Perceiving Rogue States: The Use of the “Rogue State” Concept by U.S. Foreign Policy Elites


  • Author’s note: The author thanks Harvey Starr, Richard Herrmann, and Jerel Rosati for their comments and suggestions on previous versions of the article as well as the discussants and panelists at the 2006 International Studies Association Conference held in San Diego, CA. Additional thanks are owed to the editors and reviewers from Foreign Policy Analysis for their helpful suggestions and comments.


In the aftermath of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy dialogue has shifted from its half century focus dominated by the superpower struggle with the Soviet Union to the challenges presented by so-called “rogue states.” For many observers, however, the term “rogue state” is viewed as problematic failing to providing either a clear picture of who and what constitutes a rogues state, or, perhaps more importantly, the ramification of this term on U.S. policy action. In examining the public statements of key U.S. foreign policy decision makers over the course of 1993 to 2004, this paper offers insights as to the perceptions which manifest the “rogue” stereotype as exhibited by statements on the policies and behaviors associated with rogue states. What is revealed is a relatively fixed and stable image over time as held by key decisions-makers with similar unity expressed as to policy prescriptions. Combining perceptions of power capabilities and cultural judgments unique to this rogue stereotype, the rogue image presents a challenge to U.S. strategy demanding attention to the future threat posed by these states while also constraining policy options.