National Security, Swiss-Style
by Nick Bradley
by Nick Bradley
popular belief, history has repeatedly shown that societies do not
need full-time, government-funded militaries to defend themselves
a heavily-armed populace will suffice. Let us look at Switzerland.
Since 1291, Switzerland has defended itself through the use of a
heavily-armed populace and a robust militia. Throughout the past
800 years, the Swiss citizenry has defended their liberty against
threats both foreign and domestic.
against Taxes and Inflation
Thirty Years War, the Swiss Confederation was the only major power
to abstain from hostilities. As a result, the Swiss economy boomed
from the wartime drop in productivity, selling agricultural products
at high prices to war-ravaged countries (similar to the US agricultural
boom during World War One, with agricultural output almost doubling).
However, Swiss cities spent much of their resources building fortifications,
such as bastions,
to protect from invasion. The redirection of resources away from
productive, commercial endeavors towards security reduced the tax
base for the Cantonal governments. Additionally, the wars heavy
financial burden caused France and Spain to suspend payment to the
Cantons for mercenary services rendered.
In order to
maintain revenue, the Cantonal governments began raising taxes.
In order to keep wealth local, the city governments responded by
debasing their currencies to reduce the real amount of tax payments
to the Cantonal governments; Berne, for example, arbitrarily reduced
the value of the copper Batzen by 50%, while other areas
practiced coin clipping. At the same time, European agricultural
prices plummeted with the economies of southern Germany returning
to pre-war production levels. Swiss monetary authorities reacted
to the price reductions by further debasing the currency.
the Swiss peasantry demanded a return to previous levels of taxation
and an end to inflation, which Swiss authorities refused to do.
As a result, an armed Swiss peasant revolt swept through the country,
forcing authorities to eventually accede to their demands.
French Revolution, radical French ideology infected much of the
Swiss elite, particularly in the French-speaking Western Cantons.
Swiss leadership acceded to French demands in 1798 and established
the Helvetic Republic. The Radicals, backed by the occupying French
Army, abolished the Cantonal governments and established a centralized
state. The citizenry, particularly in the Catholic Cantons, rose
up and challenged the centralized state and the French military
presence through both armed and passive resistance. In 1803, Napoleon
introduced the Act of Mediation, which restored the Cantons and
removed all French troops from Switzerland.
In the 20th
Century, Switzerland deterred invasion and forced involvement in
both World Wars with its rugged terrain, a heavily-armed populace,
and a policy of relative non-intervention. Prior to WWI, the German
Kaiser asked in 1912 what the quarter of a million Swiss militiamen
would do if invaded by a half million German soldiers. In response
a man from Switzerland replied: "shoot twice and go home".
Nazi invasion of France, the Luftwaffe violated Swiss airspace over
200 times; the Swiss responded by forcing down Luftwaffe aircraft
and even shot down 11+ Luftwaffe aircraft. The Third Reich responded
by sending in saboteurs to destroy Swiss airfields, an unsuccessful
endeavor. Shortly thereafter, Hitler called the Swiss "the most
despicable and wretched people, mortal enemies of the new Germany"
and began immediate plans for the invasion of Switzerland, known
Operation Tannenbaum after it was realized that an invasion of Switzerland
was untenable, with 20% of the civilian population voluntarily mobilized
to defend the country including old men and young boys, with Swiss
women manning anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) pieces and running the
civil defense corps. The Third Reich also realized that there was
no central government to target, nullifying the strategy of blitzkrieg;
most Swiss citizens did not even recognize the authority of the
Federal President, and any surrender by the Federal Government would
have been ignored in the Cantons.
The Swiss also
defended their sovereignty against Allied aggression as well. After
US aircraft began accidentally bombing Swiss towns near the German
border, the Swiss Air Force enacted a policy of forcing down single
Allied aircraft and shooting at Bomber Formations (some have speculated
that the bombings were not accidental and were designed to force
Switzerland in the Alliance; during the war, the Swiss flaunted
Allied and Axis sanctions by smuggling to the surrounding Axis powers).
As accidental bombings persisted, the Swiss government declared
that any further accidental bombings would be declared acts of war.
Although Switzerland never declared war on the Allies, the Swiss
Air Force forced down 23 aircraft in a three-day period in July
of '44. In total, 1,700 US airmen were interred during the War and
a few US aircraft were even shot down (this chapter of WWII history
is entirely missing from US textbooks).
Model", American Revolutionary Principles, and Private Antiterrorism
Fathers of the American Revolution were inspired Swiss freedom.
John Adams praised the Cantonal system, which prevented a despotic
central government from emerging, gave citizens the right to vote
in local elections, and where every citizen had an inalienable right
to bear arms. Patrick Henry applauded the Swiss militia system for
preserving Swiss independence with the need for a "mighty and
splendid president." In fact, some
argue that the Swiss militia system was the inspiration for
our own Second Amendment.
efforts by the Swiss public over the years just goes to show that
voluntary self-defense efforts by a population can deter even the
most aggressive of enemies. What if we applied Swiss-style defense
here in the United States?
The US government
could arm all 90 million adult males, age 1864 with an M-16
and 1,200 5.56mm rounds (40 30-round magazines) for a one-time cost
of about 1% (7 1/2 billion dollars) of the cost of our current annual
combined security budget ($750B+). Terror threats could by quickly
identified by private intelligence agencies such as Total
Intelligence Solutions; voluntary civil defense corps would
begin patrols of neighborhoods and offer assistance/protection to
any victims if an attack actually occurred. If foreign retaliation
was necessary after a terrorist or military attack, private military
companies (PMCs), such as Blackwater
USA or Triple
Canopy, could rapidly expand their force strength by hiring
local militia units and collecting financial contributions from
corporations and patriots. Fourth-Generation
Warfare expert and creator of the Global
Guerillas blog, John
Robb, envisions a future privatized
there will be a series of attacks on U.S. soil. The first casualty
of these will be another institution, the ultrabureaucratic Department
of Homeland Security, which, despite its new extra-legal surveillance
powers, will prove unable to isolate and defuse the threats against
us. (Its one big idea for keeping the global insurgency at bay
building a fence between Mexico and the United States, proposed
in a recent congressional immigration bill will prove as effective
as the Maginot Line and the Great Wall of China.)
But the metaphorical
targets of September 11 are largely behind us. The strikes of
the future will be strategic, pinpointing the systems we rely
on, and they will leave entire sections of the country without
energy and communications for protracted periods. But the frustration
and economic pain that result will have a curious side effect:
They will spur development of an entirely new, decentralized security
system, one that devolves power and responsibility to a mix of
private companies, individuals, and local governments. This structure
is already visible in the legions of private contractors in Iraq,
as well as in New York's amazingly effective counterterrorist
intelligence unit. But as we look out to 2016, the long-term implications
will become a function of where you live and whom you work for,
much as health care is allocated already. Wealthy individuals
and multinational corporations will be the first to bail out of
our collective system, opting instead to hire private military
companies, such as Blackwater and Triple Canopy, to protect their
homes and facilities and establish a protective perimeter around
daily life. Parallel transportation networks evolving out of
the time-share aircraft companies such as
NetJets will cater to this group, leapfrogging its members from
one secure, well-appointed lily pad to the next. Members of the
middle class will follow, taking matters into their own hands
by forming suburban collectives to share the costs of security
as they do now with education and shore up delivery of critical
services. These "armored suburbs" will deploy and maintain backup
generators and communications links; they will be patrolled by
civilian police auxiliaries that have received corporate training
and boast their own state-of-the-art emergency-response systems.
As for those without the means to build their own defense, they
will have to make do with the remains of the national system.
They will gravitate to America's cities, where they will be subject
to ubiquitous surveillance and marginal or nonexistent services.
For the poor, there will be no other refuge.
is what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they called for a robust
militia, strong protection of the right to bear arms, and warned
against standing armies. With the removal of the false assurances
provided by the security state, Americans will need to take responsibility
for their own security personal security; we should follow the
fine example the Swiss have set, an example that inspired our own
is what Ron Paulstyle national security would look like.
[send him mail] is an analyst
in the United States Air Force and is currently pursuing an M.A.
in Strategic Intelligence at American Military University. Comment
on his blog, Confessions of
a Right-Wing Libertarian.
© 2007 LewRockwell.com