War Is Declared?

When was the last time one nation actually officially declared war? I can’t think of one since WWII.

Do countries not do this anymore?

The paperwork may be hard to check but I believe Iraq and Iran had formal declarations of war against each other in 1979.

I also think that Egypt had a lengthy official state of war with Israel.

However, no one seems to be waiting around for official declarations before starting hostilities.

I’ve wondered a lot about this. The most recent occasion I can remember was when Manuel Noriega declared war on the United States, but I’m not sure if that really counts, since I don’t know if Noriega had any authority under Panamanian law to do so.

I also hear vague references to a formal state of war still existing between North and South Korea, but then I also recall that there never was a state of war during the Korean Conflict of the early 50s. So I suppose war is defined in the region as “when there isn’t any shooting going on”. Or maybe I don’t have all the facts. Maybe we should ask Cecil.

One question I’ve always had is, do both sides need to declare war, or is one enough. I mean, the U.S. and Japan both declared war on each other in December 1941, but I don’t think we ever declared war on Germany. Hitler did that for us.

Well I know after German declared war on us, we returned the favour. I just think that the idea of actually declaring war seems to be an outmoded concept (outmoded??)

Declarations of war (used to, at least) have specific legal functions. Yes I know, “legal” sounds like a strange term in connection with two nations trying to annihilate one another; but bear with me.

Internally, a declaration of war by a government allows that government to take special steps that would be illegal under peacetime laws. Things like security measures, inducting soldiers into the army, establishing military authority, etc. It goes all the way back to the Roman republic, when a declaration of war offically put aside the peacetime laws and allowed a dictator to rule by martial law.

Externally, a declaration of war was a notice to one’s enemy that the belligerents were no longer bound by the treaties and agreements they might have had in peacetime. It also served notice to neutral parties that things like blockades that might effect non-combatant nations were in the offing.

(I had to break this post into two parts, since for some reason my browser chokes on long replies).

It isn’t that nations are too cynical to bother declaring war anymore, such much as that developments since WWII have altered the way nations deal with each other. The United Nations’ charter specificly says that it’s purpose is to abolish war, and in theory anyway the member nations are bound to respect that. The fact that the United States and the Soviet Union had nuclear arsenals and could have blown up the world if they had ever come to all-out war was another strong factor.

So mainly it’s that as a liberal ideal, no nation is ever supposed to go to war at all. But since peace is still an elusive goal, fighting takes place and they simply don’t call it a war anymore. Lots of civil conflicts, guerilla movements, and of course “responding to agression” (since the UN does permit any nation to defend itself- “defend” being open to definition).


Great post(s).

I searched when the question was posed and found nothing post WWII. I have seen reference to a state of war existing between the Koreas as well as Arab states and Israel, but I can’t actually dig up any references to a declaration of war. First thing I searched specifically was the Falklands War and came up zero. I also thought I remembered a declaration of war between Iraq and Iran, but I didn’t find it.

So, in a way, the search might be for some state observing what has now become a quaint custom of actually declaring war. As Lumpy points out, there are some concrete effects of declaring a state of war. But we have conducted much “war” since WWII w/o any declarations thereof, as has the rest of the world.

Are we truly better off in a world of war without “War”? I think not.