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I've just started out with worldbuilding and got this idea of a state/country that has no need for any armed forces as they don't want to go to war because of religious reasons, and no other state would want to attack them. But during what circumstances could such a state exist?

I'm guessing that the state shouldn't have or produce any unique or better resources that no other state already has. But then I'm posed with the problem as to why people should want to stay within this state and not move to another. Geographical accessibility perhaps?

I've read that there are countries like Iceland and Andorra without their own military forces, but receiving protection from other countries. That's not what I'm looking to create. I want to create a state without any military defense at all, simply because there is no need for it. The state should neither participate in any military alliance.

The state isn't going to be a large one. In relative measures based on europe I'd say the area would be something like Switzerland and the population a bit less than Norway.

There is some magic within this world, but none so great that it could protect an entire city from a military attack for example. The same for religion and gods.

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they don't want to go to war because of religious reasons

I think this is where your answer might lie. This is a country that, if attacked, cannot and will not fight back, because their religion forbids it. Attacking them would be the military equivalent of drop-kicking a puppy off a cliff. Yes, you will win easily, and nobody will intervene to stop you. But every other country in the world is going to treat you like a pariah for it.

There will be international condemnation. Possibly even sanctions. There will definitely be protests, from silent marches of solidarity to people burning your country's flag in the streets. You will forever be known, metaphorically-speaking, as "the country that drop-kicked a puppy off a cliff". And so, no sane country would ever, ever attack your state-without-a-military, because the damage it would cause to their international reputation is simply not worth it.

As for why nobody would intervene in this scenario, I can only think that this would be at the country's own request. A war being fought in their territory on their behalf, is still a war being fought in their territory, and that's still against their religion.

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    $\begingroup$ It reminds me of Tibet for some reasons. $\endgroup$ – Hawker65 Jun 28 '18 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ This only works if the nation is landlocked and the adjacent countries are all vehemently opposed to allowing anyone through their territory. Relying upon every leader of every country in the world to always throughout time forever be morally upstanding is... well if that were true then war would be practically nonexistent anyway. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jun 28 '18 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ That reasoning really strains suspension of disbelief. It might hold true for the modern world, at least in places with Western sensibilities. However the the overwhelming majority of human civilizations saw conquest of other countries as legitimate. In a typical fantasy setting this justification would seem completely absurd. Perhaps if the pacifist nation was of supreme religious significance this could work (but that's really an entirely different justification). $\endgroup$ – EldritchWarlord Jun 28 '18 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @AmiralPatate History is full of examples of this. People invade and conquer for many reasons - to enslave the population, to plunder resources, to subjugate for the purpose of subjugation (be it for forced religious conversion or just bragging rights as owning that territory). Sometimes they just do it because they can. History is not an endless string of pacifist tolerant pluralistic democracies - rape and plunder and enslavement is more prevalent than not. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jun 28 '18 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ Take the religion aspect up a notch. The country is the holy land for the local dominate religion. The surrounding countries may have their differences, but the holy land is religiously enforced neutral territory. Outsiders are kept away by the neighbors, in neighboring territory. $\endgroup$ – jaxad0127 Jun 28 '18 at 16:17
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It's a leper colony

The pacifistic country is in fact a leper colony where all the ill from the surrounding countries are sent. The land is not worth much and nobody wants to be close to the ill - so no one wants to conquer it. The country is run by monks and/or nuns, who care about the ill, but will never do something like fighting or even defending themselves, let alone doing military service.

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    $\begingroup$ Firebomb the country. Then send in soldiers with hazmat suits to clean up the stragglers. No one wants to be close to the ill, so best to kill them all $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Jun 28 '18 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Aethenosity why should you invade if the is nothing to win? And do not forget: if the leper country gets the ill from the surrounding countries, "your" country is probably one of them, so part of the monks and the ill as well came from your country. You should not tell your soldiers to kill monks and ill, especially not if some of them could be their own relatives. Never give a command if you cannot be sure it will be obeyed. $\endgroup$ – Julian Egner Jun 29 '18 at 6:51
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    $\begingroup$ 1. You would gain the land, and security from the illness. Having a country like that as a bordering country is a HUGE direct threat. 2. You can convince soldiers to do anything, as all of human history has shown us. If you say that the illness is already spreading to other countries, they would want to protect their families. I would purposely, and secretly, infect some of the soldiers families to really drive that home. $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Jun 29 '18 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ Although really thinking about it, leprosy can be treated with a mdt, so shy would there even be a leper colony? It would have to be a magical form of leprosy that can't be treated like normal. $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Jun 29 '18 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ it still relies on a magnanimous spirit of neighboring countries. You just have more faith in people than I do. And that is perfectly fine. If it can't be cured, it's a bigger reason to slaughter them. Natural borders are nice to control, so more reasons to slaughter. Not being a military threat is not the same as not being a threat at all. Not being worth much hasn't prevented countries from taking land in the past. Differing opinions though, i'm not gonna keep responding, as we've both made our points I believe. $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Jul 2 '18 at 14:34
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Science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote an entire series, Foundation, on a very similar premise - that a small state with no military strength must find other means to survive against more powerful kingdoms. These ideas come from that series.

The state must have something unique and of great value.
If not natural resources, then perhaps a source or a form of magic unheard of in the rest of the world. The magic/technology doesn't need to overly powerful, nor militaristic, but it should be incredibly useful:

  • A source of cheap/free energy
  • Medicine capable of curing the worst diseases and healing the most deadly wounds
  • Transmutation of common materials into valuable ones (could impact the economy as well)

The asset must be marketable, but not easily replicable.
Perhaps the magic can only be used by highly trained individuals - and only those few individuals trusted by the state can administer it.
Perhaps the religion itself can be used to spread influence. Missionaries and prophets can spread the "good news" of their religion, demonstrating "impossible" magical feats only made possible through the "divine power" of the "holy land". Naturally, other states will want this power as well.

Religion, trade, and politics will prevent attacks
Through religious pressure, trade of magical secrets, and careful diplomacy, the state could ward off attacks.

  • The state could threaten to cut off access to its magical asset if attacked.
  • The state could claim that its unique knowledge and secrets would be lost forever if attacked.
  • The state could threaten to align itself with the enemies of its attackers, bolstering their military power to the state's advantage.
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  • $\begingroup$ Came here to post this in essence, I like this concept a lot. Be so valuable that nobody else will let you get conquered. $\endgroup$ – Cain Jun 28 '18 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Quibble: That was not the premise of the entire series. It was the premise of the early parts of the first book, before the kingdoms were effectively absorbed into the Foundation. $\endgroup$ – Monty Harder Jun 28 '18 at 21:51
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  1. Army implies central authority which is interested in organized offense / defense. A country with no central authority capable of assembling, supplying and deploying and army will not have an army.

This country has no central authority because it is sparsely populated with nomadic herders and family groups who interact with each other and outsiders via ad hoc and temporary mechanisms. There is not a central government because there is no need and no use. Perhaps there is periodically a Jirga where tribal representatives assemble and discuss matters of common interest. If needed, a meeting like this could conclude with the assembly of an army if the participants concluded that would be necessary.

  1. Why do the people stay there? Because that is where they are from, and they like it. The things they need are there. They can continue with their way of life. They are not hankering after something which exists in some other country. No central government bosses them around or taxes them.

  2. Why does some country with an army not conquer the country? Because the things this country and its people have are not things other countries want - certainly not to the point of fighting for them. The country in question is big. Its people can be fierce when provoked. Trade routes that pass through are controlled and defended by persons interested in maintaining them. Mineral resources are mined and defended by persons interested in those operations. The sparse population of natives are content to continue their own way of life.

Consider also that historically, countries did not have armies except when needed. Armies are expensive and dangerous. The founding fathers of the US feared a standing army and this was a big debate at the time. Back up 500 years or more and I think you would find armies were put together by various states on an as needed basis.

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  • $\begingroup$ Adding to 3: None of the neighboring countries want the headache of trying to govern these people, and find benefit in them acting as a buffer against someone else trying to expand through them. $\endgroup$ – Monty Harder Jun 28 '18 at 21:47
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Have another kind of power

If they are very rich the threat of trade disruptions might be enough to limit the belligerence of neighbors.

Be regionally important

If the religion has a diaspora with non-trivial power in the surrounding countries rulers might not be willing to alienate them.

If they are between several mutually hostile powers but in such a strategically bad place that any attempt to fortify would be a disaster it may be the powerful nations know better than to try.

Reserve readiness

If they have the means to create a military overnight they may not need a dedicated permanent force. Like historical English archery or US militias or Eastern mass martial arts practice. "Our form of meditation happens to include techniques for punching kidneys out through the spine."

Being very rich could also apply to paying mercenaries at need.

Be one step ahead

With an outstandingly good espionage organization they might not need to kill more than one person at a time. See to it that no leaders intent on bothering the country ever gather enough follower to be a problem.

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    $\begingroup$ So, be rich enough to have fingers in everyone else's pies so that attacking them ruins your own interests. Like Switzerland's banking market share. $\endgroup$ – brichins Jun 28 '18 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ Even Switzerland still has an army, though. $\endgroup$ – cHao Jun 29 '18 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ If you're rich and unarmed I'll bring my army and very shortly afterwards I'll be both rich and armed. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jun 30 '18 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB: Not necessarily. If your wealth is in some form of production or infrastructure that would be significantly damaged or completely destroyed in the process of invasion, you probably won't be. You can probably make realistic contemporary examples in terms of markets that trade intangible things (stocks, digital currency, etc.) $\endgroup$ – R.. Jul 2 '18 at 2:01
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Take a look at Costa Rica. Their former president got rid of the military in 1948, though they do still have border patrol and a police force, which aren't quite defensive forces. So not only can a state without a military defense exist, it actually does. link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Forces_of_Costa_Rica

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    $\begingroup$ They had to rely on external help once though... $\endgroup$ – user45032 Jun 28 '18 at 12:05
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One possibility is that the country is, e.g., sacred for religious reasons, and attacking it is anathema.

Which means that if CountryA attacks, all treaties and commercial liaisons are rendered void, any debts owned to CountryA by anyone can go unpaid, any properties of CountryA's citizens are forfeit everywhere, and attacking, looting and conquering CountryA (a much more juicy target than the 'helpless country') is not only legitimate, but grants you Heaven.

Attempting to conquer the Holy Country would be a national suicide unless CountryA is prepared to take on the whole world, or at least the neighbouring nations.

You can compare it with the way Aloria defended the Isle of the Winds in Eddings' Malloreon:

it was stopped by a succinct note from the Cherek ambassador to Tol Honeth.

Your Majesty:

Know that Aloria will permit no attack upon Riva.

The fleets of Cherek, whose masts rise as thick as the trees of the forest, will fall upon your flotilla, and the legions of Tolnedra will feed the fish from the hook of Arendia to the farthest reaches of the Sea of the Winds.

The battalions of Drasnia will march south, crushing all in their paths and lay siege to your cities.

The horsemen of Algaria shall sweep across the mountains and shall lay waste you empire from end to end with fire and sword.

Know that in the day you attack Riva, will the Alorns make war upon you, and you shall surely perish, and your Empire will be no more.

A different possibility is that the "undefended" country, during the centuries, grew to be arbiter and banker of most other nations. Attacking it would guarantee instant economic chaos, and would mean utter ruin for the attacker.

Finally (I remember some short novel to that effect), there might be biological reasons. The country's people might have slowly mutated during the centuries, and are now immune to a disease that can be carried by flies and mosquitoes. Ordinarily this is no great threat because the mountains around the country prevent any outbreak, and commerce employs quarantine protocols that allow the goods to flow. But no sane army would ever think of invading the country, especially in some way that leaves unburied corpses around. (Something vaguely similar happens in Bob Shaw's Wooden Spaceships series, where the people abandoned on one of two twin planets and believed to have succumbed to the ptertha infection actually survived and became immune - and are now highly contagious, to the point that talking to one means death within minutes for a non-immune).

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Your country could be surrounded entirely by another country's territory, as Vatican City is completely surrounded by Italy. Then you basically only have to explain why one country wouldn't invade. Possible explanations are that the interior country is a seat of the surrounding country's religion (as in the Vatican/Italy example), or that the surrounding country is generally peaceable, or that the interior country's independence provides a benefit to the surrounding country, such as a tax haven, or a place where gambling is legal (like Indian nations within the USA).

If this is to last for centuries or millennia, your country would require a strong sense of its own identity, to avoid being absorbed into the culture of the surrounding nations. Perhaps its sense of identity is so strong that even if it is conquered, its people never really assimilate, and it re-establishes its independence in later eras when the surrounding country is more peaceable.

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    $\begingroup$ Gambling is neither a benefit nor the reason the US left the Indian reservations alone; the Vatican has a very famous defensive force, albeit one that now exists at the level of very heavily armed police. $\endgroup$ – lly Jun 30 '18 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sure Italy could "conquer" the Vatican if it wanted to, but why would it want to. If any other nation wanted to conquer the Vatican, it would have to go through Italy... that's the point. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Jul 2 '18 at 12:58
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Iceland has only very limited armed forces, which is most probably due to geographical accessiblity. Only during WW 2 and the Cold War the geographical location of Iceland made it important for the Allies.

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You mentioned early in your post a point nobody seems to be covering: geography. Looking through world history, you don't ever have a society that isn't violent, but you do have societies that don't get easily conquered. Ancient Egypt was surrounded by vast swaths of desert, and the only time "invasion" was ever successful was during great political instability. Russia, with its extreme winters, hasn't been successful conquered since 1480. Many of the islands of the South Pacific (Easter Island and Pitcairn for example) are so inaccessible they either hadn't had any inhabitants for hundreds of years, or hadn't had any inhabitants period.

What you really need to make a demilitarized people is isolation. If you're not crazy about the idea of an remote island, consider a small cropping of mountains surrounding the peaceful valley, the only oasis in a thousand miles of sand, or in a temperate microclimate in an otherwise polar desert. If you're feeling particularly sci-fi/fantasy, make it a nation that developed underground or in a cave system.

Next, you'll want there to be strong defenses. After all, just because they can't kill or attack doesn't mean they can't build walls and gates. Build gates into mountain passes, giant walls, a dome if it's sci-fi enough. There's plenty on non-violent protections you can use.

Finally, you'll probably want to scale back the size of your country... or at least what's inhabited. Military and police force didn't use to be differentiated. If a nation has absolutely no military for its entire history, that means the people need to be culturally homogeneous so as not to cause uprisings. Most of the nations today are actually conquered tribes that have, over time, been amalgamated into one country, and the failure to suppress them leads to ruins. That was why the Aztec empire fell to the Spanish, the Roman to the Germanics, why the Mongolians couldn't conquer Japan, why Pakistan is the current mess it is.

Even today, countries are too large and too different to keep people with different cultures pleased. There's separatist movements all over. Just in Europe, there's over 100 separatist, succession, and autonomy movements. That's more than double the actual number of nations in Europe. Artsakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Kosovo, and Crimea are all technically broken away... and three of those are in the Caucus states, an area smaller than Spain. South Ossetia is only 1500 square miles. Rhode Island is 1200.

To have a culture that doesn't suppress one group over another (and, thus, require a military), you need to have a very small area and a small population so that ethnic homogeneity can take over and people treats everyone the same. The same idea of isolationism should come into play here, too. Multiculturalism is great for adding to society's knowledge, but friction between traditions, religions, and immigrant/native classes cause violence. You can see this in England's immigrant population, in Iran 1999, the Tamil/Sri Lankan civil war. I would imagine that this nation would have entirely closed borders to immigration, or at least a very highly selective process.

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    $\begingroup$ That is absolutely not why the Mongolians couldn't conquer Japan. $\endgroup$ – lly Jun 30 '18 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ Should "separatist, succession, and autonomy movements" say "separatist, secession, and autonomy movements"? Both are plausible, but in context the latter seems more likely to be your intent. $\endgroup$ – Peter Taylor Jul 1 '18 at 7:39
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If its religion is THE world religion by a large margin or the only one that is possible.

Every other country's population would worship the "holy see" or "land"; thus leaders and believers would refrain from entering with "impure intentions" out of respect or even religious / societal fear, especially if it were a taboo ("forbidden city" or "land").

A minority religion probably wouldn't have such strong "defenses" and would need other avenues (see previous answers for examples).

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There are real examples of countries without military forces, apart from the states already mentioned. The Vatican has no military as they don't want to go to war because of religious reasons.

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    $\begingroup$ The Vatican is actually a terrible example as they had huge armies in the past, as well as many many wars and conflicts. Only as they became smaller "territorially" did they loose the armies and use the whole "we are a religion" reason. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jun 27 '18 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ The Vatican do have a defensive military force, even if their actions are primarily either ceremonial or bodyguard duty (much like the British Yeomen of the Guard and Queen's Guard). $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Jun 28 '18 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps You are thinking of the armies of The Papal States, a country that ceased to exist in 1870 when the Kingdom of Sardinia conquered them to form the Kingdom of Italy. The Vatican City State did not come into being until about 60 years after that, so it's not even like the Russia Federation coming from the USSR. It's like comparing the State of Israel to the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Jun 28 '18 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal yes, I was thinking of papal states and the loss of their armies. I just summarised all of that into "as they became smaller territorially" :) Technically the vatican city state we know today is only 90ish years old, and only really have the swiss guards as protection (that could be considered more a mercenary force than a national army). The OP also appears to want a much larger area of land. Still don't think it is a good example for the OP who appears to want a peaceful non military country. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jun 28 '18 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps Agreed - there are reasons why the Vatican have a defensive military force, and current forces who would love to attack them. Unless you have a single world-religion that everyone agrees with then "religious reasons" won't really work as a defense. $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Jun 28 '18 at 11:27
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How about Germany and Japan after WW2? No military because they had just lost. They were under control of other states. To this day Japan has never had political will to go to war.

Germany did take part in NATO... But not for some years and not until the Russian forces had to leave.

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You ask very broadly

during what circumstances could such a state exist ?

As opposed to other answers, I will not try to elaborate conditions on this particular pacifist state, but rather on the rest of the world.

My reasoning start by observing that we live in a world where conquering for its own sake considered good (past conquerors are even frequently still admired). For example when the Romans invaded Gaul, it is arguable that they did not need to conquer it for any reason except the glory of Caesar (Gaul had ressources to offer, but they could be obtained by trading, conquest was not necessary). Conquest was the reason for conquest.

In the world you build, this conqueror's mindset is not an obligation. If the population of your world does not have it, launching an invasion require a solid reason, as opposed to needing one not to invade.

But this raises another question: how to avoid this mindset to appear ? After all the winners write history, and the winners did probably fight in the first place.

So here are two possible explanations:

1. Social norms are radically different to what we are experiencing

In western culture personal wealth is seen as desirable and generally implies high social status. However social norms in other culture may differ, for example in traditional Native Americans culture. There high social status is determined by how useful one is to the community. In this context assembling an army to conquer its neighbors may be seen as costing more to the community than it could potentially gives and people may simple refuse to join such project. And to what I know there were no "Native American Kingdoms" or anything of that sort in North America before the European colonisation (raiding on the other side was a thing, probably that the cost/benefit of it was considered better).

2. Imperial projects resulted in historical trauma

If we look back at the history of mankind it looks like (at first glance) that the empire had great achievements, lasting for decades or even century, sometimes bringing stability, fostering the development of art and culture and so on. Look at the Roman Empire, Ancient Egypt, Chinese Empire and other, look great isn't it ? (This may help explain why the figure of conqueror is held in high esteem.)

However, we can imagine a world were all attempts to build empires catastrophically failed and only brought disasters to both conquerors and conquered, resulting in a massive trauma. Due to it, everybody may be rather skeptical about the idea of "trying again".


Note that these examples do not preclude the appearance of states, they may simply be based on either cooperation or soft power rather than on pure military domination.

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The geopolitical situation values their independence more than their resources

Consider a country between two other larger countries that dislike each other. If one were to invade, the other would be forced to take action, resulting in a costly (for both sides) all out war. A fictional example would be Djelibeybi, in the Terry Pratchett novel 'Pyramids' (Although it is not stated they have no military, certainly either neighbour could crush them easily)

Or consider a cold-war era where USA was on the same continent as the USSR. Any state buffering the two would be valued more for being a buffer and preventing war, than for any (relatively minor) territorial gains for the two giant nations surrounding.

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  • $\begingroup$ To add to this, if either nation decided to invade the buffer country they could actually be at a disadvantage, since the other country could move in as "liberator" - gaining the support of the local populace and the moral high ground to gain international support. $\endgroup$ – user42528 Jun 29 '18 at 8:04
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Being a former member of the Air Staff, I have LOTS of ideas. First, would be to make killing "Not an option" either morally or physically. Perhaps body shape? How would two pure energy beings kill each other?
Second, other things are more important. Such as a geologically unstable world where rescue is more important than conquest. Third, memory. As the Organians (SP?) in Star Trek forbid the Federation and Klingons to war, another society could simply not let it happen. Eventually, the memory of HOW to fight would go away and there would be no need to exercise such control.

Just some ideas...

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    $\begingroup$ 'How would two energy beings kill each other?' I don't know why the Air Staff is researching this problem, but an EMP should work. $\endgroup$ – lly Jun 30 '18 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ I think they were looking for a longer-term solution than '...a geologically unstable world'. I mean, yes, you wouldn't need much of an army if everyone were fleeing the planet or an enormous erupting supervolcano. On th'other hand, you wouldn't really have much of a 'country' at that point either. $\endgroup$ – lly Jun 30 '18 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ '...the memory of HOW to fight would go away'. Pretty sure most beings able to establish a civilization got there by becoming the apex predator and (like humanity) would be able to recreate warfare on the fly. It is a fun idea that the Death Star destroyed Alderaan so that the Federation and Klingons could restart their war, though. $\endgroup$ – lly Jun 30 '18 at 0:44
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Just to add to other great answers:

A country strategic position is minimum to none

If there are no natural resources, location isn't of much help to anyone and the country isn't too large nor too wealthy the benefits of attacking such country do not outweigh the cost of loosing your position internationally so there are high chances that no-one will attack.

Natural defense exists (can be artificially strengthened)

There might be a ring of mountains, rivers, jungle, desert etc that make the country hardly accessible. The cost of attacking such country can be high compared to the benefits of conquering it. The defenses can be enhanced artificially, e.g. there might be some defensive walls in the mountain area that could be otherwise accessed or there is a dam creating an artificial lake to increase the river defensive capabilities. Note, that destroying a dam can be used as a last defense line and does not require military service to use it (this is used twice by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings).

Passive defense systems

It is an extension of the previous point. It is not operated by military but by civilian engineers. It might not be a solution to kill but to scare off and eventually make it more difficult to get to that country. Think of a Chinese Great Wall as a real world example.

Strong allies

A country can have ally treaties with other countries. They can offer some services (religious?) in return for not contributing to the military power of the ally.

God(s) can counterattack/curse any attacker

It does not prevent a possibility to attack the country but it can scare off any potential attacker. Would you nuke an enemy if you know they will nuke you back? If it's god's intervention then the rules of the religion are not broken.

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A country like that would probably be a paradise for organized crime.
Suppressing big cartels and gangs while strictly avoiding killing seems just not possible unless you got ideal preconditions.

As such, it wouldn't be surprising at all if the state would be more or less controlled by these cartels. How strictly the control they impede upon the country is, is up to you (be it from the shadows, or by blatantly placing themselves as head of the country).

Therefore, as long as the cartels are powerful enough and play their cards well, other countries probably wouldn't meddle.

Of cause, this situation is a cluster of problems:
If the cartels grow overconfident, they might inspire an alliance and an invasion of the country
Or if the cartels diminish in power (e.g. due to losses due to infighting), the country would be left in a vulnerable position as well.
Not to forget the dichotomy of the appearance of the country (peace loving, friendly inhabitants) and it's shadow-workings, which adds a lot of interesting dynamic.

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Willk is going down the right road I think. Because to have a military (or conduct warfare) you must be sentient. Animals do attack other animals, but do not conduct organized warfare, which is a prerequisite for the creation of a military in the first place. In our case that originates when there is competition for a resource. Central authorities and the need for "something to protect what we have" comes from a civilization attempting to protect something or someone unable to fight such as children, rice fields, elderly, warehouses, etc. Military organizations are unique to one species on one planet. This species has a lousy track record for accepting the "not us" group. If you can make a thing or person that can't fight unable to be harmed (perhaps temporarily incorporeal) nothing could be harmed so no military is necessary. Or you can remove the idea of an enemy with hive mentality that eliminates any concept of enemies or competition there would also not be a need for a military.

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They don't want to go to war for religious reasons, but are they allowed to defend themselves if attacked? Consider Switzerland. (I'm probably going to be saying that a lot....) They do not engage in offensive warfare, but pretty much the entire adult population is trained in defense, and they have extensive fortifications. As the legend goes, if a invading force shows up that outnumbers the Swiss 2-to-1, the Swiss will "shoot twice and go home". This does not require a formal military. But if that sort of pseudo-military is also off the table....

I'm guessing that the state shouldn't have or produce any unique or better resources that no other state already has.

That may not be the best guess. If they really have no violent offensive capability at all, you probably want to look at making attacking them a case of mutually assured destruction for whoever does the attacking. That means giving this state something that is sufficiently valuable that no other state could afford to permit a third party from gaining control over it. Maybe the pacifist state is, in fact, the sole or primary source of an extremely valuable natural resource; everyone's cool with letting them sit on it, precisely because they are known pacifists, and if anyone else got control of it, they'd take a dominating position in the region. Or maybe the pacifist state (like Switzerland!) occupies a strategically valuable and highly defensible geographic position; again, if anyone else got control of it, other states would be screwed, so they'll fight to keep that from happening. Or maybe (like Switzerland!), the pacifist state is economically powerful, providing secure and impartial banking services, or housing important trading routes / trading centers, etc.

Or perhaps (unlike Switzerland!), the pacifist country is not merely religious itself, but represents a "Holy Land" for all of the surrounding countries as well, such that, while other countries are perfectly willing to go to war in general, all of them (or at least enough of them to deter the remainder) are religiously prohibited from fighting in that land, just as the pacifist state itself is forbidden from fighting.

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I'm going to get into some Shepard Book level of thinking. The Bible has a few words about not killing. Quite Specific... It is, however, a might bit fuzzier on the subject of selling the weapons?

Or to put it a better way, you rob banks because that's where the money is. But you don't rob guns stores cause that's where the guns are.

Every army that is going to march will need two things. The first and most obvious is weapons. Guns. Ammo. Swords. Things that make other things stop being other things. Now, say your sandwiched between the evil empire and the good empire. And the evil Empire is marching for war with the good empire and you're in the way. If you're the guy who is supplying the evil empire with their weapons, they would not dare go through you... that would not only cut them off from your weapons, but also cause the good empire to come to your own aide, because of the kicking the puppy dog aspect.

But, you say, what if the good empire decides you need to be stopped from arming the evil empire... well, if you're arming the good empire as well, they won't have a problem with you because stopping you from selling to both sides cuts them out of their own weapons and gives the edge to the evil empire.

This need not be weapons. Intelligence (your priests are very good at infiltration) or resources (an army marches on its stomach) could be so good and so neutral that either side attacking you would invoke defense from their enemies, who are also getting the same benefits.

This is how both the U.S. and Switzerland managed to be neutral for much of their history (The U.S. until the cold war had basically stopped caring about old war politics and said they wouldn't get involved so long as the Europeans kept their wars over there). The U.S. has historically enforced neutrality by being oceans away and has never been successfully invaded and occupied. In modern times, they are also the largest exporter of military hardware and give their stuff to some rather nasty places because now they are dependent on our spare parts and if that's not enough to keep them in line, the U.S. has all the receipts. It's nice to know how many of your fighter jets the enemy owns.

The Swiss is notoriously surrounded by mountains, making invasions difficult due to the historical need to march. In addition they have carved a niche in both their neutrality making them a great place for hostiles to meet and negotiate safely AND liberal banking laws that have a good deal of accounts from all over the world. You cannot go to war with a bank when they hold your money.

Additionally, although you discounted that option, both nations have a fairly liberal and permissive gun culture. The Swiss Militia drafts all males who are in service from age 18-30 at least and are allowed to take their service weapons home and must keep them in working order and at the ready for recall to active duty.

The United States is far and away the biggest owner of firearms, with private gun ownership in the States representing just under half of all guns owned world wide! There are 105,000 private guns per 100,000 people in the United States, and many gun owners keep their arms ready for rebellion against their own government, so they have no qualms shooting an invasion force.

Both of these attitudes were feared by belligerents. A common joke among the Germans was of a Nazi General meeting a Swiss general and asked him what would happen if I invaded Switzerland with a million men? "Then, I would call all of the Swiss Militia and order them to shoot every single one of your troops." replies the Swiss General.

"And what if I bring two million men?" asks the Nazi.

"Then I will order them to shoot twice," responds the Swiss.

In Japan, Admiral Yamamoto was quite vocal in his opposition to war with the United States and once described an invasion as impossible because the Americans would not sign terms unless he took the White House and "there is a gun behind every blade of grass."

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    $\begingroup$ If you are supplying both sides, that only makes invading you first on the way to attacking the other side exponentially more important. Not only will they be securing their own munitions supply, but the same action would be denying supply to the enemy as well. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jun 28 '18 at 13:46
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Make their religion one that is only practiced there. That will motivate most people to stay there.

Make absolute pacifism a core tenet.

Make another core tenet that submission to anyone not of that religion a mortal sin.

If someone invades, everyone just starts killing themselves and burning their stuff to save their own souls.

Then probably make them isolated by geography. Anyone who wanted to invade would be faced with an distant land where all you would get would be scorched earth with no one to work it. Plus, probably pretty demoralizing for your soldiers.

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No natural resources, The only value of this land is the people, who will not work for a foreign oppressor. What little farm land and mines there are, are difficult to mine for the skilled natives but near impossible for outsiders. The location of the treasury is a well kept secret which will be lost if they kill king.

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University State

The country could have a high concentration of the most prestigious universities in the world.

They offer free, high quality education to the children of political, religious, and economic leaders from around the world. (But everyone else has to pay)

Giving free education to the children of world leaders offers them two advantages; prestige and security.

The security comes in a soft form and a hard form. The soft security comes from the emotional connection leaders have with the country from their time as students there. The hard form is that the children of the world leaders could go from free beneficiaries of the system to hostages at the drop of a hat.

To strengthen this hold, the nation has very strict laws controlling weapons - for the "safety and security" of it's citizens, and guests within the country. They also do not allow any students to have their own security, but supply VIP students with neutral bodyguards. So long as the weapons control in the nation is good, these need not be heavily armed, but could carry "ceremonial" weapons (ceremonial weapons can still be deadly!).

Why do nations send their children to be voluntary hostages of this state?

  • The quality of education really is beyond compare (they can after all afford to attract and retain the best academics from around the world by offering great salaries, and great status).
  • The nation really is politically neutral; they would never dream of harming the students (unless first attacked).
  • The nation is effective at keeping students safe; combining effective control of weapons, and high levels of surveillance.

This need not be a Utopian vision. The people of the nation might not have political freedom, and the lives of workers and poorer students could be very different from the experience of the rich celebrities and the glossy brochures.

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Even though an answer has been accepted, no one mentioned an interesting one:

  • Evolution / Eugenics

The country itself may not be terribly valuable, but the people are. These people, isolated from other societies, have been lucky enough to strike on certain genes that allow them to be absolute savants in a particular area (such as technology.)

Attacking them means killing off the smarts that are probably currently developing your nation for you. Annexing them means possibly turning them hostile (and the last thing you want is a bunch of p.o.'d smarties you just assimilated that are capable of controlling your economy/technological/etc future.)

So, due to the mutual [x] benefits you gain by their mere existence as savants and the fact that the people are worth far more than the land, it only makes sense to let them do their thing and reap the benefits.

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You made a mistake in your assumptions, and that is blocking you from the simple answer. When considering that the area has nothing of interest to anyone that would cause others to invade, you ask "why people should want to stay within this state and not move to another" and essentially dismiss that idea.

People living in that area is more common than you think

In fact I know some of them personally.

People leave areas that have lots of resources and move to areas with less all the time, and there are various reasons. Usually the reasons involve people who dislike the current social construct: they dislike or disagree with the religion, or dislike the oppression, or hate the "rat-race" (that's a common modern one), or they just don't like the big city.

Often these people leave civilization in small groups, or even alone. I just read an article yesterday about a Japanese man who hated the rat-race so he just abandoned the Japanese mainland and went to a small island in the Pacific where he lived for more than 30 years. Others have done the same in the past.

But you want a nation, not just a hermit or a few families...

You need more people so you can call it a country. Well, some entire families leave civilization and move out into the middle of nowhere to get away from it all; it's actually fairly common. Sometimes groups of families do this, and sometimes groups of people come together to be "independent together," especially if they share ideals.

All you need is for lots of groups of families to leave an area, and there are 101 reasons they could be leaving, and if there is a controversial political thing going on that generation then they might all be leaving for the same reason (ie: unified ideals). These groups of people could be 10 to 100 each and could coalesce into a larger unified group out in the boonies, so now you have 1000s of people out there with a unified cause. Fast forward a few generations, assuming a reasonable growth rate and that some people leave to go back to "normal" society, and now you could have your small nation of tens of thousands of individuals all having a like-minded reason for being in a less pleasant area.

Now if only we knew what that "like-minded reason" was... oh wait, what if they had a pacifist religion that insisted on zero violence of any kind? That might work. Oh yeah, that's what you said you wanted. ;)

Bio

Because of how these people came to be, they are likely to enjoy their privacy, peace, and quiet. They are likely to avoid dense cities, so their nation might not have any. These people are likely spread out in a way that means there are no actual cities to conquer - yet another reason there is no point in invading them.

These people are likely to mostly fend for themselves. They probably do a bit of bartering, but they likely grow a lot of their own food with very primitive methods. They might not be very well nourished, and if they have no large, strong, strapping young lads, combined with their independent spirit, they may make awful slaves, so nobody bothers to abduct them despite them being an easy target.

At least not usually. Perhaps they do get attacked sometimes. Maybe some of them are killed from time to time, and maybe a few slaves are taken from among them occasionally. Aside from being easy targets, there is not really any other reason to attack them, so these attacks or slave abductions aren't stopped (because pacifist) and would be an infrequent thing that these people hate. This would not ruin the country because of its infrequency.

Now there is a lot of flavor to go with it.

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