Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Regime Change 2.0: There Is More Than One Way to Get a Rogue State to Change Its Ways

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Regime Change 2.0: There Is More Than One Way to Get a Rogue State to Change Its Ways

Article excerpt

"THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN THE WORLD?" shouted the cover of Newsweek. Iran's radical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2008? No, the man was Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi and the year was 1981. Twenty-two years later, in late 2003, the Libyan dictator surprised the world with the announcement that his country would terminate its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. The strategic turnabout ended years of secret negotiations with the United States and Britain that had focused initially on Libyan complicity in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 and subsequently on Libya's proscribed WMD programs. The Bush administration claimed the disarmament coup (coming just eight months after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime) as a dividend of the Iraq war and declared that Libya could now emerge from its United Nations-imposed diplomatic isolation. Libya was poised to rejoin what American presidents from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush have metaphorically called "the family of nations." Does the Libyan precedent--"The Rogue Who Came in From the Cold"as aheadline in Foreign Affairs put it-hold lessons for dealing with other states that egregiously violate international norms of conduct?

In 2005, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice identified six countries-Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe. Burma, and Belams--as "outposts of Tranny," she conspicuously omitted Libya as a seventh. Yet though that former "rogue state" was no longer engaged in weapons proliferation or terrorism--the issues of urgent concern to the United States after the 9/11 attacks-the Libyan regime's miserable human rights record secured Qaddafi nth place and a "dishonorable mention" in Parade magazine's 2008 ranking of "The World's Worst Dictators" That pop compilation of autocrats included not only those Rice singled out but also, embarrassingly for an administration trumpeting a "freedom agenda," the leaders of three key U.S. allies--Sandi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan. One man's dictator is another's indispensable partner in the "global war on terrorism" The competition between contradictory values and objectives-on the one hand, President Bush's Wilson-on-steroids rhetoric about "ending tyranny"; on the other, the ugly accommodations Washington has made with the "world's worst" for the sake of counterterrorism and oil--has naturally fueled charges of hypocrisy. There may be no resolving this traditional tension in American foreign policy between ideals and interests, but the tension can be managed.

The roots of the current debate can be traced to an important conceptual shift that occurred around 1980. Before then, the terms rogue, pariah, and outlaw' we used interchangeably to describe states whose repressive ruling regimes engaged in the most extreme violations of international norms governing the treatment of civilian populations; notorious examples were Pol Pots Cambodi and Idi Amin's Uganda. After 1980, the focus shifted from the internal behavior of a state (how a regime treats its own people) to its external behavior (how it relates to other states in the international system). Two key criteria marked a state as "rogue": the sponsorship of terrorism and the pursuit of WMD. In accordance with the shift to a concern with states' external behavior, the State Department inaugurated an official listing of countries employing terrorism as an instrument of policy. And in a 1985 speech, President Ronald Reagan called Iran, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, and Nicaragua "an international version of Murder Incorporated" with "outlaw governments who are sponsoring terrorism against our nation."

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Over the years, the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism has been subject to politicization. Particularly glaring was the decision in 1982 to drop Iraq from the list as part of Washington's "tilt" toward the Saddam Hussein regime just as Iraq was suffering battlefield setbacks in its attritional war with Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran. …

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