Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation

Perspectives on Political Science; Washington; Winter 1999; William L Waugh Jr;


Volume: 28

Issue: 1

Start Page: 51-52

ISSN: 10457097

Subject Terms: Nonfiction, Terrorism, International relations, Violence


Waugh reviews "Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation" by Raymond Tanter.


Full Text:

Copyright Heldref Publications Winter 1999

Tanter, Raymond


Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation

New York: St. Martin's Press 336 pp., $29.95, ISBN 0-312-17300-8 Publication Date: February 1998


Raymond Tanter is a distinguished scholar long known for his analyses of Middle Eastern politics and political violence. In his book, he examines the regimes that sponsor or have sponsored terrorist violence outside their own borders (as well as inside) and which are seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The "rogue regimes" he focuses on are Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, and North Korea. The regimes, with the exception of Cuba, are currently engaged, or at least alleged to be engaged, in terroristic activities and/or are apparently willing to use, and in a few cases have used, weapons of mass destruction despite international condemnation.


To explain why the "rogues" are willing to kill thousands and to suffer the ostracism of the international community, Tanter focuses on the personalities of the leaders. He finds that some of the personalities derive a perverse pleasure from their roles as international pariahs, whereas others find in international controversy some domestic political advantage. The end of the Cold War has permitted such rulers and regimes to become major international actors and allowed them to pursue their political agendas with minimal interference from the international community. Rather than adopting the perspectives of the superpowers, namely the United States and the Soviet Union, the international community has become atomized with each nation having its own interpretation of events and definition of self-interest.


The question is how to respond to the threats that the rogue regimes pose. Tanter concludes that because the United States and other nations perceive the risk differently it is difficult to develop consensus on how the outlaws should be treated. Retribution is advocated by the hardliners, like the United States, often with little regard for the effectiveness of that approach. Moreover, although it may be easier to let the United States or another nation assume leadership and the costs of sanctions, hardline approaches are often difficult to sell to domestic audiences. Rehabilitation is advocated by those more tolerant of violent means, like European Union members, although appeasement and compromise have historically been poor responses to international threats. A mixed strategy is advocated by those who assume that there may be reason for violence and who wish to know what that might be before condemning the violent. Ideology, domestic politics, economic interests, and a variety of other factors color perspectives. The ineffectiveness of trade sanctions, military threats, and other punishments for outlaw regimes further complicates the development of an international consensus on what to do. Countries seek the solution that fits their own interests or predispositions; thus the international community encourages the rogues to continue their activities. Tanter explores scenarios of violence and diplomacy and assesses the prospects for solution.


The book is an important contribution to the post-Cold War redefinition of international relations, perhaps more for what it says about the behavior and attitudes of Western regimes than for what it says about the rogues.


[Author note]

WILLIAM L. WAUGH JR. Georgia State University




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