Axis of Weasel

There are few things I understand less than the architects of George W. Bush’s Iraq War still getting a hearing, especially on terrorism and Islam and ISIS.

Here’s a section that David Frum wrote in George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address:


Without the Iraq War, the region would not have been destabilized to the extent that allowed ISIS to rise and conquer territory up to a mile of Baghdad’s airport, make ever bloodier the Syrian civil war, and inspire terrorism in Europe and the United States.  Here’s how Frum described in a 2003 book how he came up with the “axis” term when charged with making the case for war with Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein:

Looking for historical resonance, Frum goes leafing through the speeches of Franklin Roosevelt, in particular the “day of infamy” address to the nation that followed Pearl Harbor. “On December 8 1941, Roosevelt had exactly the same problem we had. The United States had been attacked by Japan, but the greater threat came from Nazi Germany,” Frum argues. In effect, al-Qaida is Japan and no prizes for guessing who plays Hitler this time around.

There are few people in the world more responsible for the Iraq War, or for the rise of ISIS , than Frum.  I don’t think he should go to jail for this, but he should be socially shunned. The idea that he would continue to have a prominent career advocating for wars and attacking anyone opposed to them as unpatriotic, defeatist, Islamophobic and/or anti-Semitic, just as he did in 2003, boggles the mind, since, at least on the matters of Afghanistan and Iraq, the people he was attacking generally turned out to be entirely correct.

Sometimes it seems like the more wrong you were from 2001 to 2003 the more your career in media would flourish afterwards.

axis of weasel :- New York Post 24 jan2003
axis of weasel :- New York Post 24 jan2003

11 thoughts on “Axis of Weasel

  1. I think this is an overstatement: “There are few people in the world more responsible for the Iraq War, or for the rise of ISIS , than Frum.” There were a lot of people that agreed with Frum. I agree that Frum has become a righteous hypocrite (perhaps to socially repent from his prior shunning). That being said, the neocon policies suffered from the same hubris that afflicts all of the technocratic class. Their motives were pure — they just wildly overestimated the possibility of top-down, centralized reform. That’s surely a sin, but it’s a pretty common one as policymakers go.


    1. There were lots of people across the country who wanted to go kick ass in the Muslim world and didn’t care much where, but the number of people who were sold on deposing Saddam Hussein within days of 9/11 pretty much amounted to Bush’s inner circle. Besides, my best friend might have spent Thanksgiving 2002 all the reasons why the Iraq War was a great idea, but he wasn’t writing the State of the Union address.


  2. Drawing a straight line from ’03 to ’13 is somewhat glib, is it not? I could just as plausibly argue that US withdrawal from Iraq and the farming out of Iraqi security needs to Iranian proxies were both instrumental in creating the void in which ISIS flourished and metastasised.


    1. To be clear, the reason for this post is because probably the most shared tweet in response to Manchester is David Frum pointing the finger at Trump for ISIS. Trump may be a dummy, and I think ISIS is only tangentially related to why we keep having these attacks, but it’s pretty rich given Frum’s own direct involvement in a war of choice that helped lead to ISIS.


  3. Does Frum have a position in government? Is he once again working in the White House? There are others who, despite being in the wrong on Vietnam or Iran Contra or Iraq nevertheless keep coming back like bad pennies and getting re-appointed as advisor or under-secretary of something or other. There must be something institutional to explain it.


    1. Wolfowitz was the head of the World Bank after working in the administration, and his role in Iraq was probably the most central of all. Rice has had a few academic posts, though academia is obviously less friendly territory. Frum is the one (apart from various pro-War liberal and centrist writers like Yglesias and Friedman and Chait) who is most prominent right now, I’d say.


      1. I’m not so much concerned about commentators who are still writing, or even with people who were in government but are now writing opinion pieces. It’s the ones who were in government — their views counted for much more — and who get rehired the next time their party wins and are back in positions to influence policy. Elliot Abrams, for example.


  4. For what it’s worth, Frum has been advocating immigration restriction *at the Atlantic*. So he ain’t all bad. 😉

    That said I think the way everyone who was wrong on Iraq did so well afterward, and everyone who was right on it did so poorly (well, on average), does a lot to convince the sorts of people who become alt-right or loony-left that there is a big globalist conspiracy that wants to do things to advance the American Empire, and the media goes along with Davos Man.

    And after hearing Trump praised by the media for attacking Syria, and thinking back to the way the media was so excited about repealing Glass-Steagall so we could have the convenience of one-stop shopping for insurance and banking… I am not so sure the paranoids are wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “For what it’s worth, Frum has been advocating immigration restriction *at the Atlantic*. So he ain’t all bad. 😉”

      As I’ve said before at Sailer’s, Frum’s established pundit brand since leaving the White House (and especially since the 2010 “Tea Party” cycle, when he became omnipresent in my loony-left Facebook feed) is “Republican”-who-is-very-very-concerned-about-the-direction-of-the-party, but one or two notches more convincing in the role than David Brooks.

      Given his prior and subsequent behavior, the stretch in 2015 where Brooks was writing weekly Trumpist manifestos for The Atlantic and he was best Twitter buddies with Ann Coulter is best understood as his assuming along with the rest of the pundit class that Trump was a Herman Cain (or Trump 2012!)-style passing fad and Rubio/Jeb!/Kasich were a lock for the nom, so he wanted to stake out an angle from which to write his very-very-concerned-about-the-direction-of-the-party NYT op-eds for the rest of the election cycle.

      I imagine the quest to keep his very-very-concerned angle timely is at least semi-subconscious for him.

      Liked by 1 person

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