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in 2015, I asked How can a planet-spanning empire keep their soldiers experienced without wars to fight?. After doing some more thinking and mental worldbuilding based on the answers to that question, I'm currently considering having specially assigned Warzones. Literal zones hundreds of square miles in size marked on the map are explicitly designed to have actual war, but instead of 2 nations warring against each other, it's the army of the world nation split into 2 parts.

Weapons are adapted so they only work in these zones unless otherwise needed, but apart from that, everything is just as lethal as in a regular, non-organized war, and both sides are encouraged to seek out new tactics and find any edge they can get. There is an agreement that interference between the world outside the warzone and the armies inside the warzone is kept to an absolute minimum, so no usage of weapons inside the warzone that may cause collateral damage outside the warzone; and no demoralizing the other faction's army by attacking civilians outside the warzone.

It's not a perpetual war: every 10 years, there is one organized war lasting 6 months, but during that period, the nation is in war mode, including all the consequences to civilians outside the war zone like rationing, conscription, war bonds, war economy,...

I'm not sure how this idea would work. Is it viable as it currently is? Is it viable if I change some of the numbers or details around? Does it have implementation problems that can be fixed by somewhat redesigning the war? Or are there fundamental flaws with the idea itself that prevent it from ever being viable?

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    $\begingroup$ Who are they training for war against? $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jan 11 '17 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelK Anyone who they may be up against later on anywhere in the Galaxy. It's not as much to train individual troops but to ensure that the general quality of the army doesn't decay too much due to peacetime. $\endgroup$ – Nzall Jan 11 '17 at 12:00
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    $\begingroup$ "but to ensure that the general quality of the army doesn't decay too much due to peacetime". Oh but it will; decay that is. Even with training and with actual wars to build experience, humans have always been blindsided when conditions change. The most conspicuous example of this is the advent of barbed wire, indirect fire and the machine gun, that turned western Europe to a slaughter-house in the first world war. It was not until nuclear weapons entered the stage that pretty much everyone (eventually) went "Whoa!!! Hold the phone... let us think about this for a moment". $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jan 11 '17 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ Just because you train in a (fake or real) war against people who use basically the same tactics and weaponry doesn't make you well-suited to fight an enemy that's different. There's plenty of historical cases where a "less advanced" army defeated a "more advanced" highly-trained army simply by doing things the others weren't trained for. Sure, you have great skill at cavalry fighting, but that doesn't apply much to fighting bowmen :) $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 11 '17 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a very totalitarian system where soldiers would be forced to fight against their own (technically), and citizens are forced to endure the pains, even without a war. It seems it is complete inhumane, and frankly evil to have your own soldiers die fighting each other (you said weapons would be lethal). Even if this method would work, I suspect mutiny would be quick. $\endgroup$ – Nate D Jan 12 '17 at 17:15

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This wouldn't work, not really. War has no rules. War can not have rules. See War's just a [meta]game, son! - Game has rules real war would not. People wouldn't go die just to train. You would need psychopaths as your flag officers. This wouldn't make a good army. And you would have serious problems recruiting. Why wouldn't these soldiers overthrow the government that tries to kill them for no reason? After all, they have the guns now, and dying in a "game" is pointless, while dying to end such games may save their sons in the future.

Civilians, knowing there will be 6 months of "war", would adjust to that. No one would be surprised. No one would be strained. No one would really learn war, they would learn only how to play a game, and real war would be a shock to them. Oh, and no one would bother hiring people that can and will be taken to this "war of yours". Waste of time to train them for the job if they will be gone in few months and no one knows if they are coming back.

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    $\begingroup$ "People wouldn't go die just to train." Maybe it is a little bit naive assumption... The Hezbollah is fighting in Syria with exactly this reason. $\endgroup$ – Gray Sheep Jan 11 '17 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ @MorningStar Why? Sure, people would risk dying in sports or even in war games, but only if the aim of such games is not to kill anyone. Shooting war with live rounds is just too much. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 11 '17 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ @MorningStar they fight for their country, for honor, they risk their lives so the civilians does not have to. I know few soldiers. Not even one became soldier to follow orders and die. They became soldiers, basically, so the others don't have to. If it's just a game, no one has to, so no point in becoming soldier. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 11 '17 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ This is why it shouldn't be publicized that it is only a game. It should be communicated so that they are fighting for some big good, for example to avoid some "terrible separatist dictator" to build nuclear weapons. $\endgroup$ – Gray Sheep Jan 11 '17 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ Note: in the second Iraq war, most of the U.S. soldiers thought that they are fighting to revenge the WTC attacks... $\endgroup$ – Gray Sheep Jan 11 '17 at 12:22
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Won't work at all.

1.Cost Wars are massively expensive these days and will be more so in the future since autonomous warfare isn't limited to the amount of humans you have.

2.Finding Participants If you want to train something that means that you still have human soldiers. Why should they basically suicide for nothing at all? One of the major reasons that we have less and less big wars today is that people are not willing to suicide somewhere abroad for some random reason.

3. Who would fight the wars Enemy countries won't help each other to "train" their troops or help them in learning because it might be used against them. Relationships between two friendly states would take damage when your populations start to hate each other because they lost relatives.

4. It isn't even necessary As history shows, wars do a generally bad job at preparing you for the next war. The winner usually learns nothing and the loser doesn't learn much. The only problematic things wars show are those that are so problematic that it can't be overseen. If you compare WW1 and WW2 you see that in the beginning of WW2 the British and French fought the same way they did in WW1. The French had a massive defense prepared for many years of drench fights but were helpless against the German "Blitzkrieg". And because this new kind of war was successful our military tries to practice it even today. The US is fighting "Blitzkrieg" everywhere and loses them because they aren't fit to fight in partisan wars.

5. Military is a bad thing Today we still celebrate our own soldiers and think that a strong military is important. But the truth is our own military itself is our worst enemy. They are consuming a huge amount of money and resources, always have the worst solution to a problem, and are standing against every kind of modern development. Militarism is already a part of history; The last thing you want is give it another reason to try to stay.

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    $\begingroup$ Wars have always been massively expensive. It's just that we're getting richer and richer, so the burden feels greater (we lose more in life quality etc.). But for as long as we have records, wars meant starvation, a decline of trade (and thus division of labour), destruction of capital (including the soldiers, of course)... total wars being by far the worst, of course, with massive misallocations of capital thrown into the mix. But it's still a great reason to avoid war (and violence in general) - it's just that it always has been, it's not a "new thing". $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 11 '17 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan it is definitely not new but it reaches new highs. I am at work so I can't really search it up, but I have read a view interesting articles about the increase of the costs per solider. $\endgroup$ – Etaila Jan 11 '17 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ Early feudal governments were mostly using taxation to support a military (usually as warbands working with the local lord), so we can assume that most of the taxation was there to support the soldiers (their food, training, lodging, equipment, walls, keeps...). A typical taxation level was around 10% of gross product. Given the uncertainties, we can say that the cost of a soldier then and now was very similar - despite the fact that the modern soldier also includes artillery and air support, tanks etc. We're just that much more productive, really :) $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 11 '17 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ Your reason #5 sounds more like a conspiracy theory to me... legitimate governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens from anyone who would want to conquer them and/or destroy them. You can only achieve this goal with a strong military. If there's anyone with a "worst solution to a problem", it's a politician that thinks resorting to war before anything else is a good idea. "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." -Sun Tzu $\endgroup$ – code_dredd Jan 12 '17 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ The answer's point #4 is a very short view of history. For the first ~70,000 years of homo sapiens history after the Cognitive Revolution, wars were very similar from one to the next. Tech change took decades to apply. It's only the last 200 years that they have changed very much. They may change again as we introduce drones and information combat, but at some point, it may stabilize out again, especially if we get no new additions to the Standard Model of physics. If the world in question is technologically stable, their wars could be very similar one after the other. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 12 '17 at 16:33
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Although you say "World nation", I think "World state" would be a better terminology here.

A "World state" absolutely doesn't mean that the government has a total control over its parts. Actually we could consider even the UNO as a "world government", although its power isn't very strong.

A world government can make a war to keep its army trained. For example, they can construct a wannabe-separatist region, i.e. a region which wants to depart the world government.

The most simple way to do that by allowing some of the already existing separatist movements to actually take away some regions. For example, if the Spanish government would allow the ETA (Basque separatist movement) to grow until a point where they can take away Basque Country from Spain.

Normally, the governments use the nation security services to destroy such movements. But, if they want a war, they can let them grow until the point after that they can be handled only by the army.

From the point that the Basque Country departs Spain, the Spanish government can say that

  • they departed by violating the constitution
  • they are collecting weapons of mass destruction
  • they are violating basic human rights on their territory

...and many similar.

Their real reason would be to train their army on the newborn army of that newborn country.

A world government could do the same without any problem.

I never understood why do you think that a government are all nice, idealist people.

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    $\begingroup$ Fabricating/supporting a separatist rebellion and then throwing the army against it it's an easy way to have at least two real rebellions. $\endgroup$ – Faerindel Jan 11 '17 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Faerindel You don't need two rebellions, one is enough. But even two can be made. Or five. Check Syria or Afghanistan. There is always a natural separatism, particularly if the central government is suppressive; only they need to be let growing until they are enough strong to be handled only by the army. $\endgroup$ – Gray Sheep Jan 11 '17 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, you might be in a bit of a pickle if you lose, are forced to concede and others realize they don't really like to be part of Spain in the first place. Which would probably be a good thing overall, mind you, but not for the "Government of Spain". $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 11 '17 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @PatrickTrentin 1) Yes, it causes more harm then good - for the world, but not for the government. 2) The lost loyalty of the citizens are concentrated to the separatist region, which shouldn't be big. Later the world government can reclaim their loyalty by a long and strong brainwash through the media. 3) Of course it shouldn't be done on big regions and many times. $\endgroup$ – Gray Sheep Jan 12 '17 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ @PatrickTrentin 4) The goal isn't to train the rebels, the goal is to train the official army by conquering them. After they are conquered, the acquired skills of the surviving rebel soldiers is wasted due to they have no more chance to a new rebellion. But the skills of the official army is not. 5) Recruitment on the conquered areas isn't a big problem - for example, it is absolutely not a problem for the U.S. army that they can't really recruit from the conquered Iraq. They are recruiting from the U.S. But the new government of the conquered Iraq recruits from Iraq. $\endgroup$ – Gray Sheep Jan 12 '17 at 12:10
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Is it viable if I change some of the numbers or details around?

Of course. But well-trained soldiers could just be a secondary benefit, the first being a healthy military market where projects are granted, technologies are developed and the population is kept in check (if you don't support the war effort, you're the enemy.) Even better - this can work like a 'trade agreement' of sorts between high officers of opposing forces.

Let's assume, say, three fictional nations: 'Oceania', 'Eurasia' and 'Eastasia.' Let's also assume the existence of a disputed area.

Whenever one of them start to get an advantage (resulting in a boost of homeland and troop morale), it purposely spread their forces thin, providing both partners with a chance for retaliation (in turn boosting their own morale.)

This way some pre-filtering happens (unfit soldiers are eliminated fast), veteran units may be strategically placed to gain more experience, and everything happens in a controlled environment, to vast benefit[Citation needed] of all involved nations.

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    $\begingroup$ Those three countries were exactly what I just thought. In other words, you don't have a single world power, but a couple, giving you a convenient possibility for at least intermittent warring. (Or at least that's what you tell the peoples, it doesn't matter if you're actually best buddies with the leaders of the other countries.) Trilarion's answer is essentially the same but with a different method. Though a goverment that actually worked for the benefit of the citizens would need some real purpose for the military forces. $\endgroup$ – ilkkachu Jan 11 '17 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @ilkkachu Correct (and thanks for pointing Trilarion's answer out, indeed it follows the same reasoning) - as a plot twist, the three countries may in fact be just 'states' of the global nation, the isolation program being the practical implementation of a plan to keep the perpetual war state. $\endgroup$ – OnoSendai Jan 11 '17 at 20:04
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The benefit of your proposal is that it would train the soldiers to kill and be killed. The baptism of fire would be overcome before the conflict. Also it would show exactly how effective the weapons are. Now there is no statistics about how lethal gun fire actually is, as the targets would take shelter, fire back etc. The problem is though that when facing different situations against an enemy from another planet, the effectiveness may be very different. Otherwise this is simply a war rehearsal. Is it worth it?

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Ok, I'll have a go.

The world has about a dozen separate major armies, all listed as in sports league. One army is the reigning champion. Being a member of any of those armies is a relatively priviledged life. Enlisting as a common soldier means a substatially better life than that of a civilian blue collar job, while high ranking officers are on par with professional athletes in major sports today. Being a member of the champion team is even better. That is a life people would (literally!) kill for.

Now, every once in a while, the armies compete in mock battles, fighting for practice, aquiring sponsors etc. But the position as champion can only be attained by actual mortal combat. Any team may challenge the reigning champions. The objective of the war is not known beforehand, it is revealed a time before the battle begins.

Acts of heroism are awarded, acts of cowardice punished. Families of killed soldiers (esp "heroic death") are richly compensated. Survivors from the losing side might try to reassemble their army, survivors from the winning side have it made.

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Military exercises exist, and it is not uncommon to train simulating the actual fight between the two teams.

Of course, such training sessions attempt to reduce casualties but they already result few percents of soldiers killed while training (source) anyway. Some fictional world may raise the number to 10 % or about, resulting something already close to the war. Medieval battles frequently had casualties in order of just a few percent (source), and medieval tournaments had melee part that included fighting with real weapons (and was quite dangerous).

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The easiest way by far is creating unrest, acting unfair, opressing independent minds, favoring a particular subpopulation without good reason, .... And then, when unrest boils over, send in the mighty army (you had to) to keep the peace (killing some along the lines and getting lots of real life training "for free").

A tyranny with an emporer on top might be a good political framework for this kind. Nobody needs to know that the leaders of the freedom fighters are secret agents of the government and that the outdated weapons they use came from the government too.

One rebellion every 10 years in some part of the world that is then suppressed bloodily by the army should be doable.

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Our militaries do play "war games" to promote combat readiness. However, you specify a different type of game. In your exploratory world, war games are lethal. To have such a system you would need to figure out how to convince the soldiers that it's worth dying for just a game. Perhaps you could put stakes on the games, so that at least you're just fighting a blood sport.

Of course, you do have to realize that war is hell. There are no rules in war. Your job is simply to not die in an aggressive enough manner to make the other guy back down (or die trying). This leads to a complication: secrets. Most nations do not appreciate exposing their national secrets on a pseudo-battlefield. Using it in the games would simply give the opposition time to counteract it. Of course, if you just play the game without your national secrets, you're practicing a game that doesn't do a good job of modeling the real hell of war, with your real tools.

One could argue martial arts are exactly the sort of thing you are looking for. Their job is to keep you ready for the worst, while simultaneously not wasting any energy on it. They strive to make everything they do beneficial in civilized life, so that it is safe to maintain those skills indefinitely until war calls on you to unlock them.

All that being said, there are plenty of fictional books that create artificial blood games like this (Hunger Games comes to mind), so you can indeed build a world like this and sell it. However, you will not be basing it off of reality. Which is a good thing. I don't think anyone wants to enjoy the reality of war, in a book or otherwise. Better to romanticize it a bit.

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Could you not just do a massive War Game? Using no live rounds, then that way you wouldn't need to deal with loss of life in what is basically a training exercise, but keeping everything else.

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An agreement could have been made between the nations that every 10 years a war is fought for exactly 6 months. The victorious nation wins the right to a mass of either fertile land or some other oasis that is coveted for the next 10 years. The land could mean ease of living for all of its people and the wars will be fiercely fought.

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  • $\begingroup$ It would be hard to pass through the public. It would be easier if this agreement is made secretly, and the government produces a hard propaganda in the media, saying that these terrible separatists are building nuclear weapons to kill the whole Earth or similar. Then the "terrible separatists" can be conquered by the army and the public will welcome that. While nobody would welcome a war only for the goal to keep the army trained. $\endgroup$ – Gray Sheep Jan 11 '17 at 12:15
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Virtual Reality and/or immersive simulator style training.

This is, in fact, one of the methods used in the modern U.S. military. There are even companies that specialize in producing such equipment:

http://ingenuity.saic.com/?cid=892

https://www.army.mil/article/84453

https://www.meggitttrainingsystems.com/Military/Simulation-training/FATS-M100-simulation-training-system

http://www.army-technology.com/suppliers/sector/training-simulation/

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There is a fantastic anime movie about a similar theme, "The sky crawlers"

The plot, per Wikipedia

The Sky Crawlers is set in an alternative history timeline where although the world is at peace, in order to ease the tension of a populace accustomed to war and aggression, private corporations contract fighter pilots to engage in actual combat operations against each other. The film introduces a mystery involving characters called Kildren (キルドレ Kirudore?, "kill-dolls") - humanoids genetically engineered in a way that enables to live eternally in adolescence.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sky_Crawlers_(film)

Very much like in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show, this staged military conflicts are televised to the populace for entertainment.

While the general populace loses fighting skill, a new breed of soldiers is eternally trained.

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  • $\begingroup$ Answer looks ok to me. It provides a summary of the story, so it isn't link-only, and it directly answers the title question with "Yes, it seems viable." $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 12 '17 at 16:20
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I am reminded somewhat of medieval tournaments, which made a certain William the Marshal famous and rich. Back then knights were invited to attend tournaments, typically in a part of north eastern France. The objective was to be able to best, overpower, then and ransom their opponents. The intention wasn't to kill, but if it happened, it happened. These competitions were popular, and drew knights from far and wide; lured by notions of acquiring fame and wealth. William the Marshal was reported to have bested hundreds of opponents, which made him a lot of money in ransom.

Presumably you could have a similar sort of thing with small teams. If, like medieval times, the suits of armour offered excellent protection, then the risk of death is low enough to encourage eager participation. If your world is high tech, it could be a great spectator sport too; what with headcams, spy drones, CCTV, GPS trackers, biosign monitors, etc.

I'd say this is quite achievable, with some R&D into armoured suits. You could also combine this with making a specific sort of softer ammunition to reduce the chance of fatality. With an armoured suit, perhaps some sort of EMP round which renders the suit inoperable and thus knocks the person out (make them hostage for ransom).

Something which is more achievable today would be making the bullets simply have tracking devices embedded, so even if they are made of very soft material, you'd know when they hit or come close enough to the target to knock them out. Like a digital paintballing. These techniques could be applied to larger weapon systems too. Certainly would make missile launchers less theatrical, but if the missile hits the target area you immediately are digitally tagging those who would have died in the blast area.

Perhaps, like the DOTA2 International, spectators buy tickets to watch, and part of that goes to a prize fund, which combatants earn from by getting "kills" and staying alive (rather than putting the whole world into total war rationing for giggles).

You could do this with bloodshed or without, but under present circumstance you'd need a dramatic cultural shift for people to accept a bloody version rather than one which features protection or electronic bullets of some description.

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Michael Z. Williamson used a small scale version of this scenario as a final exam and refresher training for combat units in his fictional "Freehold of Grainne". The combat zone was a small city, and military units were rotated through the various "sides".

Grainne was a planet with a single minarchist government. The planetary population was comparable to that of the United States during the baby boom.

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In the book 1984, there is a constant war between nations where the enemies and allies keep changing for no apparent reason. No one really knows what they are fighting for or against anymore.

In your world nation, you could convince people of the existence of a fictional rebel nation that threatens the whole world. You can have your army from one side of the world fight your army from the other side. They won't know each other and maybe even speak incompatible languages so the farce is not found out.

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