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The world has never been as dangerous as it is now. Rogue regimes—governments and groups that eschew diplomatic normality, sponsor terrorism, and proliferate nuclear weapons—threaten the United States around the globe. Because sanctions and military action are so costly, the American strategy of first resort is dialogue, on the theory that “it never hurts to talk to enemies.” Seldom is conventional wisdom so wrong.
Engagement with rogue regimes is not cost free, as Michael Rubin demonstrates by tracing the history of American diplomacy with North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Rubin’s analysis finds that rogue regimes all have one thing in common: they pretend to be aggrieved in order to put Western diplomats on the defensive. Whether in Pyongyang, Tehran, or Islamabad, rogue leaders understand that the West rewards bluster with incentives and that the US State Department too often values process more than results.
“Rubin has a sober lesson for whoever cares to learn it: ‘The first casualty of engagement with rogues is moral clarity.'”
“Dancing with the Devil is a timely read. As the Obama administration spends more time at the negotiating table with Iran, its diplomats would be wise to study their history. Otherwise they may repeat it.”
“The book brilliantly underscores the urgency of grappling with, rather than skirting, the difficult issue of assessing a regime’s character.”
“With his timely new book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, Dr. Michael Rubin deconstructs over three decades of largely misguided diplomacy with Iran — the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
His brilliant study of engagement with bad actors is not limited to the Islamic Republic; Rubin crisscrosses the North Korean ‘Hermit Kingdom,’ Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Taliban movement, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Pakistan and a motley crew of assorted terrorist entities such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
Rubin’s policy prescriptions and insights into Iran’s behavior warrant intense examination. It is not too late for his analysis to inform the government officials and policy involved in the Iran talks.”
“In Washington, engagement is a word very much in vogue. While campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that the U.S. must ‘talk to its enemies’ and blasted his predecessor’s ‘ridiculous’ policy of shunning America’s worst adversaries. Since coming to office, Mr. Obama has followed through on his campaign vows, reaching out to Iran, Russia and China, to the chagrin of traditional allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Japan.
In Dancing With the Devil, Michael Rubin makes the opposite case: that engaging with rogue regimes often exacts heavier costs than not and, worse, can make war with them more likely. ‘Diplomats diving into negotiations with rogues,’ Mr. Rubin writes, ‘are like compulsive gamblers who, no matter how much they lose, believe that one more round might reverse their fortunes.'”
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