Can Switzerland be broken up?
As Libya’s Gaddafi is getting ready to speak before the UN General Assembly, we thought it is time to consider that question more seriously. His foreign minister, after all, will preside the body for the next year. And Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, probably fed-up with all the diplomatic tact and boring dark suits, proposed tobreak up Switzerland, in case you missed it. The place is “a world mafia, not a state,” he said. A couple of months ago the German finance minister, Peer Steinbrück, had already proposed to send the cavalry to do away with the money-launderers in the Alps.
We Europeans, you will understand, take all things UN very seriously. Sure, Switzerland entered the UN in 2002. But that bunch of cantons never applied for EU membership. As a result it looks like a bird dropping on Europe’s neat map. Now Gaddafi proposed to “wipe it off.” Right. To break it up and give the French part to the French, the German part to the Germans, and that one Italian canton to the Italians. Sounds good, you might think (if you’re not Swiss or Italian).
So, can it be done? Our analysis: forget it.
The drag starts with the casus belli already. You need a reason for going to war, or at least it helps. At first glance, the “safe haven” trick might work: the Swiss live on inaccessible, landlocked mountains; many have long bushy beards; they hate foreigners; they don’t let their womenfolk vote (at least not until recently); every other village seems to have its own funny language; they quarrel amongst each other; everybody has a gun at home; and there’s a big supply of religious nuts. Problem is, there’re no terrorists.
OK, you could say they are a financial safe haven. After all they bunker loads of secret money. Germany tried to go down that road and had Switzerland put on an OECD black list for rogue states. Problem is, that won’t get you Article 5 and NATO support. So no invasion there.
Well, you’ll think, screw terrorism and NATO and do the WMD thing. Bern, Baghdad? Clearly they are messing with nuclear power plants. They have dodgy high-tech factories all over the place, surely some of them mobile. It should be easy to find tons of aluminum tubes. And they can ship all sorts of things to London in 45 minutes. Problem is — World War I, World War II — they never attacked anybody.
Good. So ignore the casus belli. Who needs that anyway? Think operational. But here the real headache only begins. You think insurgency is new? Recent field manuals? Swiss Wanderhackbauernharassed European powers well before Americans could start their own insurgency against the British. Back then. Erasmus of Rotterdam already called them “butchers” in the early 1500s (veluti carnifex quispiam ad lanienam precio emptus). Swiss officers have been publishing insurgency manuals since the 1950s. With a 450-years delay, you might think. Well, they might be slow, but they mean business (Der totale Widerstand).
Yeah, doctrine, you’ll say, history, pah — what counts is action. But here it gets even worse. Ever heard of the Réduit? Switzerland is probably the only country that has a national security strategy of insurgency. In the case of war, ruthless mountain warriors would harass the enemy in what they call Middle Earth, probably a deterrent hint to Mordor, and maintain their sovereignty in the Zentralraum, as the generals called it in 1940. The Swiss have the means to resist, such as fighter jets hidden in steep mountains walls, ready to swoop out, and they have the will to resist — after all tiny Switzerland deterred the Wehrmacht. Korengal will be a cakewalk against Appenzell.
So go ahead, Gaddafi, send Hannibal to the Alps. We’ll sit and watch the fun.