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The definition of war, according to military scholar Gen. Carl von Clausewitz, is “an act of violence intended to compel [your] opponent to fulfill [your] will.” In other words, nation-states establish militaries so that they can force an opponent to do what they want. However, a military’s role can also be more complex than just fighting an enemy. Despite the fact that no major global war is currently being fought, many of the world’s nation-states still maintain large standing armies with hundreds of thousands of active military personnel. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, there are over 20 million military personnel on active duty throughout the world. If you take into account reserves and paramilitary forces, that number climbs to well over 60 million.

The first reason countries maintain large militaries is that nation-states cannot be too optimistic – they must be prepared for armed conflict and develop military capabilities according to their own unique threat environments. But the second reason is that national militaries often help maintain national unity.

Take China for example. China has a mass-mobilization army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), that was designed to fight a type of war that isn’t fought anymore. But the PLA is not just a military force – it is a political force too. It serves both as the ultimate guarantor of the Communist Party’s rule and it is an institution for advancement for poor Chinese young men with dismal prospects. The PLA has to be strong enough to fend off a potential attack from Russia or Japan – but before it can do that, the PLA must be part of the glue that holds China together. Without that stabilizing effect, China is at risk of fragmenting along regional lines, as it has numerous times through its history. Read more…

 

Published on 29 March in https://geopoliticalfutures.com

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