An Independent Review

"The Swiss Military Review (SMR), published by the Swiss Military Review Association (SMRA), is an official organ of the Swiss Officers' Society (SSO). It belongs to the cantonal sections of French-speaking Switzerland and Bern. Its aim is to facilitate the exchange of information on military problems and to develop the knowledge and general culture of officers. The texts published express the sole opinion of their authors. The RMS is open to all those who wish to work constructively for the good of general defence. (In the magazine's current mpressum)

In a federal state with four national languages and a desire to retain a militia army, would it be acceptable to do away with the RMS and the Rivista Militare della Svizzera ItalianaTwo independent periodicals in French and Italian? In fact, the military press and the media in general do not have the same content in German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland. Federalism and the militia army make the system used in a centralised state like France impossible. On the other side of the Jura, the command and the Ministry of Defence exercise control over the texts published in periodicals, which they finance to a large extent and which appear as official spokespersons. In Switzerland, there are two essential differences. The military press is owned by private associations that receive no subsidies from the authorities. While they are obliged to be loyal and not to betray military secrets, publishers and editors are not answerable to Berne; the texts they publish are not subject to control or censorship. The overwhelming majority of officers are not professionals; they have the right to freely express original ideas and constructive criticism. For professionals, the situation appears more delicate: they work as civil servants in the Department of Defence, especially as instructors and teachers in the various army schools, but they also serve in the militia. Colonel EMG X..., who commands an officer training school in his professional capacity, is also Chief of Staff of a territorial division, a militia function.

Independence from the outset

Colonel Fernand Feyler, editor-in-chief of the RMS between 1896 and 1930, was a militia officer who admitted that his authors expressed views that were contrary to his own convictions. Under his editorship, the Swiss Military Review was critical and sometimes rebellious towards the Federal Council and the army command. Its content focused heavily on the country's domestic and foreign policy. His successor, Lieutenant-Colonel EMG Roger Masson, a career officer, took on the dual role of Head of the Army Intelligence Service and Editor-in-Chief. His career officer successors, Major General Montfort and Colonel Paul Ducotterd, held various positions in the Federal Military Department.1. They were outspoken and did not mince their words. Under their reign, RMS retained its full independence, even during the Second World War.

All editors-in-chief, whether professional or militia, could at some point have echoed the thoughts of Bovard, the philosopher-poet, the character from Poet's passage of Ramuz, whose family has toiled for generations on the slopes of Lavaux: "It's doing something for nothing that's beautiful. Even if the work doesn't pay off, because it's the doing that counts. Even if I'm on my own and even if I haven't been spoilt, I still know what it's like, come on! And you don't always get paid, and it's hard and it's ungrateful, and it's always the same thing, but I say 'that's the beauty of it!...' [...] You can't get paid in money for work like that: you get paid as soon as you believe in it... We're like soldiers, soldiers fight to fight. [...] I say it's like that: honour and love. And no money at all, if that's what it takes, because that would leave honour, honour and love. What Bovard thinks is in fact a development of William the Silent's motto: "No need to hope to undertake, nor to succeed to persevere."

Colonel Hervé de Weck

Former editor-in-chief, Swiss Military Review

1 Today, the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport.