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The idea of the armed neutrality of the United States was originally put forth by President George Washington in his 1796 Farewell Address when he advised against “permanent alliances.” President Thomas Jefferson extended Washington’s ideology in his 1801 inaugural address, stating that one of the “essential principles of our government” is that of “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”
In 1823, President James Monroe presented what would eventually be called “the Monroe Doctrine,” stating that European intervention in the affairs of nations of the Western hemisphere would be viewed as a threat to the security of the United States, and conversely, the United States promised to refrain from involvement in European affairs.
Just 19 years after Washington’s Farewell Address, and only 14 years after Jefferson’s Inaugural Address, the people of Switzerland were inspired by the Union of States in the Americas and created their own Union of Cantons (States) in 1815 in order to provide unity and strength so that their cantons would profit more with their economic interests merged together as the Swiss Confederation.
The Swiss drew up their own Constitution which provided for a federal layout, much of it inspired by the American example. Thus, Switzerland, with the oldest continuing policy of armed neutrality in the world, has not participated in a foreign war and has avoided any alliance that might entail military, political, or direct economic action since their neutrality was originally established.
In 1912, the Swiss Army had 281,000 men and could call up an additional 200,000 auxiliary troops to defend it’s borders. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany visited Switzerland that year, and in an oft quoted conversation, the kaiser queried what the quarter of a million Swiss Army would do if faced with an invasion by half a million Germans. Swiss President Ludwig Forrer allegedly replied, “Shoot twice and go home.”
Where the United States went astray was with their rise as an empire during the Spanish American War, and to a global super-power by the end of World War II. The United States would abandon both Washington’s Doctrine of Unstable Alliances and the Monroe Doctrine, signing on to multiple military alliances, most chiefly NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and then resort to diplomatic and military interventionism, engaging in virtually every overseas armed conflict since. We now find ourselves concerned with the current situation along the Russian/Ukrainian border.
The United States currently spends $770 billion per year on its defense budget, more than the rest of the top-ten national defense budgets combined. With a U.S. population of 331,893,745 people, that breaks down to an annual cost of $2,320.02 per U.S. citizen. We do this so that the United States can assert its policies upon the rest of the world and then fight a two-front war should those policies fail.
In contrast, number 36-ranked Switzerland only spends $5.984 billion for its defense budget. Switzerland only has to worry about defending its sovereignty and relies more upon the ideal as stated by Thomas Jefferson of “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” Note that no nation is currently threatening Switzerland militarily, and no nation has acted with hostility against Switzerland for more than 200 years.
With a Swiss population of 8,570,146 people, their defense budget breaks down to an annual cost of just $698.24 per Swiss citizen. Imagine the infrastructure that could be built or repaired in the United States with $764 billion a year. Imagine a possible reduction in your annual tax burden by up to about $1,621 per person, and what you could do with your money if you weren’t extorted to financially support the United States being the Policemen of the World.
Switzerland is neutral, and every nation on the planet respects their neutrality. It seems that the Swiss managed to embrace the ideals of early United States foreign policies and stuck with those ideals, while the United States, the creator of those ideals, has lost its way.
Article 54 of the current Swiss Constitution declares the safeguarding of Switzerland’s independence and welfare as the principal objective of Swiss foreign policy. Furthermore, the Swiss Constitution specifies these foreign policy objectives:
– alleviate need and poverty in the world;
– promote respect for human rights and democracy;
– promote the peaceful coexistence of peoples;
– promote preservation of natural resources.
These objectives reflect the Swiss moral obligation to undertake social, economic and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss assistance to developing countries and support for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian law.
Imagine if the United States, with the economic power of its GDP, were to focus its military on defending the United States, leaving the rest of the world to sort their problems out on their own, while we invested more into ourselves? I believe that is the America that I want to leave for my children and their children.