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Bush and the “Golden 1950s”

Is the “Axis of Evil” a revamp of 1950s U.S. foreign policy toward Korea, Iran and Iraq?

March 11, 2002

Is the "Axis of Evil" a revamp of 1950s U.S. foreign policy toward Korea, Iran and Iraq?

Despite all the hoopla, Mr. Bush’s formulation is not a mere linguistic similarity to what prior generations referred to as the “axis powers” during World War II. Back then, the axis was Germany, Italy and Japan. The “axis” targeted by Mr. Bush — Iran, Iraq and North Korea — represents a collection of countries that have vexed U.S. administrations before.

After the Japanese surrender in 1945, Korea was divided up between “East” and “West” much as Germany was. But while there was an uneasy truce in Europe, North Korean forces invaded the Southern part of the country in 1950.

Weary of the spread of communism, President Truman dispatched U.S. forces that teamed up with the British and other allied armies. After a bloody war, hostilities ceased in 1953 — without a signed peace treaty. Ever since, the United States has stationed significant numbers of troops in a long zone between the two countries.

Iran in the 1950s was as much on the forefront of the U.S. mind as Korea. U.S. and British oil companies had high stakes in the oil-rich region that bordered the Soviet Union. Iran’s Prime Minister at the time, Dr. Mohammed Musaddiq, had designs to nationalize the oil industry.

The West got nervous. ‘Nationalization’ smacked of communism, and Iran lay in close proximity of the Soviet Union. In 1953, the CIA orchestrated the overthrow Dr. Musaddiq’s government called operation Ajax. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi then moved his country ever closer to the United States.

Iraq’s claim of fame is more recent, at least speaking in terms of an “axis of evil.” The United States played an active part in placing Major General Hassan al-Bakr into power in 1968. Al-Bakr chose Saddam Hussein as his successor.

After some 50 years of dabbling with rogue states, “axes of evil” and that sort of thing, the United States under George W. Bush is pretty much where the 1950s U.S. Presidents got started.

It is to be hoped that future involvements will spring from a desire to enhance democracy rather than merely propping up right-winged dictators to fend of other foreign rivals in order to secure business interests. So far, the United States has shot itself in the foot.