Regular readers of this blog will remember that much of the events my Shine Cycle plans to cover has to do with long-term but occasionally intermittent conflict between Vaynaheim, the Shine and Wild Empire, and other allies on the one hand and the Dragon Empire and its few allies on the other. That is one of the two main factors that shapes the military forces of the Shine and Wild Empire.
As I was saying, the Shine and Wild Empire faces a nearly constant existential threat to its existence and freedom, and especially to that of its allies, from the Dragon Empire. Because of this, and the long borders that must be carefully and constantly watched, some sort of a standing army has proved an absolute necessity. The borders have to be held by soldiers on fairly long tours of duty, to ensure that they are intimately familiar with the defenses and the terrain from extensive practice and experience as well as from recent training, and the defenses that have been most successful in deterring and delaying invasions are also expensive to man.
But the other factor shaping the Imperial military dates back just as long, to before the Shine and Wild Empire as such was formed, in one sense almost to the days of the first kings of the Sunshine Kingdom and in another even farther, to the time when the continents were first colonized.
In those earliest days, the unsettled land posed constant dangers to the unwary and unprepared. So, just as in the time of this country’s founding and on its frontiers, of necessity nearly everyone acquired, trained in, and bore some sort of arms. And when war came, these self-trained soldiers came out, fought, and then went home. In many districts such training in arms—and other military subjects less amenable to self-teaching—became mandatory, as it was in England in the age of the longbow. And each district usually had some specialty—infantry, cavalry, artillery (longbows, then eventually cannon and mortars in some places), navy, and eventually (much later) air and space forces. Coastal districts armed their merchant ships, for example, and when air travel became available commercial pilots went through combat pilot training as well.
When the government prospered under Herald the First, one of the natural uses for surplus revenues was to begin to maintain a professional military, for more rapid reaction to threats and to be a better trained force than mere militia. His son made himself popular among the officers of the standing army, and their unified and vocal support for him led to his election when his father died.
His son, similarly, was popular among the officers of his day, and oversaw further expansions of the standing army and increases in the officers’ pay. With their support, when his father died he simply ascended as Herald III, avoiding the “formality” of an election and establishing the dynasty as such.
Herald IV continued to expand the standing army and continually called for increases in his officers’ pay, using their vocal support for his rule to divert attention from the crushing burden of taxes, creeping expansion of federal powers, and emphasis on personal loyalty to him rather than to the country’s Charter or to God. So when the Parliament and people grew weary of his tyranny, came to their senses, and sought to depose him (as I will describe in Sunshine Civil War), the one group that for the most part gave him unqualified and undivided support was the officers of the standing army, and by force of habit their soldiers mostly followed.
After the overthrow of the tyrant, in the many generations that followed, a large standing army was seen as a tool of tyrants. Much like H. Beam Piper’s New Texas (in A Planet for Texans aka Lone Star Planet) felt about income taxes—you oppose one because you can easily imagine what a tyrant or a corrupt government would do with the money—nearly every district demands of its representatives in the Parliament that the standing military be as large as necessary and no larger, and that the militia training requirements never be allowed to fall into disuse. (And that the militia training requirements be open to general inspection, to prevent them from turning into a tool for indoctrination in thoughtless loyalty to a tyrant, for example.) The people of the Empire know from bitter experience that their liberty from tyrants, whether foreign or home-grown, stands or falls on the strength of the people.
The minimal (as small as possible but no smaller) size of the Empire’s standing army, navy, and other military forces does not mean that the people or the government in any way skimp in their other duties to their soldiers. Most districts provide their best medical care for wounded veterans, and willingly “adopt” the families of any who do not survive a war, among other expressions of honor and gratitude. But when the “grass-roots” support from the districts’ people and from the churches fails, the Imperial government stands ready to provide for soldiers and their dependents as needed.