Author: Robert S. Litwak
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Book Review by: Paiso Jamakar

Robert S. Litwak served on the National Security Council in the 1990s, so he has intimate knowledge of official U.S.policy towards different nations discussed about during his term.

He has written other books on how the United States has dealt with unfriendly nations, among them being Rogue States and U.S. Foreign Policy: Containment After the Cold War published in 2000 and Regime Change: U.S. Strategy through the Prism of 9/11, which saw print  in 2007. 

He works at that famous school on international affairs Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as its director of international security studies and as its vice-president for scholars.

In this book, Professor Litwak discusses America’s policies towards rogue (a term used by former President George W. Bush) states such as Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea that have presented challenges (read: headaches) for America.

Rogue states are those that have or are acquiring weapons of mass destruction, sponsoring terrorism or harboring terrorists, or are mistreating their people by violating fundamental human rights or basic human freedoms, such as freedom of assembly, religion, and speech.     

In particular, it deals with U.S. relations toward North Korea which probably has acquired nuclear weapons or is acquiring them, Iran, which is currently developing them, if it has not already done so, and Libya, whose former leader has helped terrorists in one way or another or has directly been involved in acts of terrorism.  

As we write, Libya is in the process of being taken over by Islamic fundamentalists that would threaten if not make impossible the existence of a variety of personal freedoms, a devastatingly disappointing development after its people toppled a long-term oppressive dictatorship and killed their murderous leader Muammar Gaddafi.

This 238-page study lays out and discusses the policies of the last few presidents and their actions (or lack thereof) towards the official heads of these rogue and outlier nations, long considered to be outside the large, friendly international community.   

The material in this book is organized into four main chapters, namely: outlier states and the international society; pathways into the community of nations; strategies to contain, engage or change these regimes; and nuclear outliers and how theU.S.has dealt with them.      

The first chapter explains how these phrases came about out in different U.S. presidential terms: rogue states, states of concern, outlaw states, pariah states, and outlier states. It also discusses what these phrases mean, and refers to the various instances when the presidents used them, and what actions were taken or not taken. So it is not just what the presidents said that is important, but also what they did or did not do.

The second chapter dwells on four historical ways that unfriendly states (those considered outside the community of nations or violating internationally-accepted norms of behavior) have been brought into the broad international community.

Examples given in this chapter are: Nazi Germany after World War II; the Soviet Union under Michael Gorbachev; China under Deng Xiao Ping; Tanzania’s 1979 invasion of Uganda to overthrow Idi Amin; Vietnam’s 1978 invasion of Cambodia to oust the infamous Khmer Rouge regime that massacred 1.7 million local people; the 1989 overthrow of the Ceausescu regime in Romania; and others.

The third chapter deals with how the U.S.strategies of dealing with such states changed over time. In some cases, military attacks have worked. In others, economic sanctions have been successful. In still other cases, supporting local rebels have resulted in regime change for the better.

In the last chapter, the focus is on the current international situation, with Iran and North Korea continuing to be problem nations. They may have not already have nuclear weapons in their arsenals, but are certainly trying to do so. The U.S.government is trying to deal with them, but so far, unsuccessfully. How will the U.S.finally achieve its objective of preventing them from acquiring nuclear weapons, if they have not yet acquired them, or if they have already acquired them, deal with these nations?

The Conclusion is a continuing discussion of the various ways of dealing with the challenges posed by nations that violate internationally-accepted behavioral norms and human rights.

This is a very insightful book on a topic that the author is very familiar with not only on an academic level but also in terms of experience. It is a valuable one for anyone dealing with issues that require diplomatic knowledge and skills. Robert S. Litwak is to be congratulated for his impressive contribution to this aspect of U.S.foreign policy.