In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush listed North Korea, Iraq, and Iran as the "axis of evil." Where stands the axis five years later?
North Korea: a deal, but no seal
North Korea can be counted as a tentative - very tentative - success for diplomacy. The North Koreans must shut down their main nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and allow inspectors from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency to confirm that. In return, North Korea will get some $400 million of aid, primarily for 50,000 tons of fuel oil and other humanitarian assistance. If North Korea keeps its side of the bargain, there will be further negotiations to discuss the elimination of the bomb, or bombs, it already has produced.
Iraq: a few rays of hope
Iraq has felt the full force of US military power and the outcome is still mixed. With the US public increasingly anxious about the war, Democrats and a few Republicans in Congress have been maneuvering to bring US troops home and supplant military action with peace through diplomacy in the region. The flaw in this is that without military power to buttress it, diplomacy in the wake of withdrawal would have little sway.
Iran: sanctions and military might
UN authorized sanctions against Iran appear to be having some effect. While the movement of two US carrier groups into the waters off Iran have inevitably raised the possibility of military action, the president and his secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, emphatically deny that the US plans war against Iran. While diplomacy is apparently favored as the current solution to US problems with Iran, the carriers are a quiet reminder that diplomacy is backed by military power.
Thus does the US interchange diplomacy and force of arms as it confronts the axis of evil.
[Excerpts of a Christian Science Monitor Opinion page by John Hughes, a professor of communications at Brigham Young University]