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Friday, March 5, 2010

"Uncle Eric" on the Swiss Defense

Another post from a previous blogging incarnation.
For quite some time, I've had a post "in process" that talks about our involvement in the Middle East, national defense, etc., and one of the points therein is that I prefer, overall, a "Swiss model" of national defense. The best short explanation of this concept that I have found has been in one of "Uncle Eric's" (Richard Maybury) books, World War I: The Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today, but as I do not own my own copy, I have not dwelt on it.

Well, as it happens, my oldest son borrowed the thing from the library, and I am going to share his material on the Swiss with you, counting on the fact that you will be inspired to go out and buy your own copy of this and others of Mr. Maybury's books. Any of Mr. Maybury's books is an education. That is not to say that I agree with every jot and tittle of what he writes, but you will emerge from your reading with a significantly improved understanding of the way the world works. So, without further ado:
Switzerland stayed out of the World Wars; yet Switzerland is smaller than Ohio in both population and area. How did the Swiss do it?

Their story is very enlightening, but not usually revealed in school textbooks. Consequently, many people today are unaware that Switzerland has a crucially important lesson to teach.

In Switzerland, a man joins the militia at age 20 and remains until age 50 (officers remain until age 55). A militia is all the able-bodied adult males of good character in the country. They are trained, equipped, and ready at all times to turn out for guerrilla operations.

Contrary to the unflattering picture of militias often painted by the news media, a militia is a military version of the volunteer firemen who are always trained and ready to turn out to fight fires.

Each Swiss militiaman trains regularly, much like the National Guard in the U.S. He keeps his battle rifle and ammunition in his home ready for immediate use.

Militia-guerrillas are trained to ambush privates and corporals only when a more valuable target is not available. They prefer colonels and generals.

Marksmanship is the Swiss national sport, and all Swiss militiamen are required to be expert marksmen. This means they are all qualified to be snipers, and the colonels and generals of surrounding nations know it.

There is an old saying, Switzerland does not have an army; Switzerland is an army. It is an entire nation of Minutemen.

In World War II, the Swiss militia numbered 850, 000, a fifth of the population. These were more troops than the U.S. Army had when the World Trade Center was destroyed.

Not bad for such a small country.

Under the six-to-one ratio, the Germans and Italians would have needed five million troops to successfully occupy that tiny nation. Facing 850, 000 snipers, the German generals decided they could invade, but they would never get out of Switzerland alive.


...Switzerland has long been famous for the effectiveness of its militia and for its heavily armed neutrality. If you will read FEDERALIST PAPERS number 20, 42, and 43 by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, you will find that in creating the American system, the Founders studied Switzerland. The Second Amendment and Tenth Amendment to the Constitution especially bear the imprint of Swiss thinking.

Nothing strikes terror into the heart of a general like the prospect of invading a country infested with snipers.

[snip] the time I write this letter, neutral Switzerland has not been in a war in two centuries.


...why don't all countries use this system? My guess: a militia-guerrilla force cannot be used to invade other people's homelands. Militiamen are only part-time soldiers. Because they have civilian jobs and families to take care of, a militia is strictly defensive, not offensive.

Also, most governments have so much power that their subjects (their citizens) hate them, and I am sure these rulers do not want their subjects to have weapons.

Today, if we used the militia-guerrilla system of defense required by the Second Amendment, the U.S. could field 50 million able-bodied males. This means an invader would need, at a minimum, 300 million troops.

All the armed forces of the rest of the world combined total less than 40 million.

Try to imagine invading a country infested with 50 million snipers.

Incidentally...let me point out the exact wording of the Second Amendment:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
The right "to keep and bear arms" clause gets most of the press, but notice that the militia clause comes first.

Also, notice that the militia clause does not say, "A well regulated militia, being optional for the security of a free State." It says "necessary."

In other words, the amendment does not give permission for a well-regulated militia; it requires one. The American Founders were no fools.

After all, it was the Pennsylvania flintlock rifle (invented by immigrant gunsmiths from Germany, incidentally) used as a sniper rifle that enabled Minutemen to keep the Redcoats from controlling America. British officers had a terrible fear of that rifle. Sniper Timothy Murphy is credited with winning the battle of Saratoga by killing both British commanders. With their leaders dead, the battle turned against the British.

[really big snip]

The one thing we can be sure about is that in both World Wars tiny Switzerland was surrounded by warring powers but was not invaded.


...besides being the most heavily armed population in the world, the Swiss also have one of the lowest crime rates. In a country where a well-trained soldier with a battle rifle resides in almost every home, criminals know that their careers will likely be short and painful.

Firearms deaths are rare, too. These people take guns seriously. The whole country is trained in their safe and proper use.

Summarizing the Swiss experience in World War II, the Swiss essentially delivered a message to Axis rulers, the same one they had been delivering to foreign rulers for centuries: yes, you can probably beat us eventually, but by that time we will have hunted down and killed your officers, your henchmen, and you.

Axis rulers left the Swiss porcupine alone.


Switzerland is not only a country, it is a citadel. Every village and every mountain pass is fortified. Every new house is built with a bomb shelter in the basement. The long, straight stretches of the expressways have been designed to do double-duty as military airstrips. The highway tunnels are bombproof hangars. Mountain caves are packed with enough food and ammunition for the whole population to conduct guerrilla operations for years.

To a tyrant, there is no place in the world as scary as Switzerland.


Nearly every book and movie about the World Wars omits Switzerland. The attitude of the writers seems to be, the Swiss were not in the wars, so they are not important; they are not part of the story.

To me, no country in the World Wars is more important than Switzerland. It is the example the others should be copying.
To my mind, the Swiss model of national defense is nothing short of brilliant.

There is only one thing wherein I question its effectiveness: in dealing with enemies who count their own lives of no significance. Deterrence works brilliantly when your enemies value their own lives, as most people do. But when your enemies are convinced that death in battle against you is a sure-fire ticket to paradise, deterrence is not as effective. Other strategies must come into play.

But would I employ this defense, were it in my power? Oh, you betcha.

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