An Armed Force is formed for the defensive purpose
of controlling territory or other economic resources, and/or
for the offensive purpose of seizing the same from another
The study of the use of Armed Forces is called Military
Science. Broadly speaking, this involves considering offense
and defense at three "levels": strategy, operative art,
and tactics. All of these areas study the application of
the use of force in order to achieve a desired objective.
Armed forces may be organized as standing forces, which
describes a professional army that
is engaged in no other profession than preparing for and
engaging in warfare. In contrast, there is the citizen army.
A citizen army (also known as a militia or reserve) is only
formed as needed. Its advantage lies in the fact that it
is dramatically less expensive (in terms of wealth, manpower,
and opportunity cost) for the organizing society to support.
The disadvantage is that such a "citizen's army" is less
well trained and organized. Historically, professional armies
often triumph over much larger citizen armies when engaged
A compromise between the two has a small cadre of professional
NCOs (non-commissioned officers) and officers who act as
a skeleton for a much larger force. When war comes, this
skeleton is filled out with conscripts or reservists (former
soldiers who volunteer for a small stipend to occasionally
train with the cadre to keep their military skills intact),
who form the wartime unit. This balances the pros and cons
of each basic organization, and allows the formation of
huge armies (in terms of millions of combatants), necessary
in modern large scale warfare.
Militaries in many larger countries are divided into an
army, an air force, and a navy (if
necessary). These divisions may be solely for the purposes
of training and support, or may be completely independent
branches responsible for conducting operations independently
of other services. Most smaller countries have a single
military that encompasses all armed forces employed by the
country in question.
Benefits and Costs
The obvious benefit of any military
is in providing protection from foreign armed forces, and
from internal conflict. In recent decades standing armies
have also been used as emergency civil support roles in
post-disaster situations. On the other hand they may also
harm a society by engaging in counter-productive (or merely
unsuccessful) warfare, by domestic repression, or simply
by supporting the idea that violence (or the threat thereof)
is the way to get what one wants.
Military investment in science and technology sometimes
produces side benefits, although greater benefits could
come from targeting the money directly towards things that
would improve lives instead of ending them.
Over-investment in military forces can drain a society
of needed manpower and material, significantly impacting
civilian living standards. If continued over a significant
period of time, this results in reduced civilian research
and development, degrading the society's ability to improve
its infrastructure. This lack of development in turn affects
the military in a vicious cycle. See the Soviet Union for
a typical modern example of this problem.
Transarmament is a recent movement to replace armed forces
with nonviolence training and infrastructure.
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