“Conquests are illegitimate. But what happens when states do it anyway?"
Joseph's latest publication Denying the Spoils of War: The Politics of Invasion and Non-recognition (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), raises questions around why so many states adopt a position of non-recognition of gains from war.
There have been quite a few cases in the past where states have used force to either take hold of territory, create a new state or gain some political advantage. How has the international community reacted to this situation?
“States generally embrace a policy of non-recognition. Despite being proven ineffective as a coercive tool or deterrent, the international community has actively withheld recognition in numerous instances of territorial conquest since the 1930s.”
Joseph conducted archival research to evaluate states’ decision-making towards two major instances of non-recognition: the Japanese conquest of Manchuria and the establishment of Manchukuo in the 1930s, and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the subsequent declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
He also did a comparison with two cases where force was used but the results were recognised as legitimate: the Italian conquest of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and the Indian invasion of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
The cases revealed that non-recognition was aimed at maintaining the rule against aggression, by re-establishing the joint commitment of all states to the rule.