How Policy Gets Made

Old Blog Import

Seems that a new book by the writer of the Axis of Evil” speech reveals that policy had more to do with oratory than planning.

In the book, he writes that when drafting duties for last year’s State of the Union Message were being doled out, his assignment was”to provide a justification for a war,” specifically a war with Iraq. After much cogitation, he hit upon the idea of likening what the United States has been up against since September 11, 2001, to the villains of the Second World War. The phrase he came up with was axis of hatred.” Higher-ups changed this to axis of evil,” to make it sound more theological.” Although Frum initially intended his strong language” to apply only to Iraq, Iran was quickly added. (You can’t have a single-pointed axis.)

North Korea was an afterthought. It got stuck in at the last minute, but Frum doesn’t quite explain how or why. Perhaps it was meant to echo the global span of the original (Baghdad-Tehran-Pyongyang equals Berlin-Rome-Tokyo). Perhaps it was an application of the rhetorical Rule of Three (our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor; of the people, by the people, for the people; blood, sweat, and tears). Perhaps it was the product of intoxication brought on by an excess of moral clarity. Most likely, it was simply oratorical affirmative action, bused in to lend diversity to what would otherwise have been an all-Muslim list. One thing it was not was the product of careful policy deliberation. It had not been, as they say, staffed out. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, the State Department’s East Asia hands learned about it only hours before the speech, and they were not happy.”

The New Yorker