President Bush was mocked and reviled after his 2002 State of the Union speech saying an "axis of evil" threatened America and its allies, but he was dead right, and it increasingly seems he has progressed in defanging the three rogue states he named.
One of those was Iran, whose continued pursuit of WMD requires a response of sanctions and someday could necessitate even military intervention to save Israel from an overnight holocaust, avoid the repeated nuclear blackmailing of Europe and thwart what could conceivably be the instigation of a terrible worldwide war.
But while Iran continues to accumulate enriched uranium — an essential constituent of nuclear weapons unneeded for Iranian energy — and to build powerful missiles — a means of delivering the weapons — America’s intelligence agencies now say Iran likely put aside work on actually developing a nuclear weapon in, guess what year.
It was 2003. That’s when the United States invaded Iraq, and here is what some analysts are saying: Iran may well have been motivated by a fear that it could be next in line for regime removal if it didn’t quickly cease this most immediately provocative and least defensible of its advances toward devastating destructive capacity.
Such an Iranian decision could be easily reversed, and the report of it could be a setback to Bush’s quest for tough anti-nuke steps undertaken internationally. There is, however, a countervailing and significant possibility, namely that a suspension of Iran’s active weapons program has bought time crucial for preventing the worst from happening.
Another of Bush’s specified threats was, of course, Iraq, which is no longer under the dictatorship of the unendingly ambitious, reckless, genocidal Saddam Hussein, who was bribing his way out of sanctions immediately prior to the war and could have reconstituted WMD programs that he apparently had abandoned. The U.S. surge strategy is working to destroy al-Qaida and pacify both Sunnis and Shiites, and though the Iraqi government remains in need of extensive repair work, the improved conditions make that goal more feasible than before. The war is being won, terrorism overpowered and future Middle East stability made more likely.
The other state on the Bush axis list was North Korea, which as a consequence of multilateral negotiations has verifiably begun to shut down its chief nuclear facility and promised to end all nuclear programs. Liberal critics have said it would take bilateral negotiations to come to such a blessed conclusion — foolishly false — and that the nuclear buildup was actually caused by the "axis of evil" speech itself — false again.
The Bush administration’s goal, the president said in his now famous speech almost six years ago, was "to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction."
Has there been clearly lasting prevention? No. Has there been movement in the right direction? Yes.
Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.