Rogue states are portrayed with great hostility and in emotive terms as wilful violators of the international rules of the road who thus deserve drastic counter-action: this is what I mean by the phrase 'rogue rage'. Fear of their potential or actual ability to inflict mass destruction is given as justification for preparations to inflict mass destruction on them through limited nuclear war or for the actual infliction of mass destruction on them through conventional war and economic sanctions, as in the case of Iraq. This paper reviews critically the following perspectives on the concept of 'rogue states':

· it is appropriate for the very serious threats to the United States (and the West more generally) (the conservative perspective).

· it exaggerates the still real threats to the United States (the liberal perspective).

· it is applicable also or even primarily to the United States and some of its allies such as France, Britain and Israel (the radical perspective).

· it is a means by which the United States engages in the exercise of power through ostensibly neutral knowledge (the interpretivist perspective).

The paper argues that we should ditch the label 'rogue state' as it is a costly form of demonisation often associated with double standards; that we should redirect our efforts towards the consistent promotion of desirable norms of international conduct; but that we should be alert to the potential for promotion of norms to turn into demonisation of the rogue other in new, more respectable clothes.

Dr. Eric Herring

Department of Politics

University of Bristol

10 Priory Road

Bristol BS6 6AQ

England, UK

Tel. +44 (0)117 928 8582

Fax +44 (0)117 973 2133


Third Pan-European International Relations - International Studies Association Annual Conference, Vienna, 16-19 September 1998.

The concept of 'rogue states' is now well-established and used frequently in world politics. A typical characterisation of rogue states is that of Toby T. Gati (1997), US President Bill Clinton's Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research:

"rogue" states threaten us by maintaining programs for weapons of mass destruction, sponsoring terrorism, often targeted specifically at Americans, and by their hostility toward and active opposition to our political and social systems and those of our friends and allies.

Rogue states are portrayed with great hostility and in emotive terms as wilful violators of the international rules of the road who thus deserve drastic counter-action: this is what I mean by the phrase 'rogue rage'. Fear of their potential or actual ability to inflict mass destruction is given as justification for preparations to inflict mass destruction on them through limited nuclear war or for the actual infliction of mass destruction on them through conventional war and economic sanctions, as in the case of Iraq (Simons 1998a). By mass destruction I mean large-scale death and injury to people and large-scale damage to property. The United States is planning to increase expenditure on the design and development of new nuclear warheads by $4 billion per year, using computer simulation testing rather than underground explosions in order to stay within the letter of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (Vulliamy 1997). The latest US nuclear war plans adopted in December 1997 include options for nuclear attacks for states identified as 'rogues' which have 'prospective access' to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) (Kettle 1997). Although Britain is planning to cut its Trident nuclear warheads unilaterally by 50 per cent and has scrapped its other nuclear weapons (Black, Norton-Taylor 1998), efforts are being made to make its remaining nuclear weapons more flexible and usable in what the Ministry of Defence labels 'sub-strategic' roles (Fairhall 1996). Rogue states are seen as targets of such weapons.

Although rogue states are widely represented in the West as the most important military security threat of the post-Cold War world, the concept of the 'rogue state' has been the subject of relatively little analytical attention. Furthermore, among the few analyses that do focus on this issue, not one shows any basic scepticism about the category of rogue state (George 1993; Klare 1995; Tanter 1998). They all more or less agree on which are the rogue states with occasional disputes about the precise extent of the threat or the required response. The possibility that Western states could be rogue states is simply never considered: it is just assumed. There are a number of related literatures to which one might turn in order to provide a stronger intellectual underpinning to the distinction between rogue and non-rogue states. One could draw on writings regarding 'renegade' or 'revolutionary' states (Buzan 1991: 306-10; Chan, Williams 1994), status quo versus revisionist states (Buzan 1991: 297-311; Glaser 1992; Schweller 1994; Herring 1995: 47-49), paranoid and pariah states (Betts 1977; Harkavy 1981), or civilisation versus barbarism (Gong 1984). However, this is beyond the scope of this paper. Instead, I will focus on spelling out and analysing a range of perspectives on the concept and some of the possible implications of those perspectives. The perspectives considered are that the label 'rogue state':

· is appropriate for the very serious threats to the United States (and the West more generally) (the conservative perspective).

· exaggerates the still real threats to the United States (the liberal perspective).

· is applicable also or even primarily to the United States and some of its allies such as France, Britain and Israel (the radical perspective).

· is a means by which the United States engages in the exercise of power through ostensibly neutral knowledge (the interpretivist perspective).

Working in terms of this set of perspectives is an organising device. Its main value is that it stakes out a set of positions broadly shared by groups of politically relevant actors. It shows that there is no single, natural and inevitable way of looking at the issue. This organising device has the limitation of obscuring the nuances of the position of any particular individual. That is an acceptable cost in this paper because my objective is not principally to work out precisely where any individual stands, although that would be a worthwhile research objective. If one develops a more complex picture of the patterns of preferences based on the cross-pressured, ambivalent preferences of individuals along the lines of the work of James DeNardo (1995), one might grasp how coalitions of preferences could play an important role in influencing how perspectives on rogue states shape world politics. Having said that, I do discuss the positions of individuals. After all, in claiming the existence of general perspectives, I have to show that some specific individuals adhere to major elements of those perspectives, even if the particular combinations and weightings of those elements vary.

Having spelled this out, where do we go from here? The usual social science approach would be to try to adjudicate between these perspectives by assessing their internal logical coherence and their fit with empirical evidence. I will indeed attempt this. However, I must also sound a note of caution about the limits to the value of that exercise. It is not simply that some of the debate is about potential, future threats. It is also that the nature and implications of what has happened in the past is irresolvably disputable. As a result, the analyst's own values and objectives will to a substantial degree be what drives the outcome rather than logical and factual evidence. A conservative will tend to plump for larger military investment as they best way to hedge against uncertainty whereas a liberal will tend to fall back on a general scepticism about the threats touted by armed forces and politicians. And so on. In other words, the analysis will mostly have a pre-determined outcome and everyone will continue to occupy their usual positions and feel vindicated. Yet their claims of vindication will be presented as being based on the general truth of their world views combined with 'the facts', and those who continue to hold an alternative position will tend to be dismissed as stupid, malign or both. I have no illusions that, with my foray into this debate, any adjudication by any individual will close the debate. Nevertheless, we can all do better or worse at engaging in the social science exercise. In particular, claims about rogue states can be tested in their own terms: criteria have been specified for what constitutes a rogue state and claims have been made about which states fulfil them. These claims are more amenable to testing. I will also go a step further and examine the concept of 'rogue states' from what might be called an interpretivist perspective (see Buzan, Herring 1998: 193-8). This approach argues that the 'facts' will not enable us to choose between different interpretations of the extent and location of the rogue state threat because there are no uninterpreted facts. The aim in this part of the paper will not be to try to find the truth about rogue states but instead to explore the implications of truth claims about rogue states. The paper concludes with a rejection of the concept of rogue states as a costly form of demonisation often associated with double standards, and an advocacy of the consistent but critical defence of international norms.


During the Cold War, the US military was focused primarily on countering the Soviet Union, and any challenges from the Third World were seen primarily as part of the Soviet threat. As the Cold War drew to a close, the Pentagon and right-wing civilian analysts began to argue that the new threat was from Third World regional powers with (or seeking to acquire) large high tech conventional forces and weapons of mass destruction. Such states were portrayed as having hostile intentions towards their weak or even defenceless neighbours and as being engaged in serious rivalries with similar rising powers close by (Klare 1995: 16). This kind of analysis was offered by the US Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy set up by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, which produced two reports in 1988 - Discriminate Deterrence and The Future Security Environment. US military planners considered the military potential of a whole range of states - China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, North Korea, South Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Egypt (Klare 1995: 16, 19-20, 24, 133). The Pentagon claims to plan in terms of the capabilities of all regional powers, ostensibly on the grounds that they might have or develop hegemonic ambitions and WMD. This planning baseline has been set even if those countries are friendly to or allies of the United States, and even though military clashes with other states is more likely. Much of the threat assessment is based on concern about Third World states with actual or potential First World military capabilities. However, this has also been supplemented by a barrage of labels implying malign intentions and behaviour. Such states are referred to variously as 'rogues', 'outlaws', 'mavericks', 'renegades', 'backlash states' (as Anthony Lake, Clinton's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, put it) and even 'demons' (as Colin S. Powell, Bush's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it) (von Opstal, Goldberg 1988; Lake 1994; Klare 1995: 24). US politicians have tended to focus more on North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and Cuba as possible or actual rogue states.

In 1990, the United States began to plan to fight two such rogue states simultaneously (Klare 1995: 28-37). Iraq had already invaded Iran, had used conventionally-armed ballistic missiles and chemical weapons against Iran, and had a record of brutal domestic repression (including the use of chemical weapons). Its WMD and ballistic missile programmes were well known. The US military had already been using Iraq as a paradigmatic rogue state in training. However, US leaders had downplayed it as a rogue state and had actively assisted it in terms of finance, military intelligence, militarily useful technology and encouraging other states to supply it with arms. It was seen as a useful ally against Iran and it was not seen as particularly threatening to US interests elsewhere in the Middle East. Only once Iraqi invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990 did the US government portray it as a rogue state (Klare 1995: 38-39). Particular emphasis was placed on the danger of Iraq having or developing WMD, and destruction of these capabilities became a high priority for the US government and US public opinion (Mueller 1994: 20, 23, 39-42, 118, 142).

Events in the Gulf were portrayed by the US government as vindication of its claim that the new threat was from rogue states and of its military strategy for dealing with two of them simultaneously and unilaterally (Klare 1995: 62-64). The Pentagon argued that Iraq was enormously militarily capable, that the conflict with Iraq known as Operation Desert Storm was the model for future conflicts with rogue states, and that there was a need for substantial expenditure on high technology and force mobility for such conflicts (Klare, 1995: 41-2, 62-85). In the subsequent debate on US military requirements, the participants even calculated in terms of Desert Storm Equivalents (DSEs), with the two main options being either one and a half or two DSEs (Klare 1995: 104). The Clinton Administration's Bottom-Up Review (BUR) of US military requirements published in September 1993 basically agreed with the Bush Administration that the United States needed to be prepared to fight two Iraq-sized regional powers simultaneously and unilaterally - in other words, it needed two DSEs (Klare, 1995: 97-116). The Clinton Administration's Nuclear Posture Review also sees a role for nuclear weapons in deterring or retaliating against use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons by rogue states against the United States or against other states deemed important to US interests (Klare 1995: 119-25; Kettle 1997). One of the concerns is to show that possession of WMD would not deter a US response to regional 'aggression' by a rogue state using its conventional forces. The US government has funded research into very low yield nuclear weapons for battlefield use. The Clinton Administration has taken a much tougher line on WMD proliferation by its designated rogue states (Klare 1995: 125-9). The most notable example of this was during the crisis in the summer of 1994 when a preventive (probably conventional) attack by the United States to destroy North Korea's nuclear facilities seemed like a substantial possibility. Overall, the US military posture is increasingly geared towards dealing with rogue states.

Characteristics variously attributed to the supposed rogue states (see for example Lake 1994) include being:

· involved in illegal or secret activities regarding proliferation of WMD and related delivery systems.

· exceptionally violent in their external relations.

· exceptionally repressive domestically.

· willing to violate international norms and international law and seeking to undermine international order.

· involved in using or sponsoring terrorism abroad.

· anti-Western and especially anti-American.

· opposed to the spread of democracy and market economies.

· contemptuous of civilised norms.

Raymond Tanter, formerly a member of the US National Security Council under Reagan, defines rogue states or leaders as ones that 'have large conventional military forces and that condone international terrorism and/or seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological, chemical armaments' (1998: ix. See also 40) and defines rogue behaviour as 'unacceptable international conduct' (1998: xi). Lake's list of backlash (i.e. rogue) states is Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Cuba. Tanter's list is Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Syria (with Sudan as its surrogate). Unusually among conservatives, Tanter (1988: ch. 6) does not see Cuba as a rogue state because he sees it as no longer exporting terrorism or revolution and no longer seeking WMD. Nevertheless, he categorises Castro as a rogue leader due to what he sees as Castro's record of creating crises as a means of staying in power. He argues for the ending of the decades-long campaign of US-led economic sanctions against Cuba. Although the sanctions make the United States feel good, he thinks they are more likely to cause the chaotic and costly collapse of Cuban society leading to a flood of refugees heading for the United States and a new Cuban military dictatorship than they are to bring about a transition to democracy.

The assertion by conservatives regarding the unambiguous moral rectitude of the United States compared with rogue states (and even with the allies of the United States) is captured in the following statements by Tanter (1998: 32-3):

[When] business interests go up against the multiplicative effect of politics and idealism, economic interests be damned ... The conflict between ideals and interests may be peculiar to America ... Money is fleeting, and while America is a land of staunch capitalists, it is also a land of principled moralists. Americans qualify capitalism; they do not want to have dealings with evil men and women - those who traffic in human suffering. ... [The] concept of practising what you preach, a popular American colloquialism, has simply not struck a chord among the French. ... Practising what you preach is an approach that leads Americans to impose retributive punishments unlinked to interests.

In Tanter's view, US policy on how to deal with rogue states emerges from the interaction of following factors:

· US emotional idealism, low threshold of threat, and tendency to demonise and personalise opponents (characteristics which seem to be approved of by Tanter) combining to require action of some sort to deal with rogue states

· US corporate interests seeking to embrace rogue states in order to make money

· US ethnic lobbies seeking to punish rogue states which they perceive to be threatening or suppressing their co-ethnics abroad.

· US government bureaucratic politics which can distort policies

· Cynical European realism/pragmatism with a high threshold of threat which seeks to embrace and rehabilitate rogue states

· The personalities of the rogue leaders which loom large in the politics and policies of their states because there are no democratic and only limited bureaucratic restraints on them.

Conservatives propose vigorous action against rogue states. Tanter argues that one may deal with rogue states by using military force, military threats and economic sanctions to 'contain' and punish them (‘retributionists’); by promising to reward good behaviour and thus 'embrace' and 'rehabilitate' them (‘rehabilitators’); or combining the two approaches. Advocates of retribution for rogue behaviour he sees as ideologues who advocate punishment in order to symbolise disapproval even if it does not alter produce compliance from the rogue state. Even if compliance is forthcoming, retributionists tend to downplay its significance and to emphasise past misconduct and the dangerous nature of the regime or leader. Nevertheless, they argue that the costs imposed by a policy of retribution can limit the rogue's ability to misbehave. They see rogue states as rational actors who are taking advantage of windows of opportunity and whose behaviour can be restrained through threats. In contrast, advocates of engagement and rehabilitation are in favour of threats, force and economic sanctions only if they have a reasonable chance of changing the rogue state's behaviour. They tend to see compliance as more significant than past misconduct and the nature of the regime or leader. They see rogue states as living in what he calls a 'basement of fear' driven more by paranoia and fear than opportunity. As a result, they tend to expect rogue states to be irrational and unlikely to bow to military threats, military force and economic sanctions. Deterrence is likely to fail and may even provoke aggressive behaviour. They tend to advocate engagement even though (retributionists argue) engagement tends not to be very successful in modifying their behaviour. Tanter (1998: xi) identifies more strongly with the retributionists. He asserts that rogue behaviour is clearly identifiable and, once identified, creates an obligation to act.


Are the states seen by the United States as actual or potential rogues worthy of the name in terms of military capabilities? Tables One and Two draw upon and extend the analysis of Michael Klare (1995: 133-68), who has a liberal perspective on the issue of rogue states. Although he sees 'rogue state' as an appropriate label for North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria, he argues that the threat posed by them has been exaggerated by the Pentagon in order to prevent its post Cold War budget from being cut (Klare 1995: 22).

Table One: The Strategic Position of States Seen by US Military Planners as Potential Rogues

Potential rogue states as defined by US military planners

Conventional military capabilities requiring a US Desert Storm Equivalent?


pursuing WMD and ballistic missiles?

Have militarily weak neighbours?




Yes (Burma, Laos, Mongolia, Vietnam)

No (Taiwan)




Yes (Libya, Sudan)

No (Israel)




Yes (Bangladesh, Nepal Burma, Sri Lanka)

No (China, Pakistan)




Yes (Afghanistan)

South Korea



No (North Korea)




Yes (Armenia, Bulgaria)

No (Iraq, Greece)

Table One summarises the position with regard to potential rogue states as defined by US military planners. All of them would require at least or vastly more than a DSE were the United States to fight them single handedly. All of them (with the exception of Turkey) also possess or are pursuing WMD and ballistic missiles. However, a survey of their neighbours leaves us with a highly improbable list of states for which the United States would launch a lone DSE - Burma, Laos, Mongolia or Vietnam if invaded by China; Libya and Sudan if invaded by Egypt; Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma or Sri Lanka if invaded by India; Afghanistan if invaded by Pakistan; and Armenia or Bulgaria if invaded by Turkey. Klare (1995: 161) bends over backwards by giving some limited credence to the scenario of a Turkish bid for hegemony in the Middle East which leads it to clash directly with the United States.

If the criteria used by the planners really are just military capability and potential, countries like Germany and Japan should be on the list. They are not, possibly for fear of causing political offence. Russia is also not on the list, partly for the same reason and partly also because it is seen in the Pentagon reasonably as requiring a return to a baseline much larger than a DSE. Although Israel should also figure on the list, it is omitted, according to Klare (1995: 3), because 'Israel's military posture is so closely aligned with that of the United States ... and the probability of Israel ever severing its links to Washington is so low'. This is putting it rather delicately, and Klare does not address the argument that Israel looks in many ways like a rogue state with the exception of the hostility to the United States criterion.

Table Two: The Strategic Position of Supposed Rogue States

Rogue states as defined by US leadersConventional military capabilities requiring a US Desert Storm Equivalent (assumes US fighting alone)?


pursuing WMD and ballistic missiles?

Has militarily weak neighbours?

North Korea

No, but close

Yes, but does not have nuclear weapons

No (South Korea, China)


No, but close

Yes, but does not have nuclear weapons

No (Israel)

Yes (Lebanon)


No, but potentially in the longer term

Yes, but does not have nuclear weapons

No (Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey)


No, but potentially in the longer term

Yes, but does not have nuclear weapons

No (Iran, Syria, Turkey)

Yes (Kuwait, Jordan)


No, and not potentially

Yes, but does not have nuclear weapons

No (Egypt)

Yes (Chad)

Table Two illustrates Klare's claim that one of the basic weaknesses of the DSE as a planning assumption with regard to the supposedly existing rogue states is that none of them fulfil the combined criteria which would require a DSE. First, among the supposed rogue states, only two come close to having the requisite conventional military capabilities (North Korea and Syria), two are a long way off such a capability (Iran and Iraq), and the last has no chance of acquiring it (Libya). Second, and more important, the militarily strongest of them generally face militarily strong neighbours. For example, North Korea faces both China and South Korea. Hence planning based on the United States effectively fighting alone is in most cases invalid and likely to remain so. What we are left with is extremely improbable - the United States going it alone to defend Lebanon from Syrian invasion, or Chad from Libyan invasion - or (Klare maintains) very unlikely - the United States going it alone to defend Kuwait or Jordan from another Iraqi invasion.

Furthermore, Klare argues - contrary to the Pentagon and BUR position - that victory in the Gulf was critically dependent on allies for funding, bases, petroleum products and political support, and that the circumstances of the victory were unlikely to be repeated (Klare, 1995: 85-96, 116-19). On the latter issue, he points out that the United States had technological superiority, a nuclear monopoly, established logistical facilities in Saudi Arabia and favourable desert terrain, whereas Iraq had many military weaknesses, virtually no allies, Saddam Hussein's incompetent leadership, and domestic rebellion in the north and south to cope with. Rather than Iraq being the archetypal rising rogue state brought to heel by US technological superiority, Iraq was an unlikely to be repeated case of a highly vulnerable and badly led regional power brought (only partly) to heel due to a combination of many favourable of circumstances.

Overall, Klare is unequivocal: 'The probability of U.S. troops engaging in even one replay of Desert Storm appears to be very low; that of a two-DSE scenario, close to zero' (Klare 1995: 206). Such critical analysis is unlikely to persuade conservatives because they are wedded to military strength as a basic principle. This was articulated clearly by Colin Gray (1993: 665-6n):

Day by day, a country will maintain a military posture that even in a slim peacetime mode looks to be excessive to current demonstrated need. That excessive posture, however, is likely to be much too slim to inspire the deterrence of some clear and present danger in future. It is the lot of military establishments to be too large for peace and too small for crisis-time diplomacy and war.

Conservatives regard lack of current evidence of a likely military threat as being less important than the potential of events to spring large and dangerous surprises.


There is a clear underlying assumption in the conservative and liberal literatures that the United States is in an essentially reactive and defensive position with regard to rogue states and indeed more generally with states with which it has had hostile relations. For example, Vietnam, Cuba and Nicaragua were represented as having actively chosen to side with the Soviet Union and thus forcing the United States to act to protect its values and interests. This is very much an article of faith justified as being based on the facts. Those coming from a radical perspective are equally persuaded that Vietnam, Cuba and Nicaragua were willing to have good relations with the United States but were forced into aligning with the Soviet Union due to fierce US hostility from the outset. They too believe that the facts bear out their position if they are examined honestly. Radical critics of US foreign policy provide evidence and arguments in support of their claims that, in effect, the United States is a rogue state too - some of them, such as Noam Chomsky, might say the most rogue-like state of all. In particular, they focus on what they see as US use and sponsorship of terrorism (Chomsky, Herman 1979a; Chomsky 1986, 1989 George 1991). Some of the arguments that have been or could be used by radicals are listed below. However, it must be stressed that some of the authors given as sources for this list are not radicals:

· The United States under President Richard Nixon conducted secret and illegal wars against Laos and Cambodia in the early 1970s which resulted in the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of people in those countries (Shawcross 1979; Prados, 1996: ch. 14).

· The United States has on many occasions violated international law (Simons 1998a, b). For example, the International Court of Justice concluded on 27 June 1986 that the war the United States was sponsoring an illegal war of aggression against Nicaragua, and ordered the United States to stop and to pay compensation to Nicaragua. The United States simply ignored the judgement. The United States railed against terrorism sponsored by Libya while at the same time sponsoring much larger scale terrorism by Latin American states and by the contras in Nicaragua. The US Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning in Georgia has been the target of a campaign to close it down because large numbers of its Latin American graduates have been found to be involved in campaigns and acts of state terrorism against citizens of their countries (Nelson-Pallmeyer 1997; School of Americas website; School of Americas Watch website).

· According to the American Health Association in 1997, the economic sanctions enforced unilaterally by the United States against Cuba since 1961 are causing widespread suffering and unnecessary deaths among the civilian population, in spite of extensive efforts by the Cuban government, including cuts in military expenditure (Brittain 1997; Simons 1998: 248-9). The embargo includes food and medicine. The sanctions are opposed by many people and governments around the world: it is primarily through threats against and pressure on other countries that it has been maintained, with some leakage, over the years (Bates, Kettle 1998).

· The US-led and British-supported campaign of UN economic sanctions against Iraq is in violation of the Geneva Convention and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, according to Geoff Simons (1998a). That campaign has brought about huge suffering and deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (O'Kane 1996; Simons 1998a). The economic sanctions are ostensibly aimed at ensuring Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions passed after its invasion of Kuwait. Iraq is required, among other things, to dismantle its capabilities to produce WMD and related delivery systems and to submit to long-term UN monitoring. Iraq has been permitted by the UN to sell some oil in order to pay for things such as food and medicines. However, Saddam Hussein has refused to do so due to conditions attached to the offer. Those in favour of the sanctions argue that all moral responsibility for the fate of ordinary Iraqis is thereby transferred to Saddam Hussein. Those opposed to the sanctions argue that the sanctions are still illegal and immoral because the suffering of the civilian population is a knowable and deliberate consequence of the policy. Furthermore, they argue that the United States keeps moving the goal posts for compliance with UN demands so that the sanctions can stay in place: they see the real objective as being to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, however long and however much Iraqi suffering it takes.

· In early 1998, the United States was seeking the use of force against Iraq (even without explicit UN authorisation) for refusing to allow UN inspectors access to certain sites and for objecting to US and British membership of the UN inspection teams. Iraq objected that the US and British inspectors would be hostile rather than neutral and might engage in spying. At precisely the same time, the United States was passing legislation which codified exactly the same exceptions regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) (Vulliamy 1998). Clause 307 of the legislation states that 'The president may deny a request to inspect any facility in the United States in cases where the president determines that the inspection may pose a threat to the national security interests of the United States.' Another clause states that 'any objection by the president to any individual serving as an inspector ... shall not be reviewable in any court'. Furthermore, private companies are to be exempt from inspection. In 1997, the United States refused to cooperate with two members of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (one Cuban and one Iranian) which has the task of monitoring compliance with the CWC.

· Support for proliferation of WMD and related delivery systems is deemed to be a characteristic of a rogue state, yet Western countries have been extensively involved in this process. For example, Germany is funding two Dolphin submarines to give Israel an undersea platform for nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) being developed under the bizarre name Popeye Turbo (Borger, Kettle 1998). Israel had scrapped plans to deploy SLCMs: the project was only saved by the German intervention. The objective of the programme is supposedly to give Israel a secure retaliatory nuclear capability should Iran develop a nuclear arsenal of its own.

· France violated the UN arms embargo on Rwanda which was imposed at the beginning of the genocide. Indeed, it kept arming the genocidists two months into the genocide. It then intervened militarily in Operation Turquoise officially for humanitarian purposes but actually to prevent the complete military defeat of the genocidists by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which had forced them out of power. The longer-term French objective was to ensure that the genocidists could regroup and try to regain control of Rwanda. Killing of Tutsis and moderate Hutu in large numbers continues right up to the present day, and leaders of the genocide have received friendly sanctuary in France. The reason for this active sponsorship of genocide terror and mass destruction? The genocidists are francophone whereas the RPF are more anglophone and associated with the United States and Britain. Such an interpretation seems almost beyond belief, but it is given extensive support by Gérard Prunier (1995), who was involved in the earlier stages of the planning of Operation Turquoise. Although an official investigation is under way in France regarding France's role in Rwanda, it is widely expected to be a whitewash.

· The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia Louise Arbour accused France of effectively protecting in the French-controlled sector of Bosnia former Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Radovan Karadzic, his former Commander-in-Chief General Ratko Mladic and others indicted for to stand trial war crimes (Traynor 1997).

· Israel has an extensive record of behaviour rogue. It has persistently defied UN Security Council resolutions, has secretly built up a substantial nuclear arsenal, has been involved in assisting the acquisition of nuclear weapons by South African, officially approves of torture in its jails, invaded Lebanon in 1982, has occupied and terrorised much of southern Lebanon ever since, and uses terrorist tactics against Palestinians. Frequently Israel has been able to avoid international censure due to the threatened or actual veto of the United States on the UN Security Council.

It is striking that the extensive literature which tackles the standard self-image of the West is simply ignored by conservatives and liberals. However, conservatives and liberals could argue - if they ever decided to read the radical literature - that one of its important limitations is its deep reluctance to give credit where credit is due. Perhaps some radicals would deny that credit is ever or only very rarely due to Western states. Other radicals may see their principal role as compiling a litany of the misdeeds of Western states as a counter to the smug self-satisfaction of the conservatives and to a lesser extent the liberals. Radicals tend to think of US campaigns against supposed rogue states as rhetorical camouflage for its own rogue behaviour in pursuit of imperialist or neo-imperialist objectives (Chomsky, Herman 1979b; Chomsky 1992, 1993).

A recent exercise to produce a balance sheet of the good as well as bad results of the use or threat of force by the United States and its involvement in other events was produced by Ralph White (1998), who may be characterised broadly as a liberal with radical leanings. He measures results in terms of military success, low cost, peace, international good will and freedom from alien rule. His overall concern is with 'behavior that, in the light of available evidence at the time, is likely to result in much harm from the standpoint of human welfare, enlightened national self-interest, or both' (White 1998: 117). He attributes mainly good results to US involvement in World War II in Europe and Asia, the Cold War up to the death of Stalin in 1953, the defence of South Korea, the Berlin crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, and Operation Deliberate Force during the war in Bosnia. He attributes mainly bad results to the US role in the invasion of North Korea, the Cold War since the death of Stalin, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Vietnam War, the Middle East war of 1973 (in terms of the US nuclear alert), the nuclear arms competition with the Soviet Union, and many other interventions and events. He sees the US involvement in World War I and the Persian Gulf 1990-91 as having mixed results. His main conclusion is that the US role has on balance been a good thing (1998: 95). However, he believes that 'America's pretensions to be in favor of democracy everywhere look hollow and hypocritical in the eyes of most of the rest of the world' (White 1998: 112). The same would be said by radicals of its pretensions to be opposed to rogue behaviour in world politics.

Demonisation of the opponent (which is characteristic of those who perceive the existence of rogue states) is seen by White to be a very negative product of the workings of political psychology. He argues that things go wrong when decisionmakers have a demonised enemy image, an idealised self-image, are overconfident or underconfident, and fail to have empathy with opponents or intervening parties. He comments: 'The demonized enemy image (defined here as an exaggeration of the actual evil in an adversary's character) is with little doubt the most common concomitant of war and probably the most important direct cause of offensive action' (White 1988: 114). Whatever one thinks of White's judgement on the particular events he considers, at least he is attempting to provide a balance sheet of pluses and minuses. Such an approach provides a starting point, should one wish it, for bridge-building across the perspectives. Similarly, on the issue of terrorism, the Human Rights Watch World Report (Human Rights Watch annual) provides a much more comprehensive account than the utterly one-sided Patterns of Global Terrorism (US Department of State annual) produced by the US Government. However, such bridge-building will not appeal to most conservatives, liberals and radicals because they tend to be committed to an epistemology in which they are simply right and their opponents are simply wrong if a commonsensical, intelligent and honest appraisal of the facts is made. Note, for example, that White's approach is premised on an ability to separate correct perception from misperception - that demons are not actually demons, for example. The conservatives would come up with a long list of occasions in which the United States had rightly opposed rogue behaviour and had been forced sometimes to engage in well-meaning if unpleasant behaviour for the greater good which radicals misrepresent as rogue behaviour. Liberals, as in the case of White, will come up with a mixed list, while radicals will come up with a long list focusing of what they see as rogue US behaviour. The kind of literature reviewed so far tends to be replete with words and phrase like 'surely', 'of course', 'any reasonable person', 'the evidence shows', 'in fact', 'clearly' and 'the truth is', with the implication and sometimes the outright assertion that those who think differently are stupid, wishful thinkers, corrupted by power or money, or malign. Then politics becomes a power struggle, with the winner getting to impose their view, which they 'know' to be correct.


Interpretivists claim to reject the political game of asserting and imposing single supposed truths. There is no one interpretivism (which looks very much like what most people call post-structuralism or post-modernism - see Buzan, Herring 1998: 193-8). Following on principally from the work of Michel Foucault (see, for example, Rabinow 1984), its principal exponents in the field of international security studies include David Campbell (1992, 1998) and James Der Derian (1992). I present here my take on interpretivism, with the aim of offering a version of it which is easy to grasp and which can be readily applied to the issue of rogue states. Interpretivism is not interested in the truth or falsity of knowledge claims, but in the relationship of knowledge claims to power, and the inseparability of knowledge from power. When a question is posed, such as 'To what extent is our security threatened by potential or actual rogue states?', social scientists seek to provide the best single answer based on the most objective theory and evidence possible, while accepting that it may be supplanted subsequently by better theory or new evidence. Interpretivists do not try to answer the question itself. Instead, they ask 'What exercise of power is served by the question and the various answers to the question?' Although Klare (1995: 24-25, 28) dabbles in interpretivist jargon by referring to a 'discourse' and long US history of 'demonizing the alien Other', his analysis is not remotely interpretivist. Simplifying interpretivism into a number of separate points allows me to generate the following analysis of the rogue state issue:

· Deconstruction involves 'unsettling concepts and conceptual oppositions which are otherwise taken to be settled' (Devetak 1995). The rogue versus responsible state distinction is widely taken to be settled.

· The purpose behind deconstruction is to reveal the effects of conceptual oppositions. If you accept the rogue versus responsible state distinction, you are more likely to take action against rogue states and to act leniently towards responsible states.

· Conceptual oppositions are not natural, that is, they are a product of power rather than of the inherent characteristics of the phenomena the concepts purport to describe. The rogue-responsible state distinction did not simply emerge from the neutral, progressive, universal and scientific study of world politics (despite claims to the contrary) but in the context of promoting the power of the United States as the Cold War drew to a close.

· Conceptual oppositions are not neutral but hierarchical, with one claimed to have good characteristics the other lacks. Rogue states are assumed to be bad states, responsible states good ones.

· Totalisation or closure (i.e. the conclusive achievement of clearly separate oppositions) is impossible, in spite of great efforts to achieve it. Vast amounts of evidence is put forward to show that rogue states are indeed roguish whereas responsible states are not. Yet the pesky awkward squad which persists in seeing it differently never goes away.

· Politics as understood conventionally is an expression of the broader phenomenon of 'biopolitics', i.e. the process of pervading all aspects of human activity with economy (efficiency), order (government) and measures of normality (and hence unacceptable abnormality), ostensibly to ensure the survival, health and happiness of the population. The identification of the rogue state threat becomes just one more manifestation of biopolitics.

· Technologies (i.e. power-knowledge combinations) of normalisation (e.g. prison, psychiatry, military intervention, economic sanctions) are supposedly neutral ways of eliminating or at least minimising the number of or danger from deviants (criminals, the insane, sexual perverts, terrorists, rogue states).

· Technologies of normalisation define into existence these deviants and thus ensure their existence. The existence of these deviants is primarily about defining who 'we' are (identity politics): whether or not there is a real threat from the deviants is secondary. What is important is an understanding of how benign difference becomes represented as dangerous other-ness. Commentaries on the vileness of rogue states are permeated with assertions of a particular, morally superior, 'us'. The entry price of being part of mainstream discussions of rogue states is buying into a particular identity involving the assertion of 'our' moral superiority: that matters more than scepticism about the extent of threat from rogue states.


For conservatives, demonisation through the label 'rogue state' is a valuable tool for planning and for mobilising support for prudential military expenditure, even if its crudity offends the academic nit-picking of liberals, radicals and interpretivists. For liberals, the rogue state label is an exaggeration used by those with an interest in propping up military budgets in the wake of the end of the Cold War or a misperception produced by the workings of political psychology. For radicals, the rogue state label is simply a rhetorical red herring to distract from Western imperialism and neo-imperialism. For interpretivists, the truth about the extent of the rogue state is unknowable. Instead, interpretivism involves challenging all regimes of truth (i.e. attempts at domination through representations of truth) regarding rogue states. The failure of conservatives and liberals to engage with the arguments of radical critics is a serious one: the evidence presented in this paper suggests that it is at the very least plausible that Western states have been operating double standards on the issue of rogue behaviour. The facts do not speak for themselves, as the interpretivists remind us, and it may be (though I do not think so) that the double standards are more apparent than real. However, we do not have to choose between those two positions. The appearance of double standards, whether grounded in reality or not, has important political effects. It undermines any moral standing the West may have.

Moral superiority through consistent standards, not double standards

Accusing Western states of double standards in their behaviour is not the same thing as asserting the moral equivalence Western states with other actors or states. The opposite is the case. Western states claim to be morally superior, and in accusing them of having double standards, people like me are to some extent hoping that they will act in accordance with their asserted higher standards more often. In other words, to accuse someone of having double standards can be indicative of some faith in them. Equally, I must stress that agreement that 'We're not morally equivalent' is not an adequate justification for double standards. It is precisely because we are not morally equivalent that we must have at the very least consistent standards, not double standards. To those who say that Western states already have higher standards than those states usually labelled rogue states, I would respond that in many respects that may be true and laudable, but, again, that is no reason to undermine those higher standards through hypocrisy and inconsistency.

Are Western interests best served by violating international norms as often as we think we can get away with it while imposing them (through means which often violate the same or other international norms) upon perceived enemies? This is the reading that some would put on the situation: they would not be open to my proposal that we concentrate on norms not demons. Some Western conservatives (one might also call them realists in the international relations theory sense of the word) will frankly simply not care about analyses which argue that they have double standards in that they define as rogue behaviour things done by other states, but do not call those same things rogue behaviour when done by their state or their allies. For them, this is justified as part of a propaganda battle in a battle of national interests. In other words, if there is a way of delegitimising their opponent's violations of international law but not ours, then they are happy. Their moral imperative is not universalisable principles, but the principle that their moral duty is to defend the national interest. Hence, they are only interested in rogue behaviour which they see as threatening to themselves. Indeed, they might argue that drawing attention to their double standards is short-sighted and dangerous because it makes harder for them to defend the national interest.

I don't buy this approach for a number of reasons. First, it is at the very least plausible that such behaviour will be against our interests, short-term or long-term. Of course, it partly depends on how we define our interests and there will never be a consensus on that - another reason not to violate international norms in pursuit of them. Second, I have a different definition of who 'we' are. My moral community does not stop at the boundaries of my state. My 'we' includes humanity as a whole. Third, rogue rage is a form of demonisation. While demonisation can serve to mobilise people in defence of norms worth defending, it can have substantial costs. It can lock you into an unnecessarily high level of conflict. It can cause you to impose higher costs upon everyone, including third parties, than you would have done. Rogue rage can make mass destruction through force or economic sanctions in the name of preventing mass destruction by rogues much more likely. It can encourage you to feel morally and prudentially justified in violating the very norms you are supposedly defending. You can assume that you are right simply because you are you. All of these costs have been associated with the demonisation of some states as rogue states.

We should concentrate on promoting norms, not portraying demons. We should start by ditching the 'rogue state' label altogether. Interestingly, not all opponents are demonised, and so it might be very useful to analyse when opponents are demonised and when they are not. This could be done at a host of levels. For example, individual cases could traced for when demonisation begins and when it ends. Particular countries could be examined for the pattern of their tendencies to demonise or not. Different countries could be compared for when they demonise at the same time or in the same way, and when they do not. There is much to be learned from existing work on norms in international international relations and in particular from constructivist approaches - that is, from those approaches which examine the processes by which we arrive at our norms and interests rather than taking them as givens (for example, Finnemore 1996; Katzenstein 1996; Krause, Williams 1997; Buzan, Wæver, de Wilde 1998). However, in promoting some norms we are engaged in the process of undermining others. We should listen to the sceptical voices of the interpretivists, who would caution us about the potential for promotion of norms to turn into demonisation of the rogue other in new, more respectable clothes.


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