In This Review

Regime Change: U.S. Strategy Through the Prism of 9/11
Regime Change: U.S. Strategy Through the Prism of 9/11
By Robert S. Litwak
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007, 424 pp.

This impressive study is the best yet of those that outline the dilemmas and choices that face the United States as it confronts hostile states threatening to build weapons of mass destruction. "Rogue" or "outlaw" regimes have long bedeviled American diplomats (and divided Western allies over tactics and strategies). But after September 11, the Bush administration raised the stakes by highlighting the possible transfer of mass-casualty weapons from these "axis of evil" states to terrorist groups -- a threat that turned the Iraq war into the first instance in which forcible regime change was used by a great power to achieve nonproliferation ends. Litwak carefully chronicles the shift in U.S. strategy from a mix of deterrence, engagement, and containment in the pre-9/11 era to an emphasis on regime change subsequently. He offers sensible judgments about the controversies and unresolved policy debates that have followed in the wake of Iraq, emphasizing the limits on the use of force and the importance of nonmilitary prevention strategies. Case studies of the United States' long-running encounters with Iraq, Libya, Iran, and North Korea underscore Litwak's point that strategies must be tailored to the target state. But in general, his favored approach requires giving up the regime-change option and shifting back to a strategy of deterrence and reassurance.