The good, the bad, and the ugly: Comparing the notions of 'rogue' and 'evil' in international politics

Anna Geis, Carmen Wunderlich
Content Type
Journal Article
International Politics
Issue Number
Publication Date
July 2014
Palgrave Macmillan
The identification and naming of an 'enemy' is an age-old element within foreign policy and (domestic) security policy discourses. It serves to stabilize speakers' benign conceptions of the self, to structure threat perceptions of 'the world outside' and to legitimate ultimately violent policy options. This article compares the notions of 'rogue' and 'evil' in order to analyse the political implications of such a use of derogative actor categories. The notion of 'rogue states' has played an important role in the security strategies of the US presidents Clinton and in particular George W. Bush and alludes to criminal law. 'Evil' has been a much older, religiously loaded concept and has been invoked in politics for describing the inconceivable, monstrous violence and destruction. While many liberal critics argue that one should abandon the metaphysical category of evil and dispose of the stigmatizing category of the 'rogue', this article concludes with the suggestion that a self-reflexive use of these categories can be instructive: It can make 'us' – the very modern secular liberals – think about ourselves, about responsibility and moral standards as well as about the fundamental ambivalence of our actions.
Political Geography
United States