When George W. Bush made his first
State of the Union Address “Speech to the Nation” in January 2002, he deployed the expression “axis of evil”. Thanks to his own foreign policy, Bush helped bring his own nightmare to life.
But the president’s biggest act of axis-enhancement was tying up our military in Iraq and antagonizing our allies. While the global cop was busy in Baghdad, the world’s other worst villains staged a jailbreak. They understood that Bush couldn’t readily respond to their provocations with force. The opportunity cost of occupying Iraq has also been felt in Syria and Sudan, among the other places where evil has gone unchecked for want of effective American leadership. At another level, our Bush- and Iraq-inspired unpopularity has spurred an informal new post-Cold War anti-American International, with Hugo Chávez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and George Galloway running for General Secretary.
The administration’s discredited claims about Iraqi weapons have also served Iran and North Korea by casting Bush as the Boy Who Cried WMD. Though there has never been much doubt about their nuclear ambitions, propagandists and apologists for those regimes have found it all too easy to call the administration’s credibility on the subject into question and to create a shadow of doubt. Meanwhile, Bush’s unilateralism and the bad taste left in everyone’s mouth by the rush to war in Iraq fractured an international community that might otherwise be much more unified in its response.