North Korea's ongoing nuclear brinkmanship and Iran's accelerating nuclear program underscore the failure of successive U.S. administrations to dissuade outlier regimes from pursuing the world's most destructive weapons. For more than twenty years, the bloodless phrase "post-Cold War world" has been the default descriptor of the era. A more compelling label might be the Age of Rogue States. In the several centuries before the collapse of the Soviet Union, grand strategy focused on managing the balance of power among major sovereign states, ideally by diplomacy and occasionally by war. This first-order strategic demand ended (albeit temporarily) with the advent of a unipolar world. But a new danger arose, posed by mid-sized, authoritarian powers seeking regional and global influence through asymmetric means, including sponsoring terrorism and pursuing weapons of mass destruction. How to contain, deter, confront or transform such outlaw states—some of them qualifying perhaps as "crazy states", as Yekhezkel Dror memorably wrote—remains a huge headache for U.S. national security officials.
Two recent books by prominent foreign policy thinkers—Thomas H. Henriksen's America and the Rogue States and Robert S. Litwak's Outlier States—seek to clarify the threat posed by such regimes, evaluate U.S. policy responses, and propose new, more effective strategies. Of the two, Outlier States is superior in every important respect. It is logically organized, conceptually clear, analytically robust and practically useful. America and the Rogue States disappoints on all these counts.