Pub. Date:
Brookings Institution Press
Worst of the Worst: Dealing with Repressive and Rogue Nations / Edition 1

Worst of the Worst: Dealing with Repressive and Rogue Nations / Edition 1

by Robert I. Rotberg


Current price is , Original price is $27.99. You
Select a Purchase Option (New Edition)
  • purchase options
    $25.28 $27.99 Save 10% Current price is $25.28, Original price is $27.99. You Save 10%.
  • purchase options

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780815775676
Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
Publication date: 07/28/2007
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 300
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Robert I. Rotberg is director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict, Conflict Prevention, and Conflict Resolution at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and president of the World Peace Foundation. Rotberg is the author or editor of numerous books, including State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror (Brookings/WPF, 2003).

Read an Excerpt

Worst of the Worst

Dealing with Repressive and Rogue Nations

Brookings Institution Press

Copyright © 2007 Brookings Institution Press and the World Pease Foundation
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8157-7567-6

Chapter One

Repressive, Aggressive, And Rogue Nation-States: How Odious, How Dangerous?

Robert I. Rotberg

In the post-cold war era, some of the greatest threats to global stability come not from powerful hegemonic powers battling each other but from smaller, much less intrinsically powerful polities refusing to abide by the common principles of reciprocity and civility that guide world order. Many of these weak, outlaw nations attack their own people; they are seriously repressive, showing no respect for human rights and disdaining basic freedoms and democratic values. These heavy repressors breach official international conventions and covenants (such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), and offend against unofficial global human rights norms. A handful of these internally abusive nation-states also behave in a provocative, pugnacious manner regionally; they are aggressive to their neighbors and serial offenders against world order. It is the actions and postures of these two kinds of nation-states-the gross repressors and the hostile, aggressiverepressors-not rivalries among the big powers, that are currently the causes of conflict and the main perils to the peace of the world.

This book attempts, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, to specify attributes common to those of the world's nation-states that behave odiously and in a truly troubling manner-those that operate beyond the international normative pale. From a human rights perspective-and presuming its value in an orderly world-those states are the worst of the worst. They breach a variety of "civilized" norms. They undermine regional and global stability.

This book seeks a common understanding of what constitutes gross repression by nation-states. It defines the kinds of actions that constitute repression and proposes a method of measuring repressiveness (human rights violations by nation-states). It further advances the possibility of creating a scale capable of distinguishing among the repressors according to the quality of their predatory rapaciousness. By thus formulating the basis of an index of nation-state repressiveness, with a rank ordering of miscreants and malefactors among countries, we create a valuable diagnostic tool capable of guiding the United Nations and big powers as they seek to mitigate manifest injustice and curb tyranny in the developing world. Such an index would also identify and target gross offenders of the "responsibility to protect" norm, which the UN is pledged to enforce. In this book, each of the regimes discussed is repressive toward its own citizens. North Korea, Turkmenistan, Burma, Zimbabwe, and Equatorial Guinea are much more repressive than the others, and are designated here as gross repressors. The remaining countries-Belarus, Uzbekistan, Syria, Togo, and Tunisia-are deemed somewhat less nasty to their own citizens but are still highly repressive internally.

This book also seeks to characterize and measure aggressiveness among repressors, and to single out as a category for separate study those nation-states that rank high on both the repressive and aggressive axes of a carefully delineated representation of nation-state behavior. Although many scholars and policymakers tend loosely to label both the most heavily repressive states and the aggressive repressors as rogue states, this book seeks to reserve that pejorative designation primarily for the handful of national repressors that are also aggressive. Analytically, the term "rogue state" should be reserved for the North Koreas and Irans of the world-those nation-states that both immiserate their own citizens and also act belligerently and in a destabilizing manner toward the rest of the world. Of the cases discussed in this book, only North Korea, Belarus, and Syria are true rogues because they marry high levels of internal repression with aggressive behavior to their neighbors and beyond. North Korea spreads weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Belarus exports arms and drugs (as does North Korea), and Syria sponsors terrorism.

The Nature of Repression

All repressive states, by definition, greatly abuse their own citizens. They prey on them. They deny all or virtually all fundamental human rights and civil liberties; eschew or make mockery of democracy; use the mailed fist to compel obedience and achieve compliance with the demands (even whims) of their rulers or ruling juntas; obliterate the rule of law and instead follow the law of the jungle; assassinate opponents and take political prisoners; favor collective punishment of families, groups, and lineages; often are capricious in their policies and actions; totally command their economies; inhibit individual prosperity; are seriously corrupt; operate patrimonially, with fawning clients; build a personality cult while otherwise minimizing ideology; and often manage over many years to create a culture of dependency and conformity. In some cases, these repressive regimes even starve their followers, withholding food rations from most citizens while their rulers live luxuriously.

The essence of such state-enforced terror is its unpredictable arbitrariness, the absence of explanation, the lack of any means whereby wrongs can, even theoretically, be redressed, and the inculcation of a widespread feeling of mental impotence and lethargy. Dictators and authoritarian regimes intimidate their citizens by whimsical, quixotic, bizarrely idiosyncratic behaviors (as each of the cases in this book exemplifies) and by seductive forms of co-optation-all well mixed together with mindless brutalities. Malevolent rulers are clever enough to manipulate their subjects and simultaneously to keep them supinely in thrall. The sinister François (Papa Doc) Duvalier, dictator of Haiti in the 1950s and 1960s, provides an instructive example of how such regimes suppress individuality and enforce obedience. "Haiti," a contemporary report concluded, "is the paralytic fear of a capricious dictatorial regime of unusual malevolence; none but the most secure Haitians are immune from the stabbing anxiety which afflicts all [of their] days and nights.... The dominant feature of the dictatorship is its arbitrariness: the blue-serge-suited Al Capone-like figures who live in the white rococo presidential palace have never thought twice about drawing a revolver from their shoulder holsters and mutilating someone suspected of antagonism, disobedience, or mere idiosyncratic behavior." Nothing of any moment "happens without [Duvalier's] specific approval."

Using the criteria set out above and additional indicators, it is possible to rank nation-states according to their levels of depravity-according to the extent to which each preys mercilessly on its own people. Rather than differentiating impressionistically between repressive and not so repressive states, and in order to distinguish more precisely the worst of the worst from the merely unpleasant, one can assign objective numerical scores to each aspect of a state's repressiveness. One state holds more political prisoners annually and across time than another. A second assassinates opponents, and the number and frequency of those mysterious deaths can be counted. The denial of basic freedoms can be documented and assessed, and given a score based on an objective set of measurements. The absence of any rule of law would be compared to other polities with diminished legal provisions. A state's command of its economy would be noted and evaluated. Food scarcities would be documented. Degrees of corruption would be approximated using existing measurement techniques.

Overall, it is possible both theoretically and practically to measure the repressiveness of individual states, using many more, and more refined, indicators and subindicators than those employed in the construction of the otherwise worthy index proposed by Caprioli and Trumbore in chapter 2. Such a new, comprehensive system, ranking repressors and human rights violators more clearly and more objectively (that is, not by the employment of opinions and survey data) than existing methods (including the tripartite "free," "partly free," and "unfree" parsings of Freedom House), would separate-even gradate-those states that qualify as grossly repressive or very highly repressive from those that fall below such thresholds. Of the cases in this book, for example, North Korea obviously represses its people with a greater fervor and ferocity than does Tunisia. But Tunisia is still sufficiently repressive, by our criteria, to qualify as highly repressive, and the proposed ranking system would display that behavioral pattern quantitatively.

The availability of such a carefully researched and classified catalogue of repressive regimes would enable international and national policymakers to focus appropriately on such extreme offenders of established or emerging behavioral norms. Instead of responding to ad hoc claims or impressionistic reports, defenders of world order and the UN conventions on human rights and against genocide-as well as the new responsibility to protect norm-would then be equipped to craft effective responses, knowing that accusations of regime misbehavior were concretely based on methods of collecting and arraying data that themselves possessed the virtues of transparency and comparison.

Fortunately, the proposition that human rights and other violations can be measured follows and is derived from the proposal that governance is itself measurable, using proxy indicators and subindicators, and that repressive states are fundamentally nation-states that deliver the least good governance to their peoples. This measurement paradigm, explored at length elsewhere, assumes that nation-states exist to deliver political goods such as security, rule of law, political freedom, economic opportunity, education, health, and a functional infrastructure. Repressive states provide little of those goods, except for security (the reverse twist of denial and oppression), so they can be scored according to already developed criteria. In addition, to assess a repressive state's true character more finely, additional indicators of repression can be used as measurement tools and appropriate numbers developed. Table 1-1 lists the different repressive practices that are capable of being quantified.

That explained, it is important heuristically to understand the value and possibility of measuring repressiveness-of arraying human rights violators according to sets of objective criteria-even though in practice it can sometimes prove exceedingly difficult to measure the actual performance of the worst of the worst in a strictly quantitative manner. A fundamental problem is the paucity of good data. Those nation-states that deserve scrutiny and qualify for it on anecdotal or impressionistic grounds have the most to hide. They rarely provide or publish accurate statistics. Numbers of assassinations and prisoners as well as violations of human rights must be gathered clandestinely or estimated from credible rumors. Repressive regimes themselves will not offer up infractions for outside inspection or admit to wrongdoing. The necessary data must be gathered from fugitive sources, making quantification questionable and precision impossible. Nevertheless, it is critical-as the chapters that follow explain-to provide the basis of a framework for measuring repressiveness within and among states. Without it, throwing up pejorative designations like "very highly repressive" or "rogue" has little analytical meaning or utilitarian value. Too easily, a nation-state is now said in quasi-diplomatic parlance to exhibit roguish behavior merely whenever a big power such as the United States becomes displeased.

Aggressiveness and Repression

Among the worst states in the world are a number that behave excessively badly toward their own people; they oppress and repress them systematically, and over long periods. But not all of those miserable human rights performers endanger other nation-states, even their neighbors. Only a few nation-states at any one time are both significantly repressive on one scale and, on the other scale, decidedly aggressive in their neighborhood or exporters of danger beyond their borders. It is the intersection of the two scales that describes "aggressive repressors." In order to qualify, a nation-state must demonstrate disdain for the rights and liberties of its own citizens and disdain for world order norms by behaving aggressively beyond its borders.

Many more nation-states are repressive than are aggressive. That is, not all repressive states, despite a predilection to aggression and danger, flout the procedures of world order. (Caprioli and Trumbore suggest otherwise.) To do so as outlaws, as disturbers of the global system in the sense that former secretary of state Madeleine Albright described, they have to possess or be working to develop WMD, sponsor or give support to terrorists, or traffic in fissile material, WMD components, long-range or short-range delivery systems, small arms, or narcotics. (WMD includes chemical and biological warfare as well as nuclear warfare capability.) Additionally, even if they do not engage in these activities, such countries still may be considered aggressive if, within their neighborhood or region, they foment trouble or destabilize their own areas. Libya certainly was dangerous in that last sense, as well as in some of the aforementioned ways. Liberia and Burkina Faso also sought to undermine their neighbors in West Africa, succeeding for a time. Belarus and North Korea are state suppliers of small arms. They also traffic in narcotics, and North Korea has gained infamy and foreign exchange by counterfeiting currency. But some of the more odiously internally repressive states, like Equatorial Guinea or Zimbabwe, have not been accused of trafficking violations or of deliberately attempting to destabilize their regions.

Measuring most forms of aggression or dangerousness is obviously both easy-the International Atomic Energy Agency tries to monitor WMD violations, as do the big powers; the U.S. State Department names sponsors of terror; and suppliers of arms and drugs are generally listed-and elusive, since most of the alleged activity is illicit and covert. (Measuring nuclear capability is easier than discovering chemical and biological warfare capability, as the inspections of prewar Iraq amply demonstrate.) Even so, more precision is necessary to separate the unquestionably aggressive states from those whose infractions of international codes of behavior are serious but less threatening or destabilizing to the global system. Greater objectivity is desperately needed if high levels of aggressiveness, together with gross repressiveness, are going to qualify a nation-state for rogue status. Thus a method of quantifying levels of aggression or dangerousness is here proposed. It scores countries depending on the level of their trafficking of small arms, narcotics, and fissile material; backing, funding, and export of terror; possession of or attempted possession of WMD; and number and extent of cross-border attacks within a recent five-year period. (See figure 1-1 and table 1-2.)

Using those numbers permits answers to questions such as, is Iran more or less dangerous to international order than North Korea-or Pakistan? Responses to such questions hitherto have been based on impressionistic or ad hoc criteria. One of the purposes of this book is to offer more specific methods of answering such questions and to provide transparent ways of deciding which among the grossly repressive states are the real rogues and deserving of greater policy attention.

Qualifying as a Rogue State

Those nation-states in today's world that are both highly repressive internally and highly aggressive externally can be classified as rogues. (See table 1-2.) Depending on their externally oriented activities, even straightforward repressive states may qualify for rogue status and thus for strong policy attention.

Regardless of whether the rogue label makes sense analytically, the term remains in public discourse. As a shorthand expression of particular opprobrium, it became popular in the 1990s. After the "evil empire" was dispatched and America's global power ascendance was assured, world order was still disturbed by jumped-up nation-states that breached international norms of behavior, outrageously and always egregiously. From Washington's perspective, those were the nation-states that played by no known rules of world order, pursuing at best idiosyncratic designs. They disregarded Washington's predominant military might and followed autarkic rather than collegial, consensual, or respectful policy trajectories. First in the Clinton administration and then in the George W. Bush administration, Washington began calling these outlaw, anomic, unsavory, and troublesome places "rogues."


Excerpted from Worst of the Worst Copyright © 2007 by Brookings Institution Press and the World Pease Foundation. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. Repressive, Aggressive, and Rogue Nation-States: How Odious, How
2. Human Rights Rogues: Aggressive, Dangerous, or Both?
3. Running the Numbers: A Comparative Perspective
4. North Korea: The Tyranny of Deprivation
5. Turkmenistan under Niyazov and Berdymukhammedov
6. Burma: Poster Child for Entrenched Repressive
7. Winning the African Prize for Repression: Zimbabwe
8. Understanding Repression in Belarus
9. Equatorial Guinea and Togo: What Price Repression?
10. Uzbekistan: A Decaying Dictatorship Withdrawn from the West
11. Assessing Repression in Syria
12. Tunisia's "Sweet Little" Regime

What People are Saying About This

Sarah Sewall

"This volume makes an unparalleled contribution to the growing and vital field of measurement and human rights. Rotberg offers a useful categorization and assessment of repressive and 'rogue' states, allowing us to measure the extent of repressive state behavior more accurately. His work should embolden external critiques and facilitate more transparent and accountable foreign policy."--(Sarah Sewall, Director, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard University)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews