Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Um, Yeah, I'm Gonna Need You To Go Ahead And Shoot That Guy

Switzerland, alongside its chocolate and watches and banks and army knives, is famous for being a synonym for neutrality. As you're probably aware, this is a position they withdrew into after abolishing, in the mid-1800's, their previous reputation as the planet's most feared army-for-hire. Aside from being the Pope's bodyguards, they now satisfy themselves with being ready to defend the easily-defended Swiss borders just in case something goes down nearby, taking a scorched-earth mentality if all else fails, which so far it hasn't. And given that their particular neighborhood is pretty peaceful and everyone respects their neutrality, they're largely left to just go about their business.

Which is why it's become rather interesting to some that they're drawing up military exercises. (Before you start, no, Switzerland isn't in the EU, so stow the Peace Prize talk.) There may not be a war going on around them, but a financial crisis sure is, and people tend to lose their composure when vast amounts of money are at stake. The Swiss government has become worried enough about economic unrest potentially bringing refugees over the borders that the military conducted exercises last month called 'Stabilo Due', involving 2,000 troops in eight cities around the country. The defense minister, Ueli Maurer, can't rule out a need for the army..

...although he is the defense minister. The concern exists that this may be just an excuse for the Swiss military to justify itself. Service in Switzerland is mandatory, and the army is called upon occasionally in situations that could easily be handled by the police. One former soldier, speaking to, said that soldiers were encouraged to fire a lot in training. According to him, "That meant: 'Use up everything, have fun, if we don't use it all up they're going to think we need less and cut the budget."

How many times have you seen that happen around the office.

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