but several of my college friends have spent significant amounts of time in places where these protests occur - many because they're *from* those places. according to them, there's a lot of latent resentment of U.S. foreign policy, largely over our support for Israel, which is the context for virtually every U.S. foreign policy discussion regardless of actual relevance. (If you're talking about U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis Beijing, it's still *really*about Israel. Bin Laden aptly demonstrated this in conveniently invoking the Palestinian cause to protest U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia.) it's rarely, however, this visceral foaming-at-the-mouth hatred we all keep hearing about, and to the embarrassment of many Arab elites, it's usually accompanied by a love of coca-cola/McDonald's/etc and a desire to visit LA/New York/etc.

the people you see in anti-u.S. protests are not representative of the majority, and are usually not the types to watch, much less analyze, speeches by George W. (Keep in mind that many of these are the same people that were told that Jewish workers were evacuated from the WTC before the attack - and *believed* it. Not exactly discerning students of political science, i'd say.)

Unfortunately, the real 'Arab street' won't be covered by CNN. Ambivalence isn't newworthy. "Man on Riyadh Street Doesn't Really Give Shit About U.S. Foreign Policy" isn't likely to sell newpapers.
posted by lizs at 9:37 PM on February 22, 2002


Recently, thousands have taken to the street in anti-US protests where I live, lizs - Seoul. They don't give a damn about Israel. I'd beg to differ that the sentiments they expressed were all that different, in essence, from the ones held by the majority here.

Broad brush, perhaps, but I am speaking from experience.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:45 PM on February 22, 2002


i don't know any native koreans so i won't argue with you there, stavros. my friends are arabs and persians - from saudi, bahrain, egypt, iraq, iran... maybe it's different in the Middle East. i also won't discount the possibility that as people educated in American universities, they may be a little more sympathetic to the U.S...
posted by lizs at 11:04 PM on February 22, 2002


i can kind of see how putting nations on notice and goading them into confrontation might work, esp. with the present military superiority of the US. and i can also see how non-confrontation or under-confrontation in the past can be seen as a failure.

still tho i can't see why diplomatic efforts, esp. like w/ n.korea and iran where there seemed to progress, should be undermined because the administration couldn't come up with some more nuanced rhetoric. like yeah, carry a big stick and use it (extra-)judiciously, but i don't think it helps your case much to mouth-off and carry a chip on your shoulder.

in any case, stir the pot. take the calculated risk. roll the dice. see what happens. make history! it also occurs to me the US is just trolling :)
posted by kliuless at 7:51 AM on February 23, 2002


In acknowledgement of dhartung, and what with French being the language of diplomacy, I suggest that Bush's words were those of a derailleur.
posted by liam at 12:28 PM on February 23, 2002


Why thank you, liam -- somebody noticed! I think you're exactly right, actually. Bush's team perceived that they needed to completely change the terms of the debate. No dithering, studying, white-papering, referring-to-committee of a decision between "rogue nation" and "state of concern" here.

(A debate which was long prefigured in Yes, Minister:

Jim: Well anyway, why are we having an official visit from this tin pot little African country?
Sir Humphrey: Minister, I beg of you not to refer to it as a tin pot little African country. It's an LDC.
Jim: A what?
Sir Humphrey: Buranda is what was used to be called an under-developed country, however this term was largely regarded as offensive, so they became known as developing countries and then as less developed countries or LDC's. We are now ready to replace the term LDC with HRRC.
Jim: What's that?
Sir Humphrey: Human resource rich countries.
Jim: Which means?
Sir Humphrey: That they're grossly over-populated and begging for money.
- The Official Visit


Later, Jim uses the acronym TPLAC anyway -- just to tweak Sir Humphrey.)

stavros, I defer to you as a reporter of local points of view. I defer to myself on matters of principle. Aaron pointed out, needlessly bifurcating by political labels, The left sees it as stirring up trouble that might cause someone to get hurt. The right sees the citizens of those countries already hurting, and hurting under the iron fist of despots who may cause more trouble later on, and anyway whose mere continued existence is causing trouble. You yourself brought up the issue of 2 million starving North Koreans, and asked why we didn't "intervene" -- your word. What would you have us do? We're not going to just jump-rope on your say-so. (We get to hating that. Intervene here! No, not here, there! To your left! No, your other left! Wait, stop, don't intervene, it's wrong! Wait, now it's right!) And if we didn't intervene then -- well, it was because of people like you who told us that if we stir the pot we cause trouble for you.

I submit that our concern should, post-9/11, be clearly in favor of ending the suffering of those 2 million, which might involve a certain amount of risk to persons nearby such as yourself. I'm sorry, but you have the option of bugging out, while they do not.
posted by dhartung at 3:13 PM on February 23, 2002


Sorry for the length. Whew.

Well, in all fairness, the US did provide some food aid, and in 1999 Clinton did end the sanctions which were (arguably) in part responsible for worsening the famine during the early- to-mid-90's. The food aid, though, was made contingent on North Korea making concessions with regards to matters military, something at which they always have balked.

So, again, I think that it's not so simple as you would seem to imply, dhartung. The US has taken a lead role in guiding the fate of the peninsula, since the war 50 years ago, and in the last decade or so, has been at least in some small part culpable not only for the millions of dead (in part actively, through the sanctions that Clinton did finally lift, too late, and in part passively, through not doing enough to help, when it was a comparatively easy thing to do, and further on making help contingent on matters military rather than simply Doing The Right Thing).

But even this is a simplification. North Korea is kept on life support by South Korea, the US and the UN to avoid a complete implosion, which would threaten many more throughout the region than the few millions who have died in the last decade there. Although North Korea received for years more food aid than any other nation, no one is really sure where it all went. And as I 've mentioned elsewhere, Kim Jong Il is a clever bastard - by keeping a 'military threat' held over the head of the South (and by extension the Americans) he can call the tune. The tightrope that he walks is that while 1/4 of his GNP goes to support the 3rd largest standing army in the world, the rest of the country is crumbling. Being a threat, or at least appearing to be a threat, is the only way to be taken seriously, and to elicit more aid and any concessions at all, and stay in power. By playing into his hands, the current administration perpetuates the status quo, or risks disurbing it in the wrong direction - into all-out, cornered-rat war.

America did 'intervene' in the famine - as America always does when it's in America's best interests - but not, I would argue, in any way that actually improved the situation, whether there were good intentions behind the aid or not.

North Korea should - must - rid itself of the human garbage that runs it. I am not for a second arguing anything different. What I am arguing is that the bombast of this administration, which I believe to be rooted in vested financial interests, self-aggrandizement and a transparent need to make this 'War on Terra' seem to be directed against someone other than the Islamic world, more than any real concern for either its citizens or the citizens of other nations, is only going to make things worse, for all of us.

And a lot worse for those poor ordinary goddamn people starving and dying in the North.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:40 PM on February 24, 2002


So dictators like Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein, and theocrats like Iran's mullahs, squirmed a little. Good. They're bad people. They suck. They should squirm. How's it feel to be in the spotlight, guys?

Well, dhartung the infallible--explain this...

After President Bush publicly accused Iran of being part of an "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea, the officials said, Iranian officials stopped cooperating with U.S. efforts to trap fugitive al-Qaida members in Afghanistan and instead began providing them with new travel documents and advice on where to go.

U.S. analysts believe that Bush's speech backfired and strengthened hard-liners in Iran led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former parliament speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani.



Note the headline: 400 of Taliban, al-Qaida said to have escaped

Axis of Evil Speech=Great Idea for you now?
posted by y2karl at 2:22 PM on March 15, 2002


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