World War 1
War and Military History
International Relations

What is militarism?

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10/08/2013

The belief that the nation needs a large military force.

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Militarism is one of those much over used terms ending in -ism. The above definition needs further detail.

The concept generally includes:

1. The maintenance of a large standing army (in relation to the population of the country) - larger than is needed for purposes of defence. In other words, the army is so big, so well equipped and well trained as to be felt as a threat by neighbouring states.

2. A willingness to use force to settle disputes with other countries.

3. In domestic politics, the military bugdet is treated as quasi-sacrosanct.

4. There is undue respect for the military - a mechanical respect based on the uniform instead of the individual. Civilians may be expected to 'bow and scrape' to the military. Politicians are required to respond promptly to every twitch of the moustache.

5. The officer corps is idolized.

6. Obedience and discipline become core values in society.

7. There often a great song and dance about the head of state's nominal (or actual) role as commander-in-chief. Presidents, dictators, multi-role supremos, caudillos, 'leaders', emperors and kings appear in uniform in public.

8. The most senior military (the General Staff or equivalent) have enormous influence on or even dictate foreign policy and sometimes also aspects of domestic policy. The country may even become a military dictatorship.

Aspects 4-7 are sometimes referred to as social militarism. An example, Kaiser Wilhelm II often had guests at dinners at the royal palace seated by military rank. So, when Bethmann Hollweg was Chancellor (1909-17) he found himself near the bottom end of the table, separated from the Kaiser by military 'top brass'. Seating arrangements tend to send out messages ...

The word militarism is generally used of Prussia/Germany and Japan. When used of other countries it has an odd and often provocative ring to it.
Militarism means the adoration or building up of armies.