Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2022

Publication Title

George Mason International Law Journal


recognition, borders, foreign policy


This Article analyzes recent United States' recognition practice and attempts to decipher the United States' apparent shift in its recognition practice toward a realist approach and/or toward focusing on recognizing new borders. As outlined below, this Article concludes that United States' recognition practice, toward both new regimes as well as borders, seems to be driven by pragmatic concerns rooted in American foreign policy as well as American political and strategic interests in a given country or region. Thus, it may be inaccurate to discuss such recognition practices as realist or legitimacy-based in any normative sense; instead, it may be more prudent to approach recognition through the lens of foreign policy, pragmatism, and international politics.

In Part II, this Article discusses the concept of recognition by focusing on what recognition entails and why it matters. In Part III, this Article discusses the United States' history of recognition practices, including the so-called legitimacy-based approach and the realist or "de facto" approaches to recognition. In Part IV, this Article analyzes the United States' recognition practice in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict. In this section, the Article distinguishes between recognition of governments and recognition of borders to assess whether the United States has moved toward a more uniform realist approach toward the latter. This Article concludes that the U.S. recognition policy—whether of governments or borders—is rooted in pragmatism and foreign policy. In fact, the United States has recognized governments and borders when this has been consistent with American foreign policy toward the particular country or region. Thus, the United States' recognition policy seems to have oscillated between legitimacy and realism in cases of both government and border recognition practices. As this Article concludes, it would be incorrect to argue that the United States has adopted a realist approach toward recognition because of any normative values; instead, the various recognition approaches adopted by the United States, including the most recent one by the Trump Administration, have been driven by foreign policy interests and pragmatism.