The Logic of Positive Engagement: Dealing with Renegade Regimes


  • Author's note: Miroslav Nincic is professor of political science at the university of California, Davis. Recent publications include Renegade Regimes: Confronting Deviant Behavior in World Politics (Columbia University Press, 2005) and (with Joseph Lepgold) Beyond the Ivory Tower: International Relations Theory and the Issue of Policy Relevance (Columbia University Press, 2001).


This article is intended to offset, partially at least, the lopsided stress placed by international relations scholarship on punitive pressures, at the expense of positive inducements, as tools for bringing renegade regimes into compliance with internationally accepted norms of behavior. I discuss the focus on punishment as a tool of foreign policy and the reasons why this bias has provided disappointing results. Using a parallel theoretical framework, I then discuss the forms that inducements can assume and the circumstances encouraging their success. The hypotheses thus derived are applied to a number of specific policy challenges. The bottom line is that inducements can, at times, produce a direct quid pro quo from the target regime and, occasionally, can modify that regime's basic motivations, so that both punishments and rewards become less necessary. In any case, positive engagement is most effective when regime's position is being challenged from within.