Rogue Regimes

Terrorism and Proliferation

By: Raymond Tanter



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Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation

(New York: St. Martin's Press, Revised Paperback, 1999)


Relevance of Rogue Regimes for Improving World Order


Rogue States, Freelancers, and World Order


At issue in the transition from the Cold War to the post-ColdWar era is the nature of the "New World Order." During the Cold War, two superpowers managed relations with their respective allies and client states, and the result was an international order that was more or less predictable.


In the post-Cold War age of a single hegemon--the USA--there has been a rise in what might be called, "rogue states." They are nations that refuse to play by the rules of the game that proscribe state-supported terrorism, proliferation of weapons mass destruction (WMD), and inhumane treatment of their own citizens. As the twentieth century closed, the rogue state phenomena began to yield to the rise of rogue "freelancers," individuals who operate by their own rules and outside state boundaries.


Following victories over Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1991 and Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia in 1999, freelancers began to appear in the rogues' gallery. Acting as if they were heads of states, freelancers are persons who generally conduct terrorist operations and seek WMD in their own "borderless" world. To do so, they locate themselves in failed states like Afghanistan and the Sudan. The accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is the poster child of the freelancers.


Rogue Regimes makes a contribution to theory by explaining the emergence of rogue states and the rise of freelancers. Also in the transition from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era, the book explains the shift in the nature of threat perception in the West across levels of analysis.


Global Level


During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was the main threat to the West. The danger from Moscow consisted of a nuclear attack, a conventional force assault, as well as subversion and military action by Soviet surrogates. But the Kremlin took few risks in direct confrontations with Washington and displaced dangers to regional surrogates in the form of state-sponsored subversion. Angola, Cuba, and North Vietnam were among the Soviet substitutes in the global East-West struggle with the allies.


The implosion of the Soviet Union and collapse of communism resulted in an increase in unauthorized flow of armaments from the southern republics of the former USSR to adjacent oil-rich states like Iran. Another consequence of the dissolution is that former Soviet surrogates had an opportunity to subvert their neighbors without guidelines from Moscow.


As the threat shifts from the global level of the Cold War to regional states, and from formal groups to individuals, there also is less emphasis on nuclear dangers in contrast to chemical and biological hazards. While states pursue nuclear armaments, formal groups are more likely to seek biological and chemical systems.


Consider a division of the threat of international terrorism into three categories: state sponsors, formalized groups, and loosely affiliated radical extremists--termed freelancers here. The first hazard includes state-sponsored terrorism by Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya--some of the rogue states presented in the book.


State Level


While in the process of pursuing its own interests in Africa, Libya sometimes acted as if it were a Soviet surrogate. During the late 1970s, Moscow agreed to train about a thousand Libyan soldiers per year. Additionally, the Soviet Union stationed military advisors in Tripoli, and the Kremlin supplied the Libyan regime with modern offensive military equipment. And what acts did Libya perform in exchange for Soviet training, advice, and equipment?


During 1980, Libya deployed its ground combat forces, helicopters, and aircraft to Chad. In coordination with Moscow, Havana and Berlin sent military advisors to help Libya. Tripoli employed long-range, Soviet-built aircraft in bombing raids against Chad. Indeed, Qadhafi also sent his military across the border into the Sudan. With initial Soviet support, the Libyan invasion of Chad and its raids into the Sudan were accompanied by the subversion of regimes throughout Africa.


Formal Group Level


In addition to encouraging states like Libya to act as surrogates, Moscow sponsored group terrorism. The USSR supported Ahmed Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). Moscow provided Jibril with equipment and gave him a residence in Sofia Bulgaria. He took regular deliveries of Soviet-bloc military equipment such as machine guns, Katyusha rockets, night-sight field glasses, and electronic range finders.


And what terrorist acts did the PFLP-GC perform in exchange for Soviet military training and equipment? In late 1978, the PFLP-GC decided to disrupt the Camp David peace negotiations. Jibril's associates loaded 42 Katyusha rockets and four tons of dynamite on a Greek steamer en route to Eilat Israel. Had the Israeli Army not intercepted the ship, the dynamite might have detonated and slowed down progress toward an accord between Egypt and Israel.


Another motive that drove formal groups to engage in the terrorist enterprise was to gain recognition for their cause. The more outrageous the act of terrorism, the more publicity a group attained for its cause.


In short, nonstate groups constitute a second type of terrorist danger. They include Palestinian entities like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command as well as the Lebanese Hezbollah (Party of God), and the Egyptian Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Group).


Individual Level


In addition to formal groups, there is the individual level. Because individual terrorists pose a threat to Americans abroad and at home, there is a need for government agencies to monitor activities that might suggest cooperation among disparate individuals that engage in international terrorism.


In other words, the third terrorist category is a set of loosely affiliated international radical extremists. They include Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and others convicted in the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. Generally, these extremists are neither surrogates of nor strongly influenced by any one nation. They have the ability to tap into a variety of official and private resource bases in order to facilitate terrorist acts.


In light of the above discussion of theory and policy relevance, consider four questions and answers to illustrate the main themes and cases in Rogue Regimes.


1. What is the main theme of Rogue Regimes?


In the forest of East-West politics, the West slew a dying Soviet bear. In the aftermath, the United States perceives itself in a woodland teeming with additional beasts-fresh threats to the Washington-dominated post-Cold War world. Viewed through an American prism, they are the rogue elephants of the international system.


At issue is whether to embrace rogue states, contain, or use force against them. If rogue leaders act from a "window of opportunity," they are averse to risk; consequently, containment and threat to change the regimes may be appropriate. But if the leaders act from a "basement of fear," then they are risk acceptant. As a result, attempts to contain and threaten may backfire.


2. What is the rogue regime threat concerning ballistic missiles?


Just as a rogue trader is one who goes against the rules of the game, so a rogue state is one that goes against international norms of conduct. A rogue regime is one that has large conventional military forces, sponsors international terrorism and/or seeks weapons of mass destruction (WMD). These weapons include nuclear, biological, and chemical armaments, as well as means of delivering such armaments, particularly ballistic missiles.


With respect to the ballistic missile threat, consider the rogue state scenario. A rogue regime invades its neighbor, threatening a vital U.S. interest. In this respect, an American president mobilizes an intervention force to stop the invasion. But the rogue leader responds with a threat to launch a nuclear missile at Washington. During July 1999, a congressionally-mandated group, the Rumsfeld Commission, warned of the imminent capacity of rogue states to develop the means to attack United States territory and American allies. Indeed, Washington estimates that within the next 15 years, North Korea, Iran, and perhaps Iraq would be able to deploy intercontinental-range missiles that could launch nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons against the territory of the United States.


3. What are some policy scenarios involving rogue states?


Rogue Regimes specifies scenarios and considers policy packages that might be relevant to each scenario. In order to illustrate the policy relevance of the book, consider an excerpt from the Iraq chapter.


In the late 1990s, three options dominated the debate about Iraq in the United States. At issue is whether Washington should reconcile with the regime in Baghdad, seek to contain it, or endeavor to overthrow that government. Reconciliation is a policy of moving closer to an adversary, hoping to effect compliance from it. Containment is a strategy of threatening a party in order to gain acquiescence. Overthrow takes into account present noncompliant behavior and concludes that only brute force might change the regime in Baghdad.


The three policy options--reconcile, contain, and overthrow--have three corresponding scenarios that range on a continuum from optimistic to pessimistic: adherence, neither compliance nor defiance, and confrontation.


Adherence assumes that Baghdad is in compliance with UN-mandated requirements for Baghdad to dismantle, destroy, or otherwise account for Iraq's WMD. "Neither compliance nor defiance" presumes that Iraq alternates between these two. Confrontation presupposes that Baghdad is in noncompliance with the UN, cracks down on the Kurdish opposition in the north or the Muslim Shiite dissidents in the south, or restarts a war against one of its neighbors like Iran or Kuwait.


Reconciliation either assumes adherence--a sunny scenario that Iraq is approaching compliance--or that it would conform, once Baghdad receives its rewards. Whether before or after rewards, reconciliation intends to effect a return of Iraq to the "family of nations."


In addition to the Iraq case, Rogue Regimes includes chapters on Cuba and North Korea. In the post-Cold War era, the book concludes that Cuba and North Korea are more likely to implode internally before they explode across military borders.


There are three scenarios for Cuba: Castro survives, Cuba muddles through; Castro falls, Cuba implodes; Castro falls slowly, Cuba democratizes. The first two scenarios are the most likely and least desirable from Washington's perspective. The contingencies of Castro's survival or sudden demise are not in the interest of the United States. The most desirable but least likely scenario is that Castro falls in measured increments, and Cuba moves toward democracy.


And with respect to North Korea, Rogue Regimes posits four scenarios.


First is explosion-a desperate bid by Pyongyang to unify the peninsula by force. A second is implosion-an economic and political collapse that would fuel a mass exodus of refugees into China, Japan, and South Korea. A third is a happy ending-diplomatic concessions from North Korea in return for Western food and investment. This scenario might reverse its economic deterioration, oust the regime in Pyongyang, and result in peaceful reunification. And a fourth is "muddling along," or the continuation of the status quo with minor adjustments.


Rogue Regimes finds that implosion and muddling along are the most likely possibilities for North Korea. In this respect, the military forces of North Korea need to be contained, but its population should be embraced with humanitarian assistance.


4. What is the contribution of Rogue Regimes to theory construction in international security affairs?


In addition to the discussion above about the transition from the Cold War to the post-Cold War period and propensity for risk among leaders prone to engage in terrorism and proliferation, Rogue Regimes makes a contribution to theory via a comparative analysis across cases.


Most of the literature in the field discusses individual cases without seeking to generalize from case comparisons. Because comparison is a necessary condition for theory building, the book is explicitly comparative. In this respect, Rogue Regimes is one of the first scholarly works that compares states, groups, and individuals engaged in the enterprise of terrorism and proliferation of WMD.


Rogue Regimes divides six states as well as groups along geopolitical and historical lines. The first two chapters pair cases linked by geography but separated by ideology and history-Iran and Iraq. This approach is consistent with the dual containment policy of the United States, which generally considers Iran and Iraq as twin pariahs, although Tehran receives more favorable treatment from Washington than Baghdad receives.


The next two chapters of the book include Libya and Syria. Libya entered the gallery based on its status as a rogue even within the Arab world. It has a tradition of confrontation with neighboring states like Egypt, Tunisia, and Chad, as well as with the West in general and the United States in particular. Despite progress on the Israel-Syria peace process, Damascus nevertheless has a record of state-supported terrorism and is a proliferator of WMD.


The two final chapters of Rogue Regimes address two additional cases-Cuba and North Korea. They share some similarities but also are very different from one another. As children of the Cold War, Havana and Pyongyang retain their communist systems and hence belong together. Cuba is in the Western Hemisphere, while North Korea is in Asia, they are at different levels of development, and have different cultures. The Cuban case appears in the hardback but not in the revised paperback edition of Rogue Regimes. Instead of Cuba, the paperback edition includes a chapter entitled, "Rogue Regimes, Contractors, and Freelancers." In this respect, the book concludes with a comparative analysis as a point of departure for enhancing world order at the close of the twentieth century.


Improving World Order


Rogue Regimes makes a contribution to improving world order. It provides explanations of the changing nature of threats confronting the West in general and the United States in particular. Rogue Regimes also presents policy options and scenarios at the beginning of the Millennium.