Classical liberals and libertarians view war as a terrible engine of destruction, oppression, and government growth, holding with James Madison that “Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” But libertarianism does not imply pacifism. Most libertarians have recognized that war, although evil, is at times a necessary evil. For the libertarian, then, the issue of war powers presents two questions: When is going to war justified? Who should have the authority to decide?

The first question is harder to answer than the second. Although libertarianism proscribes the initiation of force, it approves of self-defense. Because the legitimate state is an organization for collective self-defense, made necessary in part ...

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