In the Bush era, Iran and North Korea were branded “rogue” states for their flouting of international norms, and changing their regimes was the administration’s goal. The Obama administration has chosen instead to call the countries nuclear “outliers” and has proposed means other than regime change to bring them back into “the community of nations.” Outlier States, the successor to Litwak’s influential Regime Change: U.S. Strategy through the Prism of 9/11 (2007), explores this significant policy adjustment and raises questions about its feasibility and its possible consequences.

Do international norms apply only to states’ external behavior, as it might relate, for example, to nuclear proliferation and terrorism, or do they matter no less for states’ internal behavior, as it might affect a population’s human rights? What is the appropriate role for the United States in the process of reintegration? America’s military power remains unmatched, but can the nation any longer shape singlehandedly an increasingly multi-polar international system? What do the precedents set in Iraq and Libya teach us about how current outliers can be integrated into the international community? And perhaps most important, how should the United States respond if outlier regimes eschew integration as a threat to their survival and continue to augment their nuclear capabilities?

Read Robert Litwak’s related opinion piece “Living with Nuclear Outliers,” published in the International Herald Tribune (June 2012).

Robert S. Litwak is vice president for scholars and director of International Security Studies at the Wilson Center. He is author of Rogue States and U.S. Foreign Policy: Containment after the Cold War (2000) and Regime Change: U.S. Strategy through the Prism of 9/11 (2007).



1. Outlier States and International Society
Policy Shifts in Washington
Power Shifts in the International System
The Anarchical Society Revisited

2. Pathways into the “Community of Nations”
The Assimilation of a Defeated Great Power
The Evolution of Revolutionary States
Regime Change from Without
Regime Change from Within
Assessment and Implications

3. Strategies to Contain, Engage, or Change
Sources of Outlier Conduct
Iraq: “Rogue” Rollback
Libya: U.S.-Assisted Regime Change
Assessment and Implications

4. Nuclear Outliers
Proliferation Dynamics and U.S. Policy
North Korea: A Failed State with Nuclear Weapons
Iran: A Nation or a Cause?
Living with Nuclear Outliers

Appendix: Excerpts from National Security Strategy Documents of September 2002 and May 2010


“The key question it asks—how to integrate, or reintegrate countries that have separated themselves from the international community—is one that will be at the very top of the foreign policy agenda for the next administration. This is an extremely important work of political science.”—Mitchell Reiss, Former Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State

“Drawing on historical and theoretical analysis, Robert Litwak makes a timely and illuminating case for nuanced American policies toward Iran and North Korea, two of the most challenging countries in American foreign policy today. This book can serve as a strong foundation for policy debates on American diplomacy and strategy in the years ahead. Outlier States is policy-relevant scholarship at its finest.”—Lee H. Hamilton, Center on Congress

“It is a masterly study that contributes significantly to our knowledge of ‘outlier’ states and how best to deal with them. I believe that it will become an essential work in the field of strategic studies.”—Ronald Steel, University of Southern California

“Nothing has bedeviled U.S. foreign policy more since the end of the Cold War than how to deal with a collection of despotic, hostile, and dangerous middle-tier states, such as Iran and North Korea. In this lucid and thoughtful book, Litwak compares the performances of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations in handling such foes.”—G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs

“[A] must-read for scholars interested in understanding the states that have flouted international norms and then reintegrated into the community of nations in the past and the problem states that still bedevil us today”—Matthew Kroenig, Political Science Quarterly

“[L]ogically organized, conceptually clear, analytically robust and practically useful…. Outlier States is destined to become the reference of choice for U.S. officials seeking a clear exposition of the policy dilemmas and options for bringing outlier states in from the cold.”—Stewart Patrick, American Interest

“A fine and much recommended read for international studies collections.”—Midwest Book Review

“A very insightful book…. Litwak is to be congratulated for his impressive contribution.”—Paiso Jamakar, Biz India Magazine