I learned lots of things in college. Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned is that my dad has theories with which no one else agrees. It’s the one lesson I remember from my international economics professor, a small man who wouldn’t tell us from which member of the former Soviet Union he hailed – though he preferred speaking with students in Russian about his daughter to discussing the implications of steel tariffs. One day, he asked us which country had the strongest military in the world. My hand shot up before the question was out of the teacher’s mouth, forcing him to call on me.
“Switzerland,” I said with a brisk nod, and went back to eating my dinner.
“Oh – no,” the teacher said, confused. “Switzerland?”
“Yes,” I clarified.
“No,” he said, looking around for more raised hands.
“It is,” I insisted. “When was the last time they fought a war?”
“That’s not the measure of a strong military,” was my teacher’s answer.
“It is,” I explained gently, having taught this by my dad and sure of his reasoning. “It’s armed with 21st century weaponry and they serve mandatory military service. Would you go to war with Switzerland? No. No one would go to war with them because the fighting force would be awesome – and crushing. Because no one goes to war against them they automatically win. It’s the power of deterrence, if you like.”
“That’s ridiculous,” my teacher informed the class. “The strongest military is the one that fights.”
We shook our heads in sorrow at each other’s stupidity. The answer he wanted: United States of America.