The George W. Bush administration resorted to war to respond to the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, whereas it virtually ruled out the use of force to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. By utilizing various strands of realist international relations theories, we trace motivations behind the administration’s divergent foreign-policy choices toward rogue states. That the United States rushed to war against Iraq while procrastinating on North Korea presents a puzzle to conventional realism, which postulates that great powers observe changes in relative capabilities and respond accordingly. We argue that policy differences should be embedded in discussion of the administration’s foreign-policy grand strategy, which sought to sustain the hegemonic status of the United States in the world. Iraq and North Korea had different implications for Bush’s grand strategy, thereby calling for different approaches. By tracing the strategic design of the Bush administration, we attempt to provide a more complete account of policy differences toward rogue states, as well as indicate the significant changes in US policy during the George W. Bush administration and since.


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pp. 239-257
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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