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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 14:19 GMT
Analysis: The new bogeymen
Saddam Hussein's Iraq is still seen as a potential threat
By world affairs correspondent Nick Childs

The term "rogue state" really emerged during the Clinton administration.

Following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington was looking at what new challenges might emerge to the interests of the United States and its allies.

Col Gaddafi
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya: Hostility remains
And a focus became so-called "rogue states": usually developing countries, essentially hostile to the United States, which were suspected of pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programmes, and probably also of sponsoring terrorism, and which did not subscribe to what Washington regarded as the norms of international behaviour.

In Washington's view, the core "rogue states" have always been Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Libya.

But prior to the 11 September attacks on the US, at various times other countries - including Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Syria, and Sudan - may also have been added to the list.

The term was useful in many ways for Washington.

Controversial approach

It helped simplify for the American people what might otherwise have seemed a complex world.

It also seemed to satisfy what many see as a deep need among Americans to be able to focus on "bogeymen" as a way of galvanising policy.

Kim Jong-il
North Korea's Kim Jong-il: Viewed with suspicion
But it has always been a controversial approach.

Critics have argued that it smacked of US chauvinism and arrogance.

It has caused friction with allies. The main aim of the US approach was to isolate and "contain" the rogue states.

But many other countries, including key allies in Europe, preferred policies of what became known as "critical engagement".

Some in the United States were just as critical of the Europeans, arguing that they were pursuing dialogue for narrow and selfish reasons of their own, often to try to win commercial advantages for themselves.

Either way, there was a very different outlook across the Atlantic.

Tougher approach

But Washington too, under the Clinton administration, also came to find that demonising the rogue states was not useful when it too tried to engage in dialogue with, for example, the authorities in North Korea, or moderate elements in Iran.

As one US State Department official put it, the term rogue state "made for a good soundbite, but not for good policy".

In the latter days of the Clinton administration, the words "rogue state" were supplanted by the rather less confrontational term "states of concern".

But the rogue state has come back again with the arrival of the Bush administration in Washington, a reflection of the tougher approach to national security concerns which the Bush team is seeking to convey.

Again, though, some critics argue that President Bush and his advisers have revived the term because they need a rationale to pursue their plans for ballistic missile defence.

The key rogue states:

  • Iraq Still seen as a potential threat to regional stability in the Gulf. And, despite years of UN inspections and sanctions, it is suspected of still wishing to pursue programmes to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and missile developments.

  • Iran Despite the emergence of moderate elements in Iran, and signs of a desire in Washington too for a renewal of contacts, there is still deep hostility and suspicion between the two countries.

    And the United States is still concerned that Iran has regional ambitions, as well as plans to pursue the development of weapons of mass destruction. Also still on the US State Department list as a state sponsor of terrorism.

  • North Korea The main concern from Washington's point of view has been its missile and other weapons programmes, and particularly its willingness to export sensitive technology to other rogue states in return for hard currency.

    Also viewed with suspicion because of its secretiveness, and its potential threat to South Korea. The Clinton administration had appeared to make progress in its attempts at dialogue lately, but this seems to have been set back with the change of administration in Washington, despite the news of the latest talks.

  • Libya Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was seen as a dangerous pariah by the United States in the 1980s. Also suspected of pursuing efforts to develop secret weapons programmes, and of diplomatic efforts to destabilise the Middle East.

    The lingering hostility surrounding the Lockerbie controversy remains strong, even if Libya may not be seen as quite the threat it used to be.

See also:

19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
US eases North Korea sanctions
19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Behind North Korea's transformation
11 Dec 99 | Middle East
Libya seeks new beginning
27 May 00 | Middle East
Iran parliament enters new era
24 Jan 00 | Americas
US and China restore military ties
03 Dec 99 | Middle East
Libya denounces terrorism
08 Sep 99 | Middle East
Libya returns to world stage
19 Jun 00 | Middle East
US rebrands its rogues gallery
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