Christian Bühlmann (2013) "Defense through Insurrection : A Simple Model of Swiss Concepts (1815-1989)"

Christian Bühlmann (2013) "Defense through Insurrection : A Simple Model of Swiss Concepts (1815-1989)"
30 Aoû

Christian Bühlmann (2013) "Defense through Insurrection : A Simple Model of Swiss Concepts (1815-1989)" in Vautravers, Alexandre, Matwe Goulding (Eds), Counterinsurgency - Security Forum 2011, Geneva: Webster University (52-73), Internet:



Since 2001, Counter Insurgency (COIN) has become, once again, a major research topic within the field of security studies. Searchers are mostly trying to identify way and means to defeat an insurrection. Understanding how to use insurrection to gain political leverage is not a priority. However, insurrection had also been envisioned as a form of Territorial Defense, mostly for small states. This article uses Swiss historic reflections on defense through insurrection to support a simple strategic model of conflicts. This simple model allows for a simple and fast evaluation of “the kind of war on which one is embarking”, not only for regular conflict types, but also irregular ones.

Based on an understanding of military strategy as the use of coercion for conflict resolution, this contribution suggests linking the (1) elements of physical, military, constraint, (2) armed forces capabilities and (3) actors’ strategic doctrines. By analyzing military culture as a choice between means of coercion, as well as a choice between of forms of symmetry, dissymmetry or asymmetry, it becomes possible to identify perennial lines in the strategic discourse. Specifically, this contribution explores modern Swiss (military) strategic culture as “a consistent and persistent set of ideas pertaining to the use of armed force and the role of military institutions, specific to a given socio–historical context, that a community nurtures.” Within the context of insurrection and the use of its armed force, modern Switzerland has experienced a perennial dialectic between two perspectives: the first one understands the military as a counter–insurgency instrument or, more generally, as a counter–rioting device against violent non–state actors, including, in some case, part of its own population. The second one angle considers insurrection as a military instrument for defense; thus defense through insurrection is nothing more than a small war waged by partisans, and parts of the army, which oppose a foreign military occupation force. Therefore, it shall not be considered under the lens of a revolutionary war, intending to win the heart and minds of the population: the Swiss strategists had assumed that they would blend with the army against the invader.

This article is built upon a three parts: (1) the succinct presentation of three Swiss historical military conceptions, incorporating elements of guerrilla warfare, developed between 1815 and 2005, (2) the introduction of a simple model that is (3) applied to the three cases described above.


Cest article est une adaptation et un développement de mon article de 2011 "La guérilla dans la doctrine militaire suisse"