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A declaration is broadly defined as a formal, explicit, public announcement of a decision. According to this definition then, a declaration of war is a formal, explicit, public announcement of a decision to go to war. Although certainly true, such a definition is inadequate. More fully, a declaration of war is a performative speech act, as defined by philosopher John Austin. As such, three roles or functions are required to enact a declaration of war. In temporal sequence, these are as follows:

  • A decision to go or not to go to war must be made, preferably by a constitutionally recognized, legitimate declarer of war.
  • A formal and explicit text must be drafted that explains and justifies the decision, preferably by a constitutionally recognized, legitimate declarer of war.
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