National Defence and Just Wars

Is State Military Action Ever Justified?

However much people may disagree on the how big the state should be, it is almost universally acknowledged that “national defence” – the protection of the citizenry from invasion by foreign states – is regarded not only as the primary function of the state but also its very raison d’être. Indeed, together with domestic security and protection from private criminals, such a function is joined at the hip with the state’s monopolistic use of force. Thus, it is difficult to imagine how, without this function, the state could exist as a distinct institution.

In this article, we shall examine whether “national defence” has any ability to serve the defensive needs of a state’s individual citizens. We will finish by considering whether any wars waged by states could be truly described as “just”.

National Defence and Collectivism

The first chink in the notion of “national defence” is that the primary concern of the individual is not for any such kind of defence at all. Rather, it is for the defence of his own person and property, in addition to the safety of his friends and family. However, if defence of his person or property is his main aim, then surely he has more to fear from his own state rather than from any potential foreign invader? After all, it is own state that taxes his income; it is his own state that has nationalised industries that he may use or work in; it is his own state that regulates what he may do, what he may put into his own body and any other voluntary actions he may choose to do with other consenting adults.

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