Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a strategic failure because it assumed and required a quick and decisive victory, and at best it will get victory slow and Pyrrhic. But the Ukrainians have failed badly as well, by waiting too long to arm and train their citizens. If you want ordinary people to make your society occupation-proof, you have to teach them to kill well before they need to do so.
The strategist Edward N. Luttwak has proposed that countries aligned with NATO shift in this direction preemptively, as a matter of policy. Instead of buying heavy, technologically advanced equipment, Luttwak told me, they should adopt the Finnish model. In Finland, adolescent males report for a short and intense period of military training, followed by shorter refreshers for most of their adult life. The training is not, as in the Israeli model, a few years of dedicated service. Nor does it emphasize military discipline, such as keeping one’s bunk tidy and shoes polished, or the Prussian-style transformation of citizen-recruit into fighting machine. Instead, it prepares civilians to be ready to join their unit and harass and kill invaders. A country of Finland’s size can rapidly field nearly 1 million trained soldiers. “Ukraine could have done this,” Luttwak said, “and they should have.”
America should do this too.