Do you remember the days right after Sept. 11? When liberal internationalist journalists hopefully asserted that the Bush administration could no longer ignore America's inherent involvement with the world, could no longer afford unilateralism, could no longer disdain world opinion? They even scrounged around and found evidence that Bush was getting the picture. For example: He was "consulting with allies." (Imagine!)
So much for that story line. "Axis of evil" was a phrase manufactured for domestic consumption, with disregard for the existence of a) our allies; b) those particular allies that have to deal with these "rogue states" up close and personal, such as South Korea; c) any terrorist recruiters who can turn Bush's more florid turns of phrase into effective propaganda. Bush could have delivered a warning to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea just as forcefully without using a phrase so incendiary. That the world's opinion of America matters—certainly one of the top few lessons of 9/11—continues to elude our leader.
Bush said in his State of the Union address, "We are protected from attack only by vigorous action abroad, and increased vigilance at home." Actually, the truth is much more complicated than that. But I suppose this is no time to split hairs.