Ever since the late Cold War, Western militaries had been professionalizing. Argument was that an army of full-time professionals is more flexible, more capable and provides better return for investment, than massed territorial defense units or conscription system do. But this had been proven wrong: first in Homeland War in Croatia, and then in the current war in Ukraine.
Fact is, territorial defense units can be extremely effective in the defensive warfare. They know the terrain, they are highly motivated and are relatively cheap. As a result, they can easily and effectively take over more static defensive tasks, leaving the standing army units to act as a maneuver element. In defense, territorial units can hold the defensive positions while standing units act as a mobile reserve and a counterattack force. In offense, full-time army units will act as spearheads, penetrating enemy lines and cutting off various elements which can then be surrounded and destroyed piecemeal by the territorial units.
So what does this speak of Western militaries, which are almost exclusively comprised of professionals? With the exception of US, Swiss and maybe a few more countries, Western armies do not have the territorial defense elements. They rely almost exclusively on active and reserve elements of the professional army. The end result are relatively small militaries that are extremely powerful when on the offense, yet are also very expensive and lack serious capability for a protracted defensive war.
Overall, to provide a solid defense, organized militia is absolutely necessary, yet very few Western countries have it. The question is: why?
4 thoughts on “Need for Territorial Defense”
I think there are several issues regarding concription based system in western european countries. First, if we look at France, Germany, the UK, Italy etc, are under no invasion threat, and you can’t conduct foreign operations with conscripts. Then there is the issue of cost : you need to provide food, shelters, equipment, ammunition etc to a few hundreds thousand of people each year. And you have to add the cost of the professional army. You also have to take into account that all of these people aren’t contributing to the economy.
Then you have to keep you conscription system in good shape : that mean that at anytime, you need to be able to recruits several millions men, equip them, form the units and send them to the frontlines, and all of this under a week. It require a lot of organisation, everybody need to know there place, what they have to do.
For countries with a dangerous neighbour such as Russia, it make sense to at least maintain a conscription system, but for countries only interested in special ops in africa or patrolling the seas, I don’t think there is a need for a conscription system.
Agreed, although you should keep in mind that the Home Guard / militia / territorial defense system I had in mind also had many nonmilitary applications: disaster relief, community service and so on. Just look at everything Roman army did during peacetime, and it should give you some idea of what I’m talking about.
On one hand I note that the Swedish army until early 2000s would have been tough to crack and overall well designed with a very large supply of very good anti-tank weapons, local defense holding platoon and company sized strongpoints, large amounts of antitank mines, and a well trained artillery, all very focused on fighting Soviets and staying alive as long as possible (as in artillery shoot and scoot, camouflage and communication by wire, where the Ukrainians are deficient, perhaps because they are trained by US and UK)… and that fortified strong points still have a use (all concrete strongpoints were abandoned due onset of precision weapons following the Iraq war). So from that point of view one win for the Nordic conscription army.
On the other hand Sweden is barely Nordic anymore, especially if you look at young men, where in Sweden near half are not Swedish, and a large fraction hold fundamentalist islamic beliefs. Further up until 2 months ago being a white man was about the worse you could be in society so young men overall did not feel appreciated and instead play video games and watch porn… Is it possible to build cohesion ? I would say yes, but not in Sweden as of today.
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Agreed. Diversity destroys society by destroying cohesion, and army is only as strong as the society supporting it – especially an army based on the principle of territorial defense.