Briefing Paper

Engaging Problem Countries

U.S. policymakers have normally turned to military force, political and economic sanctions, and covert action in trying to dissuade so-called “rogue states” – notably Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea – from behavior that the United States finds offensive or counter to its interests. Despite continued reliance on these punitive measures to address issues such as support for terrorism, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and violation of human rights, the record of these policies of punishment has been disappointing.

Fidel Castro and communism appear entrenched in Cuba despite a history of U.S.-sponsored covert action and more than forty years of an American embargo. Saddam Hussein continues to defy UN weapons inspectors and rule Iraq, shrugging off comprehensive economic sanctions and sporadic bombing of his country. Twenty years after the revolution that ousted the Shah and instituted the Islamic Republic, Iran promotes terrorism, opposes Middle East peacemaking, and pursues weapons of mass destruction, U.S. economic sanctions notwithstanding. Questions remain concerning Libyan behavior in these same areas. Despite the promising June 2000 summit, North Korea’s totalitarian leadership poses a potential threat to its own people and to South Korea. Through its missile program, North Korea also poses a potential threat to the United States, despite half a century of diplomatic and economic isolation and the stationing of a large U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula.