Switzerland will just keep that military look.
December 2, 2001 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Switzerland will just keep that military look. Swiss voters reject proposal to do away with their Army. Interesting that the defense budget is almost 20% of the total federal budget. They are, of course, officially neutral. That's neutral, not pacifist.
posted by MAYORBOB (23 comments total)
Lots of interesting stuff in that piece. I quite like the idea of a law that forces a referendum if a petition gets X amount of signitures. I was also seriously surprised that their overall government budget was only $28 billion. That is nothing.
posted by RobertLoch at 5:34 PM on December 2, 2001

''The initiative ... aims to abolish an outdated institution that is a man's world where blind obedience and hatred of women still rule,'' the campaigners said.

posted by gd779 at 5:53 PM on December 2, 2001

If I remember correctly Switzerland's affection for the gun is actually comparable if not more than the US. A BBC article I read one is astounding.

The country has a population of six million, but there are estimated to be at least two million publicly-owned firearms, including about 600,000 automatic rifles and 500,000 pistols.

I remember not that long ago - it was right after 9.11 so not many probably took notice- A man massacred 14 in Switzerland. Parliament building he was a militiaman.
posted by plemeljr at 5:58 PM on December 2, 2001

Neutrality is an immoral position to take. It's also, usually, bullshit.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:18 PM on December 2, 2001

Neutrality my ass. They were the bankers of the Nazi's and knew it.
posted by Witold at 6:26 PM on December 2, 2001

I agree with RobertLoch that a referendum law is a good idea, but I don't think any politicians in the US would be eager to push for it, as previously discussed in metafilter it
can backfire against those who proposed it. I also believe the NDP had referendum legislation backfire on them when they where in power in BC, Canada.
posted by bobo123 at 6:27 PM on December 2, 2001

For the love of Heidi!
This begs the question for a clearer definition of neutrality, I think. A neutral country having an army/defense seems to be the least of it, and I certainly don't fault them for that. Switzerland, which I can find on a map if pressed (those are my credentials!), seems to be sticking with its "Neutral" status out of tradition (dare I say stubbornness).
On the other hand...
WWII aside, more recent arms deals with the Apartheid regime are being investigated. Neutral my pretty ass.
In my frustration I lost the point.
posted by G_Ask at 7:39 PM on December 2, 2001

Switzerland is not sticking with neutrality "out of tradition" - it's the law. Has been since the Peace of Westfalia in 1648.

(see here for more information)

Neutral states are not allowed to support a warring party in any way, or permit the armies of a beligerant state to cross its borders. Having a stout military is important for them. It need not be able to win, but it must be able to make it worth the effort to go around them.

Nazi gold? Yeah, well, they took gold from anyone who had it to deposit - they were neutral, so weren't in a position to say no to anyone. Deals with SA? They sell to lots of countries - and it's fine (consistent with neutrality, that is), as long as those countries aren't at war.

It may not always be popular, but the handful of neutral states in the world provide important offices and good ballance to the world (Cold War Sweden is a prime example of this...).
posted by bobd at 8:25 PM on December 2, 2001

Just because they haven't been involved in an actual conflict in centuries doesn't mean they don't have the right to self-defence.

Granted, I am not Swiss, but I fail to see what the problem is with them having a fairly obvious deterent to attack.
posted by ilsa at 10:10 PM on December 2, 2001

Ever since they added the corkscrew to their knives they've been a pretty unstoppable military force. No one's going to say no to that.
posted by jga at 11:06 PM on December 2, 2001

<thickheaded American stereotyping>

Their army needs money to pay for the ammo they use to shoot the holes in all that cheese. Plus they have to defend all those watches and chocolates.

</thickheaded American stereotyping>
posted by MonkeyMeat at 1:29 AM on December 3, 2001

"I quite like the idea of a law that forces a referendum if a petition gets X amount of signitures." OREGON has this law and us citizens use it all the time. We use it to get rid of laws our legislature lays on us and to get stuff we want, like the lottery. It has been used many times in the last 15 years to lower income and property taxes. Would'nt consider living without the initiative petition.
About that neutrality thing: "when you decide not to decide you have made a decision", although it's rather obscure to me right now.
posted by Mack Twain at 1:39 AM on December 3, 2001

> Neutrality my ass. They were the bankers of the Nazi's
> and knew it.

Well, naturally. They're very chummy with anybody who has money. Is there a bloody dictator anywhere in the world who doesn't have a Swiss bank account? I doubt it.
posted by jfuller at 6:32 AM on December 3, 2001

Neutrality my ass. They were the bankers of the Nazi's and knew it.

Well, duh. Isn't that what neutrality means? That they'll do business with anyone? If they'd said no to the Nazi's, then they wouldn't have been neutral.

I think what you're getting at is Paris's point that neutrality is immoral.
posted by straight at 7:09 AM on December 3, 2001

Dollars (francs, krona, *insert your choice of currency here*) are not neutral. Bobd-- I failed to stress that I was referring more to the Swiss people, not the powers that be, re sticking to neutral position traditionally. It is a great source of pride (understandably, IMO). re neutral countries not allowing "belligerent" states to cross its borders. The nazis using Swedish territory comes to mind. That neutral countries cannot in any way support a warring party; do you mean to say except financially? Except to provide goods?
posted by G_Ask at 8:34 AM on December 3, 2001

You know, as late as Autumn 1943, Germany was whipping Europe's ass. Not to start a history debate, but had they not taken on the USSR and had diplomatically engaged the US, there is a good possibility that Germany would have won that war. The Swiss are not known for huge gambles with potentially dangerous enemies who could very well have ended up controlling the entire region.

Also remember that Switzerland, Austria and Alpine Germany are geographically contiguous and culturally similar. That goes a long way toward generating positive responses in tough times. Plus, not all Germans were slavering Hitlerites, and the most monstrous aspects of WWII (to wit: death camps) weren't widely known until late in the war.

It is one thing to speculate on what the Swiss should have done from the vantage of 50+ years, it is another to live in "interesting" times and make decisions that could result in very sharp, immediate consequences.

I think neutrality is amoral, not immoral. And rightly so. Morality is ephemeral, speculative, subjective - and mostly verbal, under pressure from real events. The Swiss made a bad decision absent of good information while under stress. I have done the same. Have you?
posted by UncleFes at 8:46 AM on December 3, 2001

G_Ask - There is a huge difference between letting a citizen of a country conduct business on his/her behalf and dealing in war contraband. While a Waffen SS officer was checking his account in one bank window in Geneva, there was quite possibly a Rabbi from Koblenz checking his in the next. Same currency, totally different situations. My dollars are neutral, my countries dollars are not. It's an important distinction.

Neutral states bear the obligation to try all they can to keep their borders intact - being over-run is not the same as entering into an alliance.

In any case, Swedish neutrality is not the same as Swiss neutrality (or post ~1952 Austrian neutrality). They are neutral as a matter of foreign policy, and it is not a legal status recognized by the international community. That being said, having declared neutrality in a conflict, they do bear the responsibility of keeping their borders intact, or suffer greatly in trying (as they did - same with many states in Europe in that time).

Neutral contries (both legals and policy neutrals) can not engage in the assistance of a *state* who is a recognized beligerant in a conflict. As a citizen of that state, I can conduct business there for myself though.

Neutral states will also act as diplomatic intermediaries for states involved in conflicts that have resulted in the severing of diplomatic ties, provide consular services for citizens of states involved in conflict, and host diplomatic meetings between conflicting states to further a peace or disarmament process (eg, the vast number of arms reduction meetings that took place between the US and USSR in Vienna).

Neutrality policy is a subject that is not covered very often. It's pretty esoteric, actually. If you're interested in more info, have a look around for Prof. Dr. Hanspeter Neuhold from the University of Vienna. He writes in German, French and English, and is a recognized authority on the subject.
posted by bobd at 10:10 AM on December 3, 2001

jga is right....i wouldn't mess with the Swiss if i were you.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:21 AM on December 3, 2001

Swiss women got the right to vote on the national level only in 1971. In two cantons, they have only participated in democratic life since the early 1990s.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:28 AM on December 3, 2001

Yeah, but military service is optional for women, as opposed to cumpulsory for men. Quite unfair :)
posted by UncleFes at 11:26 AM on December 3, 2001

You might think a referendum law is a good thing but the implications can be pretty 'grave'. Laugh your way to death!

Canadian Internet Voters Throw Support Behind 'Doris Day'
posted by srboisvert at 12:04 PM on December 3, 2001

plemeljr: Before dragging in the outliers to serve your agenda, you might also wish to mention that, with all those "evil" guns around, Switzerland has one of the lowest violent crime rates in all the world
posted by jammer at 12:40 PM on December 3, 2001

Thank you for your posts and information. If I didn't make it clear in the first post, I have no problem with the Swiss army/defense. A tad ridiculous, even, to suggest she should not, IMO.
I was, of first post, responding to the "neutral, not pacifist" comment. I responded from a gut level and romantic pursuit of a more realized neutral state (as I see fit, naturally) which has little or nothing to do with international law or lack thereof pertaining to such status.
If my comments were taken as calling the Swiss govt war criminals, then I have unfairly spoken up on the topic.
As she sees fit to redefine her neutrality to meet the everchaning international politcal canvas, my hopes, then, would be that she does so with the knowledge and hindsight of her past planted firmly abreast.
Thank you for the link, as well, I will wade through the reference when I'm more alert.
posted by G_Ask at 8:36 PM on December 3, 2001

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