Wednesday, August 8, 2007

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

David Frum strives for accuracy

Forgive me a historical nitpick.

In a bloggingheads diavlog with Robert Wright, David Frum defends his partial coining of the term "Axis of Evil" by comparing it to the Axis Powers that banded together in World War II. Click here to see and listen (it's about a minute). I'll wait....

You're back? In an effort to be accurate, let's parse out where Frum is right and where he is wrong in his historical analogy.

Frum is accurate in stating that the Axis powers were not allies like the U.S. and U.K. were allies, because there was no integrated command structure. Of course, that's because, until 1945, very few allies have integrated command structures.

Frum is not accurate, when he says, "an axis is not an alliance." The original Axis powers did in fact sign the 1940 Tripartite treaty, which is commonly recognized as a traditional alliance.

More generally, the point is that the military policies of Germany, Italy, and Japan were far more coordinated in 1940 than Frum's Axis of Evil were in 2002.

That is all.

posted by Dan on 08.08.07 at 02:33 PM


"More generally, the point is that the military policies of Germany, Italy, and Japan were far more coordinated in 1940 than Frum's Axis of Evil were in 2002. "

As of the second half of 1940, I would agree with you. At the beginning of 1940, however, I'm not so sure. Italy did not declare war on France until June 10 when Germany already had France on the ropes.

More to the point, though, it's my impression that the policies (and weapons development programs) of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea were more coordinated in 2002 than were those of the original Axis in 1938. The point being that we want to prevent history from repeating, not wait until it's already repeated.

posted by: Mike W on 08.08.07 at 02:33 PM [permalink]

As per the Axis it is true that there was never any equivalent of SHAEF and in the early stages of the war the Axis powers made huge strategic decisions without even informing each other (Mussolini invading Greece, Hitler invading Russia, Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour).

However while technically there was no way Germany could collaborate effectively with Japan even if they had wanted to, Germany and Italy did develop an effective ad hoc command structure - simply because Italian forces were increasingly placed under German command as the price of the Germans bailing them out from whatever disasters they had independently entangled themselves in.

Frum's point about Germany invading and occupying Italy is also dubious - the Italians had actually signed an armistice with the allies and had already effectively changed sides - so the German reaction was in fact not that dissimilar in principal if not scale to the British attack on the French fleet at Mers el-Kebir in similar circumstances.

Its also worth remembering that Russia also never belonged to any unified allied command structure.

posted by: Roger on 08.08.07 at 02:33 PM [permalink]

It's hard to think of a phrase that has done more damage to a country's foreign policy. That speech, more than anything else, dissipated the sympathy for 9/11 and persuaded the world that the Bush Administration was a dangerous threat to world order.

The point isn't just that NK, Iran and Iraq weren't integrated. Iran and Iraq were sworn enemies.

posted by: Pithlord on 08.08.07 at 02:33 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?