Past Programs

Principle and Practice in Diplomatic Recognition: A Lyceum in Two Parts

Ed Lane
December 6 & 13, 2015



Many nations around the globe experience government change  by civil war, revolution, insurgency, etc., not by a democratic process.   But this is not new.  In a timeline of world history change by ballot  rather than bullet is the exception rather than the rule.

The question we face—particularly in the Middle East today—is whether and, if so, when to recognize a new government that has  taken power.  Is how it came to power a factor in whether or not to recognize it?  Why do we recognize a country?  The answer to that may seem obvious but it isn’t.  Is it appropriate or wise to use recognition or on-recognition as a political tool?  What are the principles for making those decisions, and do our decisions follow or contradict those principles?  

When Ed was a magazine editor in 1956 he was present at an Associated Church Press interview with Secretary of State John  Foster Dulles.  You may be surprised at Secretary Dulles’ “off the record” response to Ed’s question about his strongly stated principle of recognition de facto in his book, War Or Peace published in 1950 but the policy of recognition de jure followed by the Eisenhower administration when he was Secretary of State from 1953-59.

On December 6 we’ll look at the history, the principles, and the practice of recognition from Thomas Jefferson, our first Secretary of State, down to the present time.  We’ll note how the policy reshaped during the 30-year debate over China from 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek was defeated by Mao Zedong, to 1979, when the People’s Republic of China was recognized by Jimmy Carter.
On December 13 we’ll note the ways in which our policy of  nonrecognition contributed to (even created?) the crises in Vietnam, Cuba, and Iran.