Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Access to and Axis of Evil (North Korea and Ike)

On January 29, 2002, President Bush identified the “Axis of Evil” in his State of the Union speech . It was three and a half months after 9/11 and the President identified three members of the axis, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.  According to the President, these nations “sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.”

The President promised the following,”We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction.”

More than four years later, the North Koreans tested a series of missiles.  In the meantime, Iran elected a regime that was even more confrontational with the United States and prepares to be moving ahead with its plans to enhance its capacity to enrich uranium which may be used in reactors, but also could be used to develop nuclear weapons.  Iraq, on the other hand, is well on its way to democracy.  In fact, U.S. policy has been so effective there that no one has found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since 2002 or any significant ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.  There is the small matter of all those insurgents, but it seems that they aren’t planting IEDs in the United States yet.  How are we doing with that “Axis of Evil?” and dare I ask exactly what did the administration really do in the last four years about what it identified as its priority?

In the last two or three centuries, war changed.  At one time, a nation’s capacity for war was a direct function of the size of its armies and the quality of its military leadership. Starting sometime between Napoleon and the American Civil War, victory began to depend on industrial prowess.  The country that could keep its factories intact inevitably won the war.  At the end of World War 2 largely because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many began to argue that scientists and engineers would be the key to victory in future wars.  Post-World War 2 conflicts like Vietnam and Afghanistan (against the Soviets) have certainly made the case that there’s more to winning a war than manufacturing and science, but there’s no denying that the latter two will play major roles in the United States’s capacity to maintain military dominance in the world (assuming that’s a desirable thing).  

I know I’m distinctly in the minority, but Ken Lay’s death this morning reminds me that the real axis of evil threatening the United States isn’t necessarily Pyonyang or Tehran. Corporate criminals like Lay are arguably a more serious security threat to this country than missile tests in foreign nations.  Fifty years ago, perhaps because it was the middle of the cold war, the Eisenhower administration sold the completion of the Federal Insterstate Highway system as a defense measure.  Eisenhower, the last president who really had a significant career as a military leader, understood that modern Defense was about “infrastructure”.  The American response to Sputnik with its prospect of Soviet warheads dropping from space wasn’t just to launch our own satellites.  America also responded to Sputnik with a sizeable investment in schools and science and math research and education.

Certainly, under Eisenhower, the American defense establishment expanded and we began a nuclear arms race that remains one of the most terrifying periods in world history.  Still, at the end of Eisenhower’s terms, it was the Democrats who were complaining about a “missile gap” with the Soviets.  Eisenhower himself used his farewell address to warn about the growing link between big industry and the defense establishment, now called the “military-industrial complex”.  This is what that liberal, Ike, had to say about it in that speech,

“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow. Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

It’s worth noting that Eisenhower,who had more direct experience with war than any other American president in the 20th century, was speaking at the height of the Cold War, yet when he identified his “Axis of Evil” suggested that we look within first.  We need to ask the following about the last four and half years.  Have we paid enough attention to our economic and scientific infrastructure to keep our nation’s defensive capacity intact?  Doesn’t preserving democracy and freedom start at home?


At 7/06/2006 03:53:00 PM, Blogger Ron Franscell said...

I started off worried. Then all reports seem to suggest North Korea can't keep its missiles up.

Maybe they need some kind of terrorist Viagra.

At 7/06/2006 03:59:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

this was an interesting week for that. Now that they've confiscated Rush Limbaugh's Viagra, he apparently no longer has to worry about doing any hard time for not having it in his name.

At 7/07/2006 12:45:00 PM, Blogger inkyhack said...

Eisenhower was a fascinating president, and he certainly was correct in warning about the industrial military complex. But evidence certainly suggests that our war against terrorism or even the axis of evil has less to do with safety and more to do with lining the pockets of friends of the president.

On a side note, it frustrates me to no end that most of our politicians (and most of the voting public) have conveniently forgotten all of the wonderful perks this nation earned when the government chose to invest heavily in education in the late '50s and early '60s. Instead, the more modern argument is that education funding should be cut and kids should instead be tested to death.

On to other stuff - you have a typo in your first paragraph. You named South Korea as a member of the axis of evil. It should be North Korea.

At 7/07/2006 06:05:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for catching the mistake. I'm sure it was the work of terrorists.

There are many frightening things about the 50's, but it was a time when the nation had a better sense of the importance of roads, schools, hospitals, etc.

In most cities, the biggest fanciest building is either the shopping mall or the sports arena. It implies a very weird set of priorities.

At 7/07/2006 07:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Ike might have said, "Let's spend the $820,000 per minute we're spending on the Military Budget + the additional $200,000 per minute we're spending on Iraq on education instead."

Which is more likely to lead to innovation and a prospering country and world? Hmmmm . . .

At 7/08/2006 01:27:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Eisenhower's farewell address is really worth a look especially alongside the W's speeches on national security.

It makes me wish that the current conservatives were just Republicans instead of whatever the heck they are now.

At 7/08/2006 02:53:00 AM, Blogger inkyhack said...

You hit the target, Chancelucky. The fact is the modern-day version of the Republican party does not even remotely resemble the true conservative philosophy or even the ideals that the Republican party was built upon. There was a radical shift in the party during Eisenhower's administration (driven, mainly by Sen. McCarthy and then Congressman Richard Nixon, imho). Yet, today, so many people think they are conservative because they vote Republican. They are so far from it, it's not even funny.

At 7/09/2006 07:20:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

It's fair to say though that political parties in America shift their identities over time. The ones that stick to their original principles tend to die out like the Whigs.

It does seem as if Ike fell out of the iconography of the Republican party about ten years ago. As for Nixon, it still surprises me at times to realize that Nixon was arguably the most liberal president in my lifetime at least in terms of policy. Roe v. Wade was largely the product of Harry Blackmun, a Nixon appointee. Affirmative action, the EPA, the broadening of the social support system took place under Nixon along with a policy of constructive engagement and arguably accomodation with communist nations.

Of course, it was the latter that set off the very young Rumsfeld and Cheney who were behind a program to falsify data about Soviet weapons threats (talk about familiar) to revert to revive the arms race and end the arms control process.


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