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ISSUE 120 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/16/2007

Swiss Army knife-less invasion

By Shannon Merillat
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 16, 2007

We’'ve all committed our fair share of faux pas. I’'ve accidentally added salt to my coffee instead of sugar, paid too much for car insurance and listened to an entire Fall Out Boy album. I can proudly say, however, that I’'ve never accidentally invaded a country – much less a country without an army.

Such is no longer the case for the Swiss army. For a moment, I thought The Onion had sabotaged The New York Times. No, the headline was not fiction, Switzerland had in fact accidentally invaded Lichtenstein, the only act of aggression from either European country in modern history. What irony: an accidental invasion, exactly the sort of thing that piques the interest of hipsters and college students everywhere.

How exactly did this happen? Swiss officials point out that the border they crossed was unmarked, so it wasn’'t really any of the 170 infantry soldiers’ fault. I’'m fairly certain that government officials in Mexico would not be responding in such a light-hearted manner in the event of their neighbor to the north accidentally invading.

Clearly, if countries want to curb the number of accidental invasions and the accompanying embarrassment, they need to make every inch of the border blatantly obvious – not necessarily impervious, but obvious enough to see in all weather conditions. The only practical option would be erecting a continuous wall circumscribing our borders. Perhaps “"The Great Wall of Mexico”" could prove advantageous. A moat could be another option.

To the Swiss soldiers' credit, they did realize their faux pas quickly. Reports say that they had advanced a little under one mile beyond the border when they realized their error. Assuming they were proceeding at a good clip and didn’'t stop for fondue, the invasion likely only lasted 15 minutes. I keep imagining that pivotal moment when a particularly perceptive soldier came to the astute realization that he and his cohorts were not in fact in Switzerland anymore. What was it exactly that tipped him off? Was it when he noticed the absence of alphorns?

I imagine they dealt with the situation tactfully. It’'s likely that the commander instructed the infantry to act natural, "play it cool”" in the event of encountering a Liechtensteiner.

But was it an accident? Was it perhaps an effort to increase world awareness of Lichtenstein, an ingenious publicity stunt in which Swiss officials collaborated with Liechtenstein officials in exchange for a nice discount at Lichtenstein’s finest (and only) ski resort? When a country'’s only claim to fame is being the only landlocked European country whose bordering countries are also landlocked, it’'s difficult for citizens to maintain a sense of self-worth and patriotism. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and bad publicity is still publicity.

Staff Writer Shannon Merillat is a senior from Burnsville, Minn. She majors in English.

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