However, some will surely wish to take issue with countries such as the example of Germany, cited above, or that of France. Many will assert, and point to a number of powerful facts to support them, that both France and Germany were stronger after their monarchies were overthrown. However, in the case of France, this would mean claiming Napoleon to be a republican when he reached his height of power as a self-proclaimed monarch. Furthermore, both Napoleon and Hitler marched to war with an officer corps that was the product of the monarchies that preceded them. In the case of the Germans, if Hitler achieved more, it is also true that he lost more, in fact many, many millions more in German lives than the Kaiser did. As for France, if looking only at the French republics, their biggest expansion was colonial and not in Europe where the most militarily powerful countries were. After the Thirty Years War, the Kingdom of France was the dominant power on the continent of Europe, something no French republic has ever managed and the Kingdom of France produced some of the greatest military minds in world history, something which, again, no republican regime in France has managed to match. Under King Louis XIV, all of Europe revolved around France with almost everything that happened being instigated by France or done in reaction to France. However, for most of the history of the French republics, the country that most fits that description would be Germany.
Many, in the United States certainly, will have learned in school that the colonial patriots outwitted the British by fighting in irregular fashion, using long rifles from cover while the redcoats marched shoulder to shoulder in long lines in the open. This is simply not true and credible American military historians will admit as much. The Continental Army had a record of almost continuous defeats interrupted by the odd stalemate or minor victory that usually resulted from their enemies doing something risky rather than on any brilliance on the part of the American leadership. The colonials did not become a military force worthy of great consideration until they adopted the European tactics they claimed to despise; fighting in line of battle with the victory going to the troops that were the most disciplined and well drilled. Most also know that the colonial forces would not have been victorious had it not been for the timely intervention of the forces of the Kingdom of France. However, after the war, in the full flush of their victory, the Americans made the mistake of believing their own propaganda and giving in to their republican vanity. They spurned things like professional armies, an educated officer corps and even military decorations as all having the taint of monarchy about them. Instead, they clung to the mistaken belief that they had achieved victory all on their own and that this proved that a civilian militia, fueled by a righteous love of liberty, could triumph over any enemy. That conceit lasted until the War of 1812 when the U.S. invaded Canada and had their proverbial clocks cleaned. While still talking a good game in public, privately, the American leadership realized they had been very lucky to escape unscathed from that conflict and, in the aftermath, decided to have a professional army instead of relying so heavily on a civilian militia and, most significantly, to establish formal military academies for the training of officers. Ridiculous republican ideas such as soldiers choosing their own officers by election were quickly and quietly done away with.
American military strength cannot be denied and I will not attempt it. I will say that it came into its own only when it stopped trying to incorporate republican ideology into the military and stuck with what had proven to work in the monarchies of Europe. Today, politics has been steadily creeping back into the U.S. military and (coincidence?) clear-cut military victories have become steadily fewer. Think though, for a moment, about the tools of the modern American military superpower. American innovation is second to none, true, but at their core, all of these are improvements on things which originated in monarchies. Sound unreasonable? Put it to the test: everyone thinks of American troops using flamethrowers during the island hopping campaign in the Pacific but the flamethrower is actually very old technology, used by the Byzantine Empire (“Greek Fire”) and by the Chinese during the Ten Kingdoms period (Pen Huo Qi). Most Americans know that the first battle between armored warships was in the American Civil War (battle of Hampton Roads) but the first actual armored warship was built by the French Second Empire and even these could be seen as improvements on even earlier innovations such as the “Turtle Ships” developed by the Kingdom of Korea in the Fifteenth Century. The first to use aircraft in combat was the Kingdom of Italy during the war with Turkey, the first to develop fighter planes was the German Empire, the first submarine to sink a ship with a free-swimming torpedo was the Imperial German Navy, the first to use tanks in combat was the British Empire and the first to launch a successful air raid from a naval ship was the Imperial Japanese Navy all in the First World War. No one can say that republics have a monopoly on military innovation.
People tend today to emphasize too much the defeats Imperial Russia suffered and have a very incomplete vision of the whole picture. World War I is one of the most cited examples and yet few realize that, in spite of immense industrial and logistical disadvantages, the Russian Empire drove Austria-Hungary almost to the breaking point, made considerable gains against the Turks and at the time of the revolution was, according to military production, showing every indication of being on the verge of a massive turnaround. Even when it comes to wars that were lost for the Russian Empire, it is quite revealing to look at the quality of the powers Russia lost to in comparison to conflicts that were lost by the Soviet Union. For example, Russia lost the Crimean War but it took the combined power of Victorian Great Britain and the French Second Empire (both of which had illustrious military reputations) combined with other powers to do it. Russia lost a war to Japan (the significance of which seemed worse than it was simply because of a rather racist underestimation of the Japanese by all European countries) but made Japan pay a heavy price for it. Just consider for a moment, which was the greater embarrassment; losing a war with the Empire of Japan (a power that would inflict the worst defeats ever suffered by the U.S. Navy and the British Empire in World War II) or losing a war to tiny, outmatched Finland like the Soviets did?
As for China, it may seem the most difficult case to make, but is actually the easiest. People today look in awe at the People’s Liberation Army as the largest standing army on earth, they look at the Chinese nuclear arsenal, the largest air force in the world and a rapidly expanding navy. However, in terms of military equipment, most Chinese air and naval units are far behind their rivals in terms of technological sophistication. It has the second largest navy in the world but only 13 nuclear submarines compared to 72 in the U.S. Navy and its one aircraft carrier was an old Soviet hulk purchased from the Ukraine with the original intention of using it as a casino ship. Compare this to the navy of the Ming Empire which had ships more than twice the size of the leading naval powers of Europe at the time. The modern Chinese military copies the weapons and equipment of other countries, Imperial China invented new technologies such as gunpowder and rocketry. One could even go back to ancient China when Sun Tzu literally wrote the book on military strategy.
And, in the end, despite all of the storm and stress, no republican government in China has ever been able to surpass or even match the land area controlled by the Qing Dynasty at its peak. The Soviet Union may have dominated more of the earth than the Russian Empire but it certainly did not last long, nor did it gain all of that territory by its own strength. Aside from the United States (which has never been a monarchy) every country that has a significant military history behind it reached its peak of martial strength while under monarchial leadership rather than republican. There is then a powerful argument to be made for monarchy not only in terms of a more economic government, greater social cohesion but also greater security as well.