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As military (from Latin militaris , concerning military service 'or miles , soldier '), sometimes semantically inaccurate with force or forces equated with are weapons of war -appointed bearers of state authority referred to primarily sovereign with the guarantee of external security are entrusted and often used to achieve other political goals. In most countries, the military is used to reinforce the police force to protect internal security, even when there is a special need .

The term military (from French militaire , singular: 'the military'; plural: 'the military') is also used as a synonym for a number of soldiers . In the singular it is similar to the term rank for a single military person of the officers and generals .

In addition to the armed forces, the military also includes its civil areas.

Mission and importance of the military

External mission of the military

The military is typically tasked with ensuring external security , i.e. defending the country or its allies against dangers and threats from outside.

Tensions between states can grow into international conflicts and crises and ultimately give rise to armed conflicts ( armed conflicts ). The military is on the occasion cases the instrument gunpoint available, which in accordance with the Geneva Conventions basically combatants from civilians be distinguished.

However, other risks, dangers and threats (such as terrorism ) are increasingly becoming the cause of combat operations. As a result, the military will be confronted with so-called unconventional warfare (also called hybrid warfare) more frequently .

Furthermore, the task of the military in international conflicts is no longer limited to armed struggle, but techniques of information gathering and peacekeeping according to Chapters VI and VII of the UN Charter (e.g. in international peace missions , observer missions ) or others Types of military conflict (such as cyberwar ) come to the fore.

In political practice, the military often receives more far-reaching external contracts that include areas of responsibility for the implementation of economic and political interests within the framework of contractual international alliance obligations.

Other orders for the military

In most states, the military can also perform additional tasks to reinforce the police force to ensure internal security . H. to avert domestic dangers and threats.

In addition, because of their presence and with a short preparation time, the military can perform rescue and relief tasks (disaster relief).

Traditionally, the military appear to represent the state and perform tasks to ensure the diplomatic and state ceremonies.

Importance of the military

The early ancient origin of the collective term military from Latin (from Latin militaris - 'soldier', 'related to military service' and miles - soldier) indicates the meaning . Its borrowing into French before the 18th century (in French militaire - high officer), with France's military dominance in Europe, also became known as the military ( collective, transformed from the French plural militaires ).

In public, the military was an important component of national understanding, especially in the past. In many states today it is an integral part of patriotism . The proliferation of domestic military power can range from the repression of a people to a coup and military government .

The armed forces play a crucial role in demonstrating strength, especially in military countries like China , Russia or the USA . The military has always been an important means of politics, especially foreign and security policy .

In addition to national and alliance defense, the military also makes far-reaching contributions to peacekeeping (e.g. in international blue helmet operations ), to disaster relief (including Hurricane Katrina ), to enforcing the economic and political interests of a country / alliance (such as often criticized "oil wars") and for ceremonial purposes (including state receptions ).

The military technology has traditionally been an important pioneer and pacesetter held in the general technical development. For example, television , the Internet or GPS were originally developed on behalf of the military and initially only used by the military (see Defense technology and armaments ).

Waiver of the military versus the military alliance

The establishment and maintenance of the military are expensive and account for a large part of government spending . Therefore there are states without a military .

Military alliances such as NATO distribute the military tasks and burdens among several members and ensure mutual protection.

Numerical strength of the armed forces by country , 2009

As the world's largest military power in quantitative terms, China has around 2.3 million soldiers under arms, followed by the United States, which has the highest military budget in the world with US $ 574.9 billion.

According to the Global Militarization Index 2018, Israel, Singapore and Armenia are the most militarized societies in the world.

Forms of organization of the military

Differentiation possibilities

The forms of organization of the military include: the regular armed forces with their armed forces and other military and civil areas or agencies. This often also includes special police formations such as militia , gendarmerie , border police , border troops , national guard , paramilitary formations , combatant formations and others.

The term “military form of organization” can also be used to describe the armed formations of communities with a pseudo-state character (e.g. in the former Islamic State caliphate in Iraq and Syria [ISIS] as well as in Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] or the Taliban) in the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan ).

Armed forces and branches of the armed forces

Warships of different nations
Air refueling of US Air Force aircraft

Although each armed force is organized differently, at the present time a general distinction can be made between armed forces . These are mostly land forces ( army ), naval forces ( navy ) and air forces ( air force ). Some states supplement their armed forces with additional armed forces, such as: space forces (in perspective), marine infantry , a coast guard or paramilitary gendarmerie .


So-called paramilitary organizations or militias (vigilantes) as well as military formations of private security and military companies (PMC for short, Private Military Company or Private Military Contractors) are usually not officially part of the armed forces as military units, but still perform armed forces-like tasks and take part in armed conflicts ( about civil wars ). They are usually in uniform and are mostly treated as combatants in accordance with international conventions .

Armed forces versus police

In democratically organized societies, the role of the military in foreign policy will be separated from the role of the domestic security forces ( police ). There are also protective mechanisms to control the military. This is shown in the capacity of a so-called parliamentary army .

In contrast, in many authoritarian states these two functions are mixed up and the military takes on repressive domestic political tasks.

The gendarmerie is an expression of this dualism . Gendarmes are often part of the armed forces (as in France and Italy) or, in the historical development, were subordinate to the defense department, like the former Federal Gendarmerie in Austria.

Constitutional and administrative norms ensure that such units are managed by the interior and justice departments in peacetime.

Combatants versus civilians

According to the Geneva Conventions , a fundamental distinction is made between combatants and civilians among those involved in a military conflict .

Combatants are all members of a conflict party who are under arms and can be identified as such. Only they are authorized to engage in acts of war and, unlike civilians, are not directly protected from opposing violence. You have certain rights, such as a fair trial, available to you in the event of a captivity .

In contrast, the USA introduced the concept of the " unlawful (illegitimate, illegal) combatant ", which is highly controversial under international law .

Since the transition from 20./21. In the 19th century, the type of armed conflict shifted more and more towards asymmetrical warfare , it is no longer easy to distinguish between soldier and civilian in military practice, which has far-reaching consequences for the protection of the civilian population.

Characteristic features of the military

Mandatory properties

Armed forces and other military formations are usually (and according to international standards) characterized by the following properties:

  • They are under a single command , which is responsible to the state for the management of the subordinates,
  • The relatives differ from the civilian population by uniforms , badges , symbols or other externally recognizable external characteristics ,
  • The weapon bearers (soldiers) are subject to an internal disciplinary system that also enforces the rules of warfare in the event of an emergency,
  • You are armed ; a soldier must wield his weapon openly.

Hierarchy building

Military organizations are characterized by a hierarchical organizational structure and rank structure , which is followed by a command structure . All soldiers are subject to the principle of command and obedience to their superiors and have to accept certain restrictions on their freedoms and basic rights .

Legal status of the military

The military enjoys a special status under the constitutional law of most states and under international martial law (e.g. through the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Land Warfare Regulations ).

Soldiers (so-called combatants ) have a special legal status in that they are subject to a specially established military jurisdiction in various states and predominantly international criminal law (e.g. the International Military Court ).

The so-called Inner Leadership is characterized by hierarchy and obedience (see military orders ), but soldiers in Germany have the opportunity to contact the Armed Forces Commissioner outside of the normal official channels , who monitors the treatment of " citizens in uniform " according to current law.

Conscription and the reserve system

World map of the forms of military service :
  • no (own) armed forces
  • no conscription ( professional army / suspended)
  • still conscription, but abolition in less than three years already decided
  • Conscription
  • Conscription but less than 20% of the age group (both sexes) are actually drafted.
  • not specified
  • In many countries of the world, especially in those with a long military tradition, or under constant threat (e.g. Israel , where women are also required to serve in the military), citizens must be in the army or another military formation for a certain period of time (e.g. in the field of civil protection ) serve their country.

    This system of conscription is intended to prepare the population (primarily the male) in the event of a war, in which they can then, if necessary, be obliged to serve at arms in order to defend their country as reservists . If they are considered fit for military service , these people can be drafted into the armed forces in an emergency and are therefore available as a so-called reserve system .

    Criticism of the military

    In most democratic states such as Germany, the military tends to enjoy a high public reputation.

    The military is criticized by peace movements that consider the killing of people, the waging of war and the resulting destruction and annihilation as barbaric, morally reprehensible and unsuitable for sustainable conflict management.

    Antimilitarism and pacifism pose a problem to the military and strive for a non-violent handling of conflicts by turning to diplomacy and civil conflict management . They actively try to prevent armed conflicts and military armaments, to exclude war as a means of politics in the long term and to create conditions for lasting peace. They call war advocates bellicists .

    Due to increasing rearmament (especially in the arms race during the Cold War ), a limit was crossed by the further development of military technology, so that if war broke out between two superpowers, not only the participating states but the entire world population would be affected, as the destructive power of the military would be affected some states can be incalculable due to weapons of mass destruction (see also overkill ). In view of the extent of the potential destructive effects of these weapons, many states are now participants in multilateral treaties (e.g. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ) or in arms control / disarmament agreements (e.g. " START " and the " INF ", which expired in August 2019 ) and to limit forces ( " CFE ") so that this risk can be at least partially reduced (see also Arms Control and Conference on Disarmament ). Particularly noteworthy agreements that seek to prevent procedures that the international community sees as extremely inhuman are, for example, the Ottawa Convention , the Chemical Weapons Convention , or the ABM Treaty .

    Internationally, the armed forces are now subject to international agreements that regulate and prevent military disputes. Important writings are the Hague Land Warfare Regulations and the Geneva Conventions . According to Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations there is a general prohibition of violence, which may only be circumvented in exceptional cases (for defense and as part of a peace enforcement measure by a resolution of the UN Security Council ).

    See also

    Portal: Military  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the military topic


    • Hans Delbrück : History of the art of war in the context of political history , 4 vols., [Berlin 1900-1920], new edition: Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-11-016886-3 .
    • Author collective: Dictionary on German military history , 2 vols. (Writings of the Military History Institute of the German Democratic Republic), Military Publishing House of the GDR , Berlin (East) 1985, ISBN 3-327-00239-8 .
    • Klaus Schubert / Martina Klein: The Political Lexicon. Concepts, facts, connections. Federal Agency for Civic Education (Ed.), 5th, updated and expanded edition, Bonn 2011.
    • Manfred G. Schmidt: Dictionary of politics. 3rd, revised and updated edition, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-520-40403-9 .

    Web links

    Commons : Military  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
    Wikisource: Military  Sources and Full Texts
    Wiktionary: Military  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
    Wiktionary: armed force  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
    Wiktionary: Armed force  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. a b See Manfred G. Schmidt: Dictionary of Politics. 3rd, revised and updated edition, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-520-40403-9 , p. 790 f.
    2. See Friedrich Kluge: Etymological Dictionary. 23rd, extended edition, Berlin / New York 1999, p. 559.
    3. GLOBAL MILITARIZATION INDEX 2018. (PDF) Max M. Mutschler, Marius Bales \ BICC, accessed on February 10, 2019 .
    4. See Inner Guidance. In: Klaus Schubert / Martina Klein: Das Politiklexikon. Concepts, facts, connections. Federal Agency for Civic Education (Ed.), 5th, updated and expanded edition, Bonn 2011, p. 146.
    5. ^ Simone Meyer: Bundeswehr: The contradicting image of German soldiers. In: . November 1, 2013, accessed October 7, 2018 .
    6. Charter of the United Nations . UNITED NATIONS. Retrieved September 10, 2019.