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Break The Axle Of Evil

by David D. Eisenhower (Principles: Military Restraint, Bipartisanship) - 1 year ago

Let's stop treating North Korea and Iran as separate problems. They are working together against us so let's create a comprehensive strategy against them.

When a President passes the torch to his successor, he typically will also convey his thoughts as to what the greatest threats to our country will be over the next 4 years. For example, when Bill Clinton left office, he told George Bush that international terrorism was the most important threat while Iraq ranked around fifth. Bush responded by saying that in his opinion, Iraq was the number one threat and terrorism was well down the list. Then 9/11 happened and Clinton was proven to be right.

In an interesting twist, Barack Obama has named North Korea the number 1 threat with Donald Trump clearly taking the position that international terrorism ranks higher. While it is my hope that Obama’s views won’t prove to be as prophetic as Clinton’s, I would also hope that the Trump Administration is not ignoring the threat from North Korea in the way the Bush administration ignored terrorism during its first few months in office.

Assuming that Trump does take this threat seriously, however, he will be confronted with the same questions that vexed Obama. How do we deal with North Korea?  What leverage do we have? Should we try to enact regime change now before they have full capacity to launch a nuclear attack? Most critically, are we willing to risk war with China in order to accomplish that regime change?

I understand there are no easy answers but sitting back and hoping something good will happen is a recipe for nuclear disaster. We need some new thinking and I’d like to suggest the outline of a plan which I’m hoping your comments will help flesh out.  

In 2002, President Bush famously spoke of the “Axis of Evil” which he defined as consisting of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. His intended goal in using this term was to gain support for the coming war in Iraq. The unintended consequence was that it sent both North Korea and Iran careening toward developing nuclear weapons lest the fate that befell Iraq, should befall them.

I believe that our policy, under both Obama and now Trump, has forgotten this linkage between North Korea and Iran.  On the other hand, I think it’s clear that Iran and North Korea have not forgotten it. It is utterly absurd to think that these two countries are not working together to both develop the necessary nuclear technology and to distract the U.S. For example, just in the last week we see Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships harassing a U.S. warship right after North Korea’s latest missile test. Instead of taking action against either one, we’re getting whiplash watching each of them break one international norm after another.

My suggestion therefore is that we stop treating them as separate problems and combine them into one single “Axle Of Evil” and that we direct all diplomatic, economic, and, if necessary, military pressure toward breaking that Axle. By treating these two countries as a single problem, we can hold each responsible for the other’s actions. If either country violates international norms, the noose tightens on both. China may want to protect North Korea but they have no love for Iran. Russia is the reverse. Neither would be part of an alliance which solely attacks their rogue client but it would be in the interest of both China and Russia to be part of a comprehensive anti-nuclear proliferation effort.

It would also end the incentives for Iran and North Korea to alternate provocative actions. President Bush, through his words and deeds, made these countries part of the same problem. Therefore, the only pathway toward solving that problem and eliminating the threat they pose to civilization, is to break the Axle that links and strengthens them.


Comments and Responses (4)

By  Tyler Two - 1 year ago
Not sure I get how you can combine the two when they are at different stages. North Korea already has several nuclear weapons in its stockpile while Iran has none. Are you suggesting that if North Korea tests ICBMs, we should impose additional sanctions on Iran?
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Yes, that would be one result of what I'm suggesting. A few thoughts: We would look to put together a coalition, hopefully including Russia and China, that sign on to a set of sanctions that work in tandem against both countries. Similarly, if either challenges the U.S. navy, the U.S. would increase it's military presence near both countries. Equally important, though, would the psychological aspect of treating them as a unit. If either does a missile test, world powers would denounce both. Both of these countries, (like most countries) have enormous national pride. By deliberately treating them equally as rogue nations, we have a chance to use that national pride to break their alliance.
Reasoning used for ARGUMENTS presented
By  Facebook Commenter - 1 year ago
Didn't David Frum coin that phrase? I thought he regretted it as unnecessarily provocative towards those nations. I don't think we should base our foreign policy on some speechwriter's semantics.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Yes - David Frum came up with the phrase but it was approved and utilized by the President of the United States in his State of the Union address. Frum may regret it now but the damage cannot be undone. By effectively threatening all 3 countries with the fate that ultimately befell Iraq, Bush created incentive for Iran and North Korea to take whatever actions they could to protect themselves. Worse, with the U.S. military entangled in Iraq and Afghanistan, we had neither the resources nor the will to get tough with either one. Like it or not, we have created an alliance between these two rogue countries and we need to find a way to break that alliance.
General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 1 year ago
while Iran is "supposedly " prohibited to develop nuclear weapons by the "deal" struck by the previous administration, it's evident that Russia is feeding them technological insights and Iranian Scientists are sharing and developing weaponry in North Korea. China puts a veil of protection on N.K. when we provide antimissile missiles to S.K.. When Iran uses their navy to harass our Navy, we should let our ships protect themselves as they are capable, and as any other nation would under the same circumstances. That will send a strong message... you pull the bulls tail, you get the horns. We need to demonstrate our ability in their backyard. Meet them test for test. We need to back channel the Russian and Chinese govs with good deals. They get the hidden carrot, while their underlings get a swift hard stick to remind them... you mess with the big boys, you're gonna get whooped. Is it dangerous, yes. But rattling the saber without action will only prove that the U.S. has lost its resolve.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : I think your analysis of what's happening behind the scenes is accurate and I strongly agree with a couple of your strategies. There is nothing worse than rattling the saber and not taking action. From the moment Obama drew his red line in Syria and then didn't attack, the U.S. became irrelevant in that conflict. We can't afford a similar mistake now. I also agree that we need to find ways to separate Russia and China from their clients - the same way as we need to separate Iran from N.K. However, considering our current relations with both Russia and China, any carrots would need to be very well hidden. Finally on fighting fire with fire if our ships are harassed, we need to be very careful about escalation. If their ships get in our way, does that entitle us to blow them up? Is it possible that this would play right into the hands of the Supreme Leaders - by rallying their people for a war against the U.S.? Let's hope we make good decisions. Thanks for the interesting comment!
General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 1 year ago
The only way that North Korea and Iran will be detered is with a show of resolve from the US and her allies. The implementation of an ABM deterent in the form of a Mobile missile platform such as the SM3 Block II carried on the Arleigh Burke class destroyers is one way to show resolve. Another is to start introducing 75 Meter and 35 Meter patrol ships in the Gulf to counter the Iranian naval threat. The implementation of such naval assets can provide a potent counter strike option, while relieving some of the stress placed on Frigates and Crusiers, allowing them to focus more on their primary mission which is to protect the Carrier's in the Region. The use of drones and cyber warfare can be utilized in disrupting Iran and North Korea's A2D2 ISR capablities, providing​ allies with vital information that could warn of an impending attack to include the asymmetrical warfare capabilities of terrorist non state actors.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Seems like you've studied the military situation closely - perhaps you've even served in the military? If so, thank you for your service. Despite my pen name, I'm not as knowledgeable about our military assets as you are but what you are describing sounds like moving to the next phase of war preparation. They would essentially live their lives under the crosshairs of U.S. gunships and drones and with anti-missile systems ready to negate any launches. While this would certainly help us win a war quickly, I don't see how it helps us to prevent a war. Neither country is going to be cowed into submission and Russia and China are likely to make counter moves which add to the threat of war with them. I have nothing against our being ready to quickly retaliate, and I am also in favor of a strong missile defense, I would, however, have to be convinced that provocative military actions will lead to favorable results.