What it is: a country whose government is perceived, mainly by the USA, as unreliable, unco-operative, and hostile.
What it means: The term ‘rogue state’ came into use in the USA in the 1990s. It went down badly with the states concerned, and was soon dropped. The less aggressive expression ‘states of concern’ was adopted instead. ‘States of concern’ have included Afghanistan (under the Taliban regime), the Balkan countries (during the Bosnian war), Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. After the attack on New York (September 11, 2001) the new US president George W Bush revealed his aggressive policies. He revived the term ‘rogue state’, and famously linked three of them (Iran, Iraq and North Korea) as an ‘axis of evil’- increasing their hostility as a result. The three were all thought to be developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), especially nuclear weapons. Critics of the US government have suggested that these pro-nuclear states have been used to justify the USA’s own nuclear policies: continuing to keep its nuclear arsenal and also developing new low-intensity nuclear weapons. These ‘bunker-buster’ warheads will, the Pentagon claims, be able to destroy underground military and administrative installations in the hostile states. The US government was less confrontational with Libya and at the end of 2003 the Libyan government announced that it was giving up its nuclear weapons and would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor this. Iraq, however, was invaded in 2003 by US forces, assisted by other forces mainly from the UK. No WMD have been found in Iraq and the search has been abandoned. Another qualification for being branded a ‘rogue state’ is supporting terrorists and suicide bombers (or being suspected of it). Iran and Syria, for example, have backed two terrorist groups fighting Israel.
Think about it:
(1) Name-calling is a recognised form of what is called ‘hate speech’, and also the weapon of bullies. To tag an entire nation (however unpleasant its policies are) as a ‘rogue’ is an act of hostility. This kind of language hasn’t stopped there: many US spokespeople talk of these states as though they are young children to be disciplined. For example, an arms control chief said in December 2003, ‘We are determined that bad behaviour on the part of North Korea will not be rewarded’. Hate speech makes positive dialogue between states even harder to achieve. What might be better ways of dealing with any country that presents the world with a problem?
(2) After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, President Bush said, ‘Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists’. What position does this put ‘every nation’ in? Are there other options?
(3) Is it likely that some countries aim to get or make nuclear weapons because they see that the USA has no intention of getting rid of its own, and feel threatened?
(4) ‘Rogue States’ is also the name of a computer game. (‘The Axis of Evil MUST be destroyed!! Smash the alliance between the terrorist forces and the nations that support them.’) This game is a by-product of the best-selling ‘Real War’. What message is given out by making a game of ‘real war’ and the real risks of real war?