- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

GENEVA Switzerland has not been at war for two centuries, but it firmly believes that its costly "citizens army" is not a waste of time or money.
Rallying around the slogan "No army no Switzerland," the Swiss once again have defeated a campaign to disband the army as a pointless relic of the past, particularly in the post-Cold War era.
The decision to continue compulsory military service was made earlier this month in a referendum a time-sanctioned method of deciding major and often minor issues affecting this neutral Alpine nation of 6 million people.
It is not an army in a classical sense.
Every able-bodied male citizen up to the age of 50 or 55 depending on his rank is a soldier. After an initial boot camp of 118 days, he remains a "soldier at home" with periodic call-ups.
A group known as "the elite" those between the ages of 20 and 32 undergoes 20 days of supplementary training each year. The frequency decreases with age.
A Swiss citizen-soldier keeps his automatic rifle, ammunition, helmet and uniform at home.
Accidents involving weapons are rare.
The system thus has entwined civilian and military lives and reduced the permanent military cadres to fewer than 10,000 men.
"Switzerland does not have an army it is an army," quipped a career officer.
The Swiss boast that they can mobilize 625,000 men in less than 48 hours a European record but one that has not been tested since the start of World War II.
Many Swiss believed it was their readiness and their entrenchment in Alpine bastions that prevented a Nazi invasion.
The present Swiss military doctrine is still based on a statement by former Defense Minister Kaspar Villiger that "without its army, anyone could simply walk over Switzerland."
The image of an insular, alpine bastion has evolved in recent years.
The Swiss have approved the concept of joint maneuvers with NATO forces and, in yet another referendum last June, narrowly agreed to arm Swiss soldiers taking part in international peacekeeping missions.
Banks and insurance companies encourage their executives to strive for higher military ranks.
Some 1,000 employees of the giant Union Bank of Switzerland hold senior army ranks, serving up to 1,513 days during their 35-year commitment.
The army is Switzerland's second-largest land owner. It maintains a maze of tunnels and fortifications filled with state-of-the art hardware. Some of its uniforms are made at home by women in mountain villages at an average cost of $200.
Because of the multilingual nature of the country, there are separate units speaking French, Swiss German and Italian. The training is strictly defensive.
When fully mobilized, the Swiss can expect to muster three field corps, each having three divisions, and a special mountain corps. The army has 33 arsenals scattered around the country.
Those calling for an end to compulsory military service have met fierce resistance from an estimated 1.5 million soldiers and ex-soldiers who enjoy the camaraderie of mountain maneuvers away from their offices, shops and factories.
Feelings are so strong that a bank in the city of St. Gallen recently refused to open an account for the Movement for a Switzerland Without an Army.
A soldier called up for service receives the equivalent of $3 a day, plus compensation for loss of salary and an allowance for his family up to $84 a day. The critics of military service claim that interruptions because of the continuing call-ups cost the country an estimated $2 billion a year.

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