The Specter of Rogue Regimes and Failed States

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

In the fifth article in my series concerning the issues that the next president will face, I turn from the twin dynamos (energy security and primacy) to the twin specters of rouge states and failed states. The next president’s administration will be significantly consumed by these two sides of a presidential challenge coin.

In 2002, President George W. Bush identified the “axis of evil.” Two of those nations still spread evil and malevolence abroad and to their own people. Iran and North Korea continue to account for untold misery to their own populations and to the international system as a whole.

The next president will need to formulate a long-term strategic policy that is ultimately designed to bring about an end to both regimes. The current attempts to tinker with diplomacy, to hold off Iran’s nuclear weapons program and to reduce North Korean aggression will at best buy some time.

The next president needs to launch a serious shift in policy whose goals mirror those of President Ronald Reagan regarding the Soviet Union, which rejected accommodation, appeasement and full-scale war at the same time. Both regimes share an interest in weapons of mass destruction and not only nuclear ones, but biological and chemical weapons as well. They both are engaged in advances in missile technology, military expansion, human rights abuses, terrorism and despotism.

Iran, seeking a Persian-Shiite empire in the Persian Gulf, has engaged in a laundry list of policies and behaviors designed to kill Americans and hurt American interests since 1979. It is engaged in a massive campaign to produce its own nuclear weapons; it is engaged in building, modernizing and developing long-range ballistic missile capabilities; it is the number-one state sponsor of terrorism, with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah; it is the number-one partner or sponsor of other rogue regimes like Syria and Venezuela; it is the number one conduit for the training and arming of Shiite militias in Iran that killed U.S. troops and Iraqis; it has assisted, when it deems its own interests are at stake, both al-Qaida and the Taliban (regardless of theological differences, just as in the case of Hamas); and it continues to be one of the worst human rights violators of its own people.

The United States must make a permanent and declared policy that it will not tolerate any further development of its nuclear or missile program and that unless Iran reverses its terror strategy, America will consider it an act of war and act accordingly. The United States should be prepared to call on the successful implementation of the Truman, Reagan and Bush Doctrines to destabilize the regime, use covert operations, prepare for the use of hard power, and assist the pro-democracy elements of Iran with more than rhetoric.

Iran can be made to pay a high price for its recalcitrance with the use of American hard power that has nothing to do with the use of conventional ground troops. The Reagan years proved the efficiency of these policies.

Due to the dithering and lack of strategy by the Clinton administration, North Korea is a more difficult problem, as it already has an advanced nuclear and missile program, proving the need to have acted in Iraq and the need to take action immediately on Iran. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has developed nuclear weapons and is a massive arms proliferator, counterfeiter of U.S. dollars, drug seller and, worst of all, the worst violator of human rights on the planet.

North Korea operates a vast empire of concentration camps where people are treated worse than animals and punishes any type of dissent with torture and execution. Pivotal to American strategy and inherent to American values is the destruction of these camps by covert and overt means.

The United States must make a permanent and declared policy that seeks to remove the North Korean totalitarian regime; declare that any further missile tests will be treated as an aggressive act; stop, by any means necessary, its nuclear program; assist elements in South and North Korea that seek liberation; and prepare concrete plans to assist South Korea in eventual reunification in an effort to avoid one of the potentially worst humanitarian disasters with refugees ever seen.

If there are any regimes and leaders that are diametrically opposed to American values and interests, they would be Iran and North Korea. We have been in a state of war with both, and it is time that our grand strategy reflects that fact. The existence of these regimes and their actions are inimical to the security and values of the United States. These illegal regimes are an abomination against both God and man. They violate the bedrock of natural law that the United States was founded on: life, liberty, and property.

Their actions can unite realists who realize that two entire regions of the world face destabilization, anarchy and chaos because of their existence and liberals who should be horrified at the totalitarian nightmare that has been allowed to victimize and abuse millions. The next president can create a legacy here that will ensure his place in the upper echelon of presidential history and united the American people behind a just cause that mirrors that of World War II.

The next president must also jettison the baggage created by the immigration issue and deal with the root cause of the domestic and foreign policy muddle that is Mexico, which has been experiencing political and social instability for the last century.

Following multiple regime changes in the 19th century, it finally developed a more stable government in the 20th. However, Mexico has been plagued by a ruling oligarchical class and an extremely poor lower class. In the last 30 years there has been a tremendous rise in gangs and drug cartels in Mexico, and the money they have made is seeping into all areas of Mexican government and administration.

The police and political sectors have become extremely corrupt, and threaten the very life of Mexico itself. Human Rights Watch reports that 60,000 people were killed in Mexico due to cartel violence from 2006 to 2012. Additionally Mexico has experienced the rise of armed militias. Some of these militias fight against and for the cartels, and some fight each other.

The U.S. Justice Department classified Mexican drug cartels as “biggest organized crime threat to the United States.” Ultimately there is the potential for a failed state on the United States’ southern border.

There must be a clear policy toward the Mexican government that the United States will not tolerate the violence and chaos created by Mexican drug cartels. The United States must offer the Mexican government the tools to break the back of the cartels or do the job itself. The current policy of muddling through has produced increased death and violence on both sides of the border and threatens the very existence of a viable Mexican government.

Realists recognize that chaos right on our border is simply an impossible situation to tolerate and is the number one factor in the drug degradation of American civilization. Liberals see the potential for a human rights tragedy right on this continent, along with the horrors of human trafficking, drugs and the destruction of the last vestiges of Mexican democracy.

The next president must level with the American people that this is not about domestic politics or votes: It is about the most basic foundation of American national security along its border and the coming nightmare if American policy continues the status quo or is held hostage to those that make money and power off of the domestic issues of immigration and race.

If the next president is able to create a unified policy on rogue and failed states, his legacy will last decades. If the president is unable to do this, the results for the American people could be catastrophic.