Why States No Longer Declare War

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24 Scopus citations


Why have states stopped issuing declarations of war? Declaring war was a norm of international politics for millennia, but now appears to have exited states' behavioral repertoires. I argue that the proliferation of codified jus in bello, the law of war governing belligerent conduct, has created disincentives for states to issue formal declarations of war. The increasing number of codified international laws that govern belligerent conduct during warfare has made complying with the laws of war extremely costly. One way for states to limit these costs is to avoid admitting they are in a formal state of war by refraining from declaring war. I test this claim, as well as others, using an original data set. I also discuss several cases of nineteenth and twentieth century wars that illustrate the logic of this argument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-593
Number of pages37
JournalSecurity Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Tanisha M. Fazal is associate professor of Political Science at Columbia University. Her book, State Death: The Politics and Geography of Conquest, Occupation, and Annexation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007) won the 2008 Best Book Award of the American Political Science Association’s Conflict Processes Section. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Ford Foundation, among others. She has been a fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University. In 2002 she was awarded the Helen Dwight Reid Award of the American Political Science Association.


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