For the records. I’m Swiss and, overall, I did spend roughly one year in the Swiss Army, which functions according to a militia principle. I was 19 and at that time I did agree with their (not negotiable) suggestion to have me signed into corporal school. I did regret my (not negotiable) signature from the first week of corporal school.
I would like to note a few things. First, because of my background, I have some experience with the Swiss Army and what it entails to be an Angehörige der Armee (German for, a member of the army). Second, this is 10 years ago. Third, I have no upset relationship with the Swiss Army, I just think, it is superfluous, at least as an army intended as a vehicle of war.
Switzerland has an internationally recognized policy of neutrality. This means, the army cannot take part in armed conflicts in other countries. The Swiss Army is, hence, intended for defense of the country and its citizens in the event of civil war or military attacks by other countries. Beside defense, the Swiss Army has other missions, internationally as well as nationally, e.g. involvement in some international peacekeeping missions, ensure security at events hosted by Switzerland, disaster relief, to name a few.
Let’s take a look at the non-defense missions. I believe, professionally trained police corps are sufficient and more efficient to ensure security in Switzerland. Disaster relief is in my opinion the most important mission, at least since the 19th century and I believe, in many occasions the man and infrastructure power of the army has been useful, if not critical. For this goal, no weapons and no classical military training are needed though. Also, with natural catastrophes rising in frequency and extent, I wonder if professional training would be more efficient. Internationally, the goal of peacekeeping is laudable and important. Some military training is probably useful for this, but I question the necessity of weapons, at least anything above one that is necessary and sufficient for personal defense. I believe, for non-defense missions, for but a few military training and skills in weapon handling are necessary and the variety of weapons could likely be reduced to hand guns only and a set of less-lethal weapons.
What about the defense missions? Civil war or national riot. If I have to be honest, I would assess this as very unlikely, the event of civil war extremely unlikely. However, it is of course possible, and in the event I think, police is sufficient. What about an attack by another country? Again, to be honest, I believe it very unlikely, but I might be too much of an optimist here. So let’s assume a country declares war to Switzerland. In my opinion, which indeed suggests that the Swiss Army as a vehicle of war is superfluous, the existence of the Swiss Army in such an event is entirely irrelevant, i.e. it would, in fact, be inexistent. To support this argument, a few thoughts, one at macro scale and one at micro scale. At macro scale, I believe, every country with a realistic potential to successfully attack and harm Switzerland has enough military power to force Switzerland to its knees within days, if not hours. At micro scale, speaking of myself, there is no way I feel trained to defend myself or anybody else in the event of war. Worse, such an order goes fundamentally against my principles: I do not fire a bullet to prevent a bullet is fired at me. I do not think, I would even stand the psychological pressure of war, whether defending or attacking. Sure, I have been trained to charge, fire and discharge a SIG SG 550 but I don’t want to have and I truly haven’t the slightest idea what the same actions mean in war. I do believe, most men and women of the Swiss militia feel somewhat similar which is why, at macro scale, I argue the system would not work. Why does the US have the most powerful army? Sure, they invest billions, but this is only one side of the story. US soldiers get the training under real conditions.
Interestingly, during WWII, Hitler predicted that Switzerland would be “liquidated” and that he would be known as “the butcher of the Swiss.” Though, the liquidation never happened, not even an attempt, apparently because of the very militia system, an army that “was under orders to fight to the last bullet, and after that, with his bayonet, and after that, with his bare hands. Rather than having to defeat an army, Hitler would have had to defeat a whole people.” Today, considering the growing number of voices who oppose the requirement to custody the personal assault rifle at home, the recent changes in the requirement to keep a set of bullets at home and the move by some Cantons to provide public spaces to store the rifle securely outside home, this sentiment to fight to the last bullet feels to be one of a past generation, perhaps one of a soon to be extinct politics of obedience.
This is good so. In my opinion, the voice of the Swiss Army would be nationally and internationally much more powerful and relevant, indeed a model, if we would have a weapon-free army. Today, a weapon-free army might be an oxymoron. Tomorrow, it is a necessary step in evolution, perhaps what the history books will recount as the Independence Day of humanity.