Note: Visit of President Johnson in Vietnam // WhiskeyRebellion // WhiskeyRebellion
Supreme authority over the military belongs to the Federal Council, which is the Swiss collegial head of state. Nothwithstanding the previous sentence, under the Constitution, the Federal Council can only, in the operational sense, command a maximum of 4,000 soldiers, with a time limit of three weeks of mobilisation. For it to field more service personnel, the Federal Assembly must elect a General (see below) who is given four stars. Thus, the General is elected by the Federal Assembly to give him the same democratic legitimacy as the Federal Council.
In peacetime, the Armed Forces are led by the Chief of the Armed Forces (Chef der Armee), who reports to the head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports and to the Federal Council as a whole. The Chief of the Armed Forces has the rank of Korpskommandant or Commandant de corps (OF-8 in NATO equivalence).
In a time of declared war or national emergency, however, the Federal Assembly, assembled as the United Federal Assembly, specifically for the purpose of taking on the war-time responsibilities elect a General as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces under Article 168 of the Constitution. While The General acts as the highest military authority with a high degree of autonomy, he is still subordinate to the Federal Council (See Articles 58, 60, 174, 177, 180 & 185). The Federal Assembly retains the sole power to dismiss the General, but the General remains subordinate to the Federal Council by the Council's ability to demobilise and hence making the position of General redundant.
Four generals were appointed in Swiss history, General Henri Dufour during the Swiss Civil War, General Hans Herzog during the Franco-Prussian War, General Ulrich Wille during the First World War, and General Henri Guisan during the Second World War ("la Mob", "the Mobilisation"). Although Switzerland remained neutral during the latter three conflicts, the threat of having its territory used as a battlefield by the much bigger war parties of Germany and France required mobilization of the army.
Within NATO and the European Union, the term Chief of Defence (CHOD) is usually used as a generic term for the highest-ranked office held by a professional military officer on active duty, irrespective of their actual title or powers.
Other Articles of Interest
- Civilian control of the military
- Command and control
- Commanding officer
- Military junta
- Minister of Defence
- State within a state
- Strongman (politics)
- Supreme Commander
- Magister militum