Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Wane of the Axis of Evil

Bush's controversial foreign policy may yield a curious victory when (or soon after) he leaves: the end of the Axis of Evil, both its official members and its often-called "junior" members.

The official list, if you have forgotten: Iran, Iraq, North Korea
The "Juniors": Libya, Syria

Iraq: Thanks to the so-far 5+ year war, regime change has certainly taken Iraq off the list, although it remains a different sort of problem.

North Korea: Thanks to effective carrot/stick diplomacy in six-party talks, North Korea has finally taken the first steps to denuclearizing, and may even return kidnapped Japanese to their homes. Kim Jong Il is still rather evil, but has come far enough from the 1987 terror attacks on Korean Air Flight 858 that "axis" no longer applies. Kim may have been convinced that cooperation is the best way for his country to move foward. Now that the US is taking it off the terror support list and lifting economic sanctions, it falls off the Axis.

Iran: Not off yet, but working on it. The Iranians and Americans are working on setting up diplomatic posts in each others' countires (a step down from Embassies, but not far). They have been talking quite a bit before this, but this move shows that the US is willing to hold out carrots to Iran as well as wave sticks over its nuclear program and operations within Iraq. The New Yorker is accusing the Bush administration of "preparing the battlefield" for war with Iran, but such accusations have come for years, and only diplomatic action has resulted. Iran is certainly not off the list, but is farther from the brink than before. Diplomatic pressure has worked, and Stratfor predicts they will cut a deal on their nuclear program with the next president, refusing to give Bush diplomatic credit (like between Carter and Raegan in the Embassy hostage crisis).

The little guys:

Libya: Libya has become a model of the deterrence strategy. The US showed that it meant business about dealing with WMD fears using regime change as a strategy, and the Libyan government responded by opening its operations to inspectors, and revealing a great deal of information about the Iranian, Pakistani, and North Korean programs. Libya and North Korea have been shown that past actions will be forgiven, as long as rogue nations are willing to start playing by Great Power rules.

Syria: Not yet absolved, but on its way. The US is using its presence in Turkey and Israel to influence negotiations between Israel and Syria quietly--Syria could not politically afford to admit the US is getting involved. But if Syria makes a peace deal with Israel--which will likely include a distancing from Iran and an undercutting of support for Hezbollah--it will surrender almost all issues with which the West contends. Israel is offering the Golan Heights--an important Syrian cultural site captured for strategic reasons when most of the Arab world simultaneously invaded Israel--as well as trade, and encouragement of Western powers to drop trade sanctions, in return.

Each of these five states has shown progress away from rogue behavior--Iran least. Bush has shown that his tough-guy diplomacy may fulfill many of its goals, though it has had high diplomatic, monetary, and human costs.
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